Skip navigation

Category Archives: Methods

Methods by which you or I might be able to kick the procrastination habit.

Looking for a way to motivate myself to work out regularly.  Happened upon the theory that extrinsic rewards actually demotivate over time, but intrinsic rewards are motivators.  Example given: the reward for students to learn how to use a library catalog, is that they find the books or info they want – this is an intrinsic reward, as it is a natural consequence to the action.  An extrinsic reward would be “learn how to use the library catalog, and I’ll take you out for ice cream.”  The next time you want them to learn something, they will be demotivated unless you offer ice cream.  Even with the ice cream, they might feel demotivated; they don’t want to learn, they just want the ice cream.

This gave me an idea.  If I want to encourage myself to work out three times per week, then I could reward myself extrinsically, e.g. every week that I do 3 full work-outs, I give myself a reward, like a movie night or something.  That’s an extrinsic reward.  But what if I desired the effects of working out regularly?  Attach a reward to some outcome of working out, e.g. when I can do ten chin-ups and run 2.5km in 15 minutes, then I can take the whole family out to the movies.  Then, the rewards for working out three times per week are intrinsic: I get the fitness I need in order to achieve the extrinsic reward.  In the library example, it would be like rewarding students for answering a list of questions by finding the answers in the library; learning to use the catalog is a necessary (and rewarding) step to answering those questions.

So, remote the reward by one step, to achieve intrinsic motivation.  That’s my hypothesis.

-Johnny

Advertisements

A big habit of producers is to always be working on your #1 priority – to always tackle your #1 priority first.  I’m trying, as an “experiment,” to do this for one week: first thing in the morning, to work for an hour on my #1 priority before doing anything else, even (especially) email, Facebook or web comics.  Of course, I want to do it for the rest of my life, not just for one week.  But: one step at a time.

Progress so far:

Thursday – Had an off-site meeting all day.  Didn’t count.

Friday – Success!  Worked 9am-10am on my #1 priority, before doing anything else – yay!  But then I goofed off for a couple hours.  Over-all a productive day, but not perfect.

Today – Fail.  I spent an hour on web comics before getting down to work.  Actually, before exercising and reviewing my goals and whys, which was part of the problem.  The other part of the problem is that I’m short on sleep.  I read recently that, when under stress (I think lack of rest counts), we default to habitual behaviours.  Unfortunately, my habits are unproductive ones.

Also, I guess I was procrastinating because my #1 priority today was sales calls, and I hate doing sales.

Lessons:

  • It’s really important that i get enough sleep!
  • I have to be extra careful of my bad habits on days when I’m not fully rested.  No excuses!
  • Once I replace my bad habits with good ones, my productivity won’t be so dependent on sleep.

Background

I am trying a new system to help me develop productive work habits.  It is a holistic approach that starts with getting myself into a positive, mindful state about work and my goals, at the beginning of every day.  I have a fairly comprehensive morning routine that involves exercise and meditating on certain subjects, followed by certain expectations for my daily output of work.

DR’s Feedback

Daily expectations for self > have a good day > feel good > [cycle repeats]

Daily expectations for self > have a bad day > critical of self > put more pressure on self to do better tomorrow > pressure = stress > avoidance behaviour (procrastination) > have bad day > [cycle repeats]

Bad days happen.  I don’t want a bad day to set off the spiral of stress and procrastination and more bad days, and maybe giving up on the new system altogether.  Need to make some allowance for: some days are better than others.  Even highly productive people have bad days.

Paradox: How can I set goals, targets, and make plans, and try to develop good work habits, while also being flexible enough that a bad day doesn’t derail me?

How should I feel when I have an unproductive day?

Should I moderate my expectations of myself, following a bad day?

I have tried many, many task tracking methods and to-do list apps.  They all work for a while, but eventually they get too complicated and I stop using them.  I always end up returning to the old tried and true: pen-and-paper.

I can write bigger and smaller, add notes in the margins, highlight things, draw boxes, check things off and cross things out.  It’s all very intuitive.  Whenever the page fills up, I re-writing the list, copying over all the unfinished tasks to a fresh page.  This is a built-in regular review of my tasks.  Things get re-prioritized, unimportant tasks get dropped, and my list never gets too big.

I might spend an extra 5-10 minutes a week re-writing lists, but it’s time well spent.  For me, no method works better.

Today I’m in a temporary office in my bedroom.  If this works out, I will make it a permanent arrangement.

I’ve had a few really bad days lately: whole days at the computer, very little actual working.  I just keep getting sucked into non-work activities, and the day flies by.  And then I thought of an article I read recently, about temptation.  Nobody has perfect willpower, and “out of sight, out of mind” really works.  What do they tell dieters?  Not just “don’t eat chips and cookies,” but “get the chips and cookies out of your house,” because, when you have a craving, you’re GOING to walk to the cupboard and get those chips if they’re in there, but you might not go all the way to the shops.

The advice is: Control Your Environment.  Get temptations out of sight and out of reach.  Work in an environment that is free of non-work distractions.  Support your willpower.

My basement office is possibly the worse environment for this.  It’s more than my work-place, it’s where I play games, design games, read the news, and practice guitar.  My hobbies are all around me.  When I’m in my office, I’m reminded of a dozen things I’d rather be doing.  No wonder I goof off so much!

So I have set up a work space in my bedroom.  Table, chair, laptop, phone, timer, and nothing else.  I’ve deleted my bookmarks from my laptop.  If I want to take an email/Facebook break, I will go downstairs to the PC in my office.

The other benefit of this is the Habit Of Place.  If I only ever work in my bedroom office, then I’ll only think about work when i’m in my bedroom office.

Today is day 1. Wish me luck.

-J

Learning Of The Day: Possibly the greatest aid to focus and self-discipline is
A Good Night’s Sleep.

-J