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

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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Nena Tenacity

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

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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    Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

    The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

    But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

    However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

    This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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    Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

    We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

    Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

    Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

    The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

    When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

    When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

    How to Make Decision Effectively

    Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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    1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

    You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

    Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

    Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

    2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

    You don’t have to choose all the time.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

    Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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    3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

    You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

    The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

    Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

    Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

    So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

    More Tips About Decision Making

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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