Rusting Vigor and Rewarding Relaxation
Today I really, really, really didn't want to go to the gym. I started to give myself the normal slew of excuses:
- "I'll go twice tomorrow."
- "I won't eat that much tonight"
- "I'm working on something more important."
But before I chose one to run (or not run) with I decided to play Derek's advocate and ask myself the real questions:
- "Why don't you"
- "Will you feel better after you go?"
- "Would you feel better to go or not to go?"
Then instead of bartering with myself to not go I started to barter with myself TO GO.
- "You just have to go, you don't even have to go for that long or work out that hard."
- "You can get something special for desert."
and then I just realized what I really needed to tell myself was "Shut the fuck up and just go to the gym Derek." - The time I was spending trying to decide if, and when, I was going to go was distracting myself from what I was working on. - Which was my main excuse for not going anyways!
So I went, and I felt better for going - as I knew I would.
The lesson in this case, and in many others is this:
Which means when you don't do something, or you wait to do something, or you avoid doing something, it doesn't 'charge your batteries' or help you relax so you will feel like doing it more another time. No. It actually makes you want to do it (whatever it is), and everything else less and less. In other words procrastination is cumulative and breeds more of itself. The more lazy you are, the more lazy you will stay, and it's a slippery slope to doing less and less.
Thankfully the opposite of that is also true - the more you actually ACT and do something (no matter how little), it's affects are also cumulative. So each time you go to the gym, even when you don't want to (especially when you don't want to) your motivation and will power to go increases more and more. Each time you decide not to go your will power goes down.
That's why, by default, when you are deciding doing something or not doing something you should always think to the end first. Ask yourself which is the better course of action (or non-action) and if you already know the answer then just do it.
The next lesson I've found that helps with all kinds of things is something I wish I would have known and implemented while I was growing up, especially in school.
If you have something you have to do, or is due soon, do it now.
Lets use putting out the trash as an example. It's trash day and you have all day to put it out. It's only going to take a few minutes. It's not fun. You don't want to do it. You have to do it. You are going to do it at some point. You don't really 'gain' anything by doing it. It's just a necessary evil in life.
Until you put the trash out it is going to be in the back of your mind, and even if it is wayyy back there it is still there, lingering, and taking a little away from your mental resources. So you can either put it off all day, wait until the last moment, or you can just put it out -and out of your mind. Which is better? And why is it that we will put if off anyways?
Most of the time when we say "I'll do it later" we somehow think that something magical is going to happen and we'll actually WANT to do it more later. I'll tell myself that the longer I wait to do something, the more I'll want to do it. Like the motivation builds like the excitement does for waiting to do something fun! NO. Trust me I've tried and this is absolutely a fallacy. I've convinced myself for months at a time (sometimes years) that if I'm not writing my book that eventually after enough time has passed i'll get bored enough, or my motivation will build up enough and i'll wake up and start writing. It's bound to happen, right?! - Wrong. The only thing that has ever increased my "motivation" is to do it anyways, even when I didn't want to. I would work up the will to force myself to at least open the file and write a couple sentences, or edit a page - something small. Then what would end up happening is I would work for hours at a time, and end up doing more than I expected. Then I would realize that I didn't necessarily have to be "motivated" to work, or write, I just had to actually write. What some people call "writers block" is nothing more than NOT WRITING. "oh i'm not inspired" no - you have to write. It's like doing anything, you can't do it unless you do it. Everything that, mentally, leads up to it is mostly counter-productive.
The same applies to homework, projects, and work in general. Even sending an email, or a text, or anything that you have (or want) to do but haven't done yet. It's kinda like a: "Don't save for tomorrow what you can do today" thing. If you have a project that needs to be done by the end of the week, and you can complete it in a couple hours don't wait until the last few hours to do it. You may think that by putting it off you are somehow gaining something, or giving yourself time to do something you really want to do but that is just self-propagating procrastination propaganda bullshit!
If you take a couple hours early in the week and finish it sooner rather than later the rest of the week isn't spent with it looming in your mind, keeping you from being able to fully enjoy anything else. This is called Rewarded Relaxation. You did something - so you get a reward. This is different than rewarding yourself in advance, before you actually do something. This is backwards thinking and it is best to be avoided. Not to mention that working on things when you have plenty of time avoids unforeseen problems and also gives you the time to take your time and do it right. Another procrastination propaganda we use is "I do better work when i'm under pressure." That may be the case for a very select few special cases, like off the cuff speeches or creative thinking but it is absolutely NOT the case for writing, or drawing, or anything that requires actual procedural work. If you had to clean your whole house and you only had 1 hr vs 10 hrs it doesn't matter how much pressure you have you could do a better job with more time. If you had 1 min vs 10 min to sketch something - you could make a better sketch in 10 min. If you had 10 min vs 1 hr to write a paper, you could make it better with more time. Just the fact that you have more time to double, triple etc. check for errors.
So those are some of the lessons i've learned that have helped a lot in productivity.
If you have something pending - do it and get it out of your mind.
If you don't want to do something, do it anyways - you'll be both glad you did and have more will power for the next pending problem.