Monday, February 7, 2011

it's now or never

Cheesy as this title is, it's so true.

There are so many things that we put off completing because we are too swamped, too tired, too overworked, too cranky, too this and too that. But we'll work on it later, we'll swear.

How many times has this happened to you? Just today, I told myself I was too tired to wake up early this morning to finish some reading before class. Then I told myself I was too busy to finish a bunch of projects at work that have been dragging on and on. Then I realized how stupid I was being.

"Later" never comes about. Now is the new later. I realized I had to just suck it up and get 'er done.

Procrastination is such a sneaky bastard. Even knowing how bad I am when I procrastinate doesn't make me change anything. What actually happens is that I get annoyed with how much I'm procrastinating, but I tell myself I'll motivate myself and process through why I'm procrastinating later.

Get it?

Being aware of my own procrastination habits just make me feel more bad and guilty for not doing the things I know I should be. To deal with this cognitive dissonance, I simply push all thoughts of work away and focus on something else that is generally not at all what I should be doing, ie blogging instead of studying for midterms. So what can I conclude? Procrastination simply leads to more procrastination.

So how to break this cycle?

I use the "Snowball effect" to increase productivity.

The "Snowball effect" is a method that is used to pay off debt. It involves listing the various debts you owe in the order of smallest to greatest, and paying off the smallest amounts first. It harnesses the psychological high of achieving small feats in order to keep the debtor motivated to tackle the largest debts. Critics of the "Snowball effect" argue that it's not financially the smartest thing to do, since interest rates on the bigger debts will make the total amount you owe higher than if you paid them off first. This is beside the point. If most people were faced with $10,000 of debt, what do you think they would do? They would probably try really hard to save money and live frugally and at the end of the month pay off as much as they could and then get really discouraged that they still owe $9,500 and figure it's not worth depriving themselves of lattes and going out to lunch just to save their credit score. So they stop their debt repayment efforts altogether and push their guilt to the back of their mind.

Similarly, when I make a to-do list, I write out every single gosh darned task that I know I need to do. While most people would then prioritize them and adjust their time to spend more on the biggest tasks, I actually organize them by the time/effort it will take me to complete them. For instance, my psychology homework takes very little time, concentration and critical thinking. I would start off doing it before I start my economics homework, which takes upwards of 2-3 hours of extreme focus to complete.

Start small, go big.

Psychology is more powerful than you think. Learn to harness it.

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