Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Brandon LeeBrandon LeeI am alive
1.) Use Parkinson's law to your advantage

Parkinson's Law states:

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion

There's a reason why you wait until the last 5 hours before you write that paper or begin researching for that project. It's because you're given that much time. It's amazing how productive we get when we face an impending deadline. 

Artificial way to beat procrastination? Give yourself a hard deadline

2.) Break down big tasks into minuscule tasks

This, I feel, is a much more effective strategy than giving myself an imaginary deadline or any other artificial motivation

A big reason why we postpone a task is because when we think, "need to write that research paper" or "need to plan that trip," those tasks actually contain so many sub-tasks that it creates a mental overload, so we'd rather take the path of least resistance and wait until Parkinson's Law kicks in. The way to beat this is to break down the task into micro-steps.

If I were to "write a paper," here's what it might look like:

  1. come up with 5 ideas, write them down
  2. come up with 5 more ideas, write them down
  3. narrow down the list to 3 ideas
  4. basic research (skim) for idea 1, take mental notes
  5. basic research for idea 2, take mental notes
  6. basic research for idea 3, take mental notes
  7. pick most interesting/appropriate idea
  8. find 3 articles/papers/studies on the topic
  9. read the first paper, take some notes
  10. read the second paper, take some notes
  11. read the third paper, take some notes
  12. review all the notes
  13. formulate a general thesis
  14. create simple outline of paper
  15. write one paragraph
  16. etc etc.

If you were to take it one step at a time, it's not daunting at all. 

Come up with 5 ideas? Shoot, I could do that right now. It'd take me, what, one minute? Two minutes tops? Easy. Low barrier of entry. Maybe if I'm feeling good, I'll come up with 7 ideas. What a baus.

Finding 3 articles or studies? Eh. Google is my friend. As long as I don't have to find and read them all at the same time? Easy peasy. 

Write one paragraphShoot, a second grader can do that. I can do that.

If you want to hack your procrastination, break your tasks down into minuscule tasks that take very little effort to do. Instead of feeling obligated to dedicate 10 hours to a project all at once, why not take it on 2-3 minutes at a time? Anyone can do 2-3 minutes. 

This is exactly how I am studying Spanish on DuolingoI take 1 or 2 lessons a day. That's it! I do it everyday, it's part of my morning routine, I'll probably do it right after I finish this post. 

Instead of thinking of it as "I'm going to learn Spanish" and feeling intimidated by the task because I feel like I have to be immersed, get a tutor, take classes on it, or study 3 hours a day... I just spend 5 minutes... every day. Everyone has 5 minutes

It might take me a year or more to learn Spanish, but it'll have felt easy and effortless

This, actually, is my entire approach to life

If you liked this, here are more of my thoughts about taking baby steps:
"What are the best pieces of advice to stay motivated to accomplish your dreams?"

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