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Logan

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When tiny tasks become major irritants

We put off small jobs, like a quick email to a colleague or menial paperwork. We keep putting it off. We waste time thinking about how annoying the task is, but it does not go away.

These small tasks take up a considerable amount of space in our minds. But there are simple ways to bring them back to size.

@log62

Why we procrastinate on the tiniest of tasks

bbc.com

Procrastination involves the voluntary putting off a simple task, even though you will be worse off for doing so.

Procrastinating has little to do with poor time management. It's really about mood management.

  • Procrastinators are self-critical. The worry drains their cognitive resources, reducing their ability to problem solve.
  • Small tasks also lack hard deadlines. We think we can just slip them in during the day.

Motivation often follows action. If you just do something immediately without stopping to think about why you don't want to do it, you will succeed better.

  • Next time you don't like doing a minor task, ask yourself: what is the next step I need to take on this little task? It will move your attention off your feelings and onto your action.
  • Another trick is to pair the smaller tasks with larger ones.

If you remember a negative emotional response that triggered past procrastination, start thinking about how you can reframe the task. You can look at the task as an opportunity to learn a new skill, or frame it as a fun and enjoyable task.

Don't beat yourself up too much if you've procrastinated. It's not some sort of moral failure. A little bit of self-compassion might be all you ned to get back on track.

Neuroplasticity

... is how the brain changes (for better or worse) in response to repeated experience: the things we do often we become stronger at, and what we don't use fades away.

Rewire your brain to beat procrastination

medium.com

Addiction to information
Addiction to information, to the infinite and immediately available mental stimulation the internet offers in the form of information is real and is a perfect outlet for procrastination.
Emotions and procrastination

If you noticed fear or anxiety around starting (or not finishing) a particular task, pay attention. These emotions are a great indicator of why you’re procrastinating.

Learn yourself out of procrastination
  • Accept that you are going to procrastinate sometimes
  • Disconnect from your smartphone. Otherwise, it will demand your attention subconsciously 
  • Be mindful with your emotions when you catch yourself procrastinating
  • Focus on one thing at a time, to avoid feeling overwhelmed
  • Take breaks
  • Celebrate your accomplishments.

Nothing will ever get done if we wait for things to happen. 

Take the reins in your own hands to start a movement.

7 Awesome Habits of Highly Effective People

inc.com

Knowing where the end lies helps to put us into action. 

Continue to keep your end goal in mind.

It can be tempting to stop something halfway through when it gets difficult.  

The difficulty of an activity shouldn't change the fact that it's our priority. Stay the course.

Effective people can always imagine the desired outcome.

Visualize your goals and the steps you need to make to get you there.

Often, people jump into things without planning properly, resulting in fruitless actions.

Planning ahead can really benefit your end results.

Regardless of how capable we might be on our own, there is always greater strength in numbers. 

Synergize on everything you can to help you become more effective.

Regularly allow yourself the time and space in order to be restored. You will find that you are better able to effectively achieve your personal best.

The 'enclothed cognition' effect

We know that what we wear affects our mindset. Our work attire helps us into our role.

Researchers found that volunteers performed better on attention-related tasks when they put on a doctor's lab coat. Another 2014 study found that volunteers negotiated more effectively when they wore a black suit compared to those who wore a tracksuit.

I love wearing my pyjamas when I work from home, but could it be affecting my productivity?

sciencefocus.com

When working from home, even though your colleagues might not see you in your pyjamas, you could be losing out on the psychological benefit of dressing for work.


Other tips for increasing productivity when working from home include setting aside specific hours and creating a particular space for your work.

Open-ended tasks

Open-ended tasks are any tasks that don't have a definite endpoint. Activities like "studying", "working" or "tweaking" waste your time and cause procrastination. "I should really study" is open-ended because it does not have a specific to-do list to learn the material.

A solution is to close all the ends. Set up specific to-do lists which outlines your tasks on what needs to be done. When the to-do list is completed, you stop.

Relax Without Feeling Lazy: Kill Open Loops | Scott H Young

scotthyoung.com

When you have countless open loops in your life, you will never be able to relax.

  • Define exactly what you need to do. In blogging, it could be getting a certain traffic volume or sustaining a certain posting rate.
  • Define exactly what you will commit to. There will always be more to do. Close the ends by defining the amount you are willing to commit to.
  • Define exactly the tasks that need to be done. Make a to-do list for each day and week.
  • When you've finished, stop and enjoy your time off.

Once some people complete their to-do list, they add more work. This is a dangerous move that can sabotage your productivity.
Sources of open loops:

  • Studying. Do you have a specific list of learning activities, or do you just "study"?
  • Exercising. Do you follow a workout, or do you just exercise?
  • Work. Do you work from 9-5, or do you finish a list?
  • Writing. Do you write in hours, or number of words?
  • Communication. Do you speak when it's important, or just of fill dead air?
  1. Don't answer calls from unrecognized phone numbers. Don't waste time knowing the one who called, leave it in the voicemail.
  2. Do not e-mail first thing in the morning or last thing at night to stop you from scrambling your schedule and difficulty of sleep.
  3. Do not agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time. Ask for it in advance for preparation.
  4. Do not let people ramble. Always get to the point.
  5. Do not check e-mail constantly — “batch” and check at set times only.
  6. Do not over-communicate with low-profit, high-maintenance customers. 
  7. Do not work more to fix overwhelm — prioritize. Know what is urgent and important.
  8. Do not carry a cellphone 24/7 to prevent your personal life interrupted by work.
  9. Do not expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should.

The Not-To-Do List: 9 Habits to Stop Now

tim.blog

Facing the productivity dragon

When facing a seemingly untenable set of obligations - as many now have to juggle work responsibilities with closed-school childcare - it's still best to determine the full scope of the challenge.

Write down everything that's demanded of you, even if you can't get to all of it. Then make the best plan you can. The comfort is in the planning, not the achievable outcomes.

Churchill's D-Day Task List - Study Hacks

calnewport.com

To "D Day" to-do list was written by one of the secretaries serving Churchill. It serves as a reminder that even when forced to deal with something so impossible and hopelessly complicated as the reconquest of Europe, the first step was to write down the full scope of the tasks required.

You cannot overcome the dragon until you can see it.

Being a productivity junkie

The brain can become addicted to productivity just as it can to other addiction sources, such as drugs, gambling, or shopping.

As with all addictions, the desire for the stimulant continues to increase while withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, and fear.

When productivity becomes an addiction

bbc.com

What makes addiction to productivity complicated is that society tends to reward it - the more you work, the better. A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, but in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh the short-term benefits.

Addiction affects the brain's reward system. It results in compulsive behavior while disregarding harmful consequences.

At the root of obsession with productivity is a fear of wasting time. Everything is seen as either productive or unproductive.

Buying groceries is seen as productive because you have to eat, while a hobby is viewed as unproductive. Productivity junkies are overly focused on a single aspect of their life. Potential sources of pleasure, such as spending time with loved ones, are very low on the list.

  • The efficiency obsessive. They are hyper-organised and obsessed with detail. They are the master of inbox zero. However, they have lost sight of the big picture and don't know how to distinguish between efficiency and effectiveness.
  • The selfish productive. They are obsessed with their own goals, and if they are asked to collaborate, they aren't interested. They do have the big picture in mind, but they remain the biggest focus.
  • The quantity obsessed. They mistakenly equate productivity with output. They think the more tasks they do, the higher their performance. They are more prone to fall prey to burnout.

High performers who are extremely productive describe their work style as unsustainable. They acknowledge that they need help getting back on track.

There will come a point when performance suffers, and the effects become potentially life-threatening. It is essential to address the warning signs - such as rushing through a family meal to return to work - and to take steps to modify habits.

  • Limit the amount of time spent on an individual task to 45 minutes. To create higher quality output, don't allow interruptions.
  • Create a 'not-to-do list' to avoid over-scheduling.
  • Take five minutes at least five times a day to stop completely. Go for a walk outside.
  • Make room for fun, laughter, and meaningful relationships. At the end of peoples' lives, they don't wish they worked longer hours. They wish they'd spent more time with family or traveled more.
Working alone

Being in a space that's free from distractions while managing your time may sound perfect. But working alone is not a cure-all. Remote work can make you realize that the battle was never external; it's internal.

Working alone is about creating a space where concentration becomes accessible. However, sitting in solitude for a few minutes makes you get up to grab a snack or check Twitter. Or you don't know when to call it a day.

How to Work Alone

99u.adobe.com

Elements to help you reach a state of flow.

  1. There are specific goals every step of the way.
  2. There is immediate feedback to your actions.
  3. There is a balance between challenges and skills.
  4. Action and awareness are merged.
  5. Distractions are excluded from consciousness.
  6. There is no worry of failure.
  7. Self-consciousness disappears.
  8. The sense of time becomes distorted.
  9. The activity becomes autotelic.

To allow this deep work to occur requires you to be vigilant about outside interruptions.

Solitude can initially make you squirm but later becomes a bedrock for intense concentration and creativity. Deflect distractions and use solitude to your advantage:

  • Listen to the sounds of nature. It calms the storm of thoughts and allows you to focus on the task at hand.
  • Accept imperfection. Don't chase an "ideal" work environment; accept what you have.

A routine is vital to get you to reach a deeper state of mind.

Be very clear and deliberate about what you should do, what you can't do, or wouldn't do. Without boundaries, you will work into the night, thinking you are productive.

We can learn through experimentation which environments are best suited for us at specific times of the day. Keep tabs on your mood and productivity when you're in different settings.

The fun of working alone is doing it on your terms. Don't let a productivity blog tell you the"right" way to work.

Niksen

Whenever you feel stressed and on the edge of a burnout, you might as well try doing...well, nothing. 

Niksen is a term used to describe the fact of doing nothing, of taking a break from all our daily tasks, in order to relax and gain our energy back.

The Case for Doing Nothing

nytimes.com

If you have any doubts in what the multiple benefits that idleness can provide you with, just note down the fact that being lazy from time to time leads to increased creativity, productivity as well as developing problem-solving skills, as it allows you to take time to see the things more clearly.

In order to keep your effectiveness high while doing nothing, you might want to consider the following tips: 

  • Find the good moments to take breaks throughout your day, in order to later be more productive.
  • Own the very fact of doing nothing.
  • Take your time getting used to doing nothing.
  • Adjust your environment so that it favors Niksen.
  • Get bored in original ways. All in all, figure out what works for you and make sure you do nothing once in a while, as it is so beneficial for your health.

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