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How A Single Shift Of Focus Can Change You From Procrastinating To Taking Actions Immediately

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How A Single Shift Of Focus Can Change You From Procrastinating To Taking Actions Immediately

The desk is cluttered, email inbox full, there are thousands of voice messages. Your head is pounding and all you can do is stare in a stagnant motion. You are frustrated, guilty, and stressed, but you just cannot reduce that growing to-do list. Procrastination leaves you feeling like your passions are engraved permanently below the “under construction” sign. Sounds familiar to you?

There’s always something we know we should do but we simply want to put it off. Many of us would rather do nothing because we’re too afraid of messing anything up. When things seem to be fine to go, we just don’t want to screw them up. Yes this is so wrong, and so I’m going to tell you what you can do to stop procrastinating.

The focus you put on completing a task determines your actions.

There are two ways to look at a task. You can do something because you want to make some achievements, win more and be better off; or you can do something because you don’t want to lose anything you’ve already got. These two types of motivation are called promotion-focus and prevention-focus.[1]

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Promotion-focused is the one who plays to win.

For people who are promotion-focused:

  • They see goals as pathways towards advancement
  • They concentrate on the rewards that will be accrued when goals are achieved
  • They are comfortable and eager to take chances
  • They are creative thinkers that work quickly and dream big

However, note that promotion-focused personalities are prone to error and are unprepared with if anything does go wrong.

Prevention-focused is the one who plays not to lose.

For people who are prevention-focused:

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  • They see goals as responsibilities
  • They concentrate on being safe and are worried if they are not careful enough or do not work hard enough
  • They play to hang on and not lose all they have
  • They are risk-averse
  • Work is thorough, carefully considered, and accurate
  • They work slowly and meticulously
  • They are not usually creative thinkers, but have excellent problem-solving and analytical skills

Most of us have a dominant motivational focus. Promotion-minded people may generate many ideas, but it takes prevention-focused people to tell the difference between good or bad ideas.

To stop procrastination, shift your focus to avoiding loss instead of winning.

Even though there is a dominant focus, most people wear both hats. An effective strategic balance is needed to get all you need when fulfilling tasks.

In Heidi Grant’s book Focus, she mentioned,

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Prevention motivation is actually enhanced by anxiety about what might go wrong. When you are focused on avoiding loss, it becomes clear that the only way to get out of danger is to take immediate action. The more worried you are, the faster you are out of the gate.

So, if you want to get yourself to start doing what really matters, adopt “prevention focus”.

Think about the serious consequences of not doing anything at all, and imagine all the things that you will lose by not doing anything. Utilize your anxiety and fear to make you do what you’ve been putting off.

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For example, if you’ve been wanting to declutter your desk because there’s too much stuff that you can’t really work on your desk but you’re afraid that it’s going to be a huge task and you have to re-organize so many things that you’ll end up messing up the situation, adopt “prevention focus”.

Fast-forward your thinking and think about things keep stacking up and leave you no working space at all, and that if anyone is visiting your home, it’s going to take you forever to tidy up the whole place. Then you’ll take some actions, even the smallest step like throwing away the broken stationeries in the drawer is better than doing nothing.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

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Reference

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Nena Tenacity

Nena is passionate about writing. She shares her everyday health and lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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