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By Applying This Rule, You Can Overcome Procrastination In 2 Minutes

By Applying This Rule, You Can Overcome Procrastination In 2 Minutes

We all know those people (or we are one of them) who have many great talents and could do so much, only if they weren’t procrastinating their way through life. They postpone their tasks till the last minute and make themselves suffer enormous amounts of stress and anxiety in order to get things done on time. The worst thing about it is that once they waste all their energy fighting the temptation for instant gratification when completing mundane tasks, they leave no room for the really important stuff, such as their favorite hobby, or any activity that boosts their self-growth and creativity.

2-minute rule that triggers immediate actions

If you came to a point when you realized how seriously procrastination affects your life and health, you have probably came across the 2-minute rule solution in your search for remedy. The approach works because it is ridiculously easy and it can be applied to any task at hand no matter its size. It affects the root of the procrastinating process – the problem of starting the activity. The more time-consuming the activity is, the bigger resistance to starting it is created in the mind of the procrastinator.

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Relative to the size of the task or project, the rule can be applied in two ways:

  • The first one is to do the short and easy tasks right away to avoid cluttering your space and mind.
  • The second way is applied to bigger projects and things that require more time and effort.

Originating from Newton’s first law of motion that states that objects in rest stay at rest and objects in motion stay in motion, the 2-minute rule in this case means finishing the project 2 minutes at a time. This helps the person who is performing it not to feel overwhelmed and discouraged, but to start lightly, and soon the action will gain momentum leading to longer hours of productivity. As proposed by researches at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, the way to start any bigger project is to break it down into as many micro tasks as possible whose completion will lead to increase in motivation needed for further action.

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Why do we procrastinate?

  • Feeling of not being good enough – For many people the reason behind putting things off for as long as possible is the belief that they don’t possess the right skills and talents.
  • Overwhelmed by the size of the task – Another common reason for procrastination is the resistance felt by people when facing great, time-consuming projects.
  • The need for instant gratification – In most cases people tend to postpone their tasks due to lack of willingness to fight the human impulse to do only the most pleasing and undemanding things.

The 2-minute rule provides solution in all three cases as it helps to push through the initial doubt, since with 2 minutes in the activity our confidence levels start to grow and our need for gratification lessens as the process itself becomes gratifying enough. As previously mentioned, the rule is equally efficient in larger assignments as it helps to shift the focus from big end product to small bite-size two-minute steps.

How to apply the 2-minute rule

1. Start small

Let’s take the task of losing weight for example. For most people who struggle to lose those extra pounds this is one of the bigger projects. Therefore, instead of immediately rushing to face the great challenge, you should prepare the way by working on small, unrelated things. Doing everyday chores while they are still in the 2-minute-task category will help you to set foundation for the doer mindset. As the time goes, the momentum will take over, making it more natural and effortless and you will soon be able to transfer the approach to more complex issues.

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2. Raise the bar

Once you have developed a habit of doing little tasks, it is time to apply the same principle to a greater project. By taking the different perspective and dividing the strategy for weight loss into 2-minute actions that help to start the process, the entire task won’t seem so demanding. In addition, as you go through easily achievable bits, your motivation will grow, making you more eager to continue. In the beginning, these 2-minute actions would be anything from preparing the low-calorie meal to getting dressed and leaving the house for jogging. As you go along, you will feel much more willing to set further challenges.

3. Postpone reward

As opposed to seeking instant gratification and risk losing energy doing things that are not of the utmost importance in that moment, you should postpone it for after the completion. This way, you enhance your motivation as you have something to look forward to for later. Treating yourself to a movie after finishing Pilates class will improve not only your looks and health, it will also give you rest from guilt as the reward comes as something you earned.

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Ana Erkic

Social Media Consultant, Online Marketing Strategist, Copywriter, CEO and Co-Founder of Growato

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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