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We’re Born To Want To Put Things Off But Here’s What You Can Do To Get Over It

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We’re Born To Want To Put Things Off But Here’s What You Can Do To Get Over It

We all know the feeling of having to do something and putting it off. 'I'll do it tomorrow', you say to yourself, but you said that yesterday. That book you meant to write, that running habit, getting to work on time. Whatever it is, you can change it. And here's one idea that might help you change your behaviour so you can get to doing what you really want to do.

Akrasia

Akrasia is a word created by ancient philosophers, Socrates and Aristotle, to describe that dissonance we feel when our higher self is telling us to do one thing, and our immediate self is vying for another activity. (It's that feeling when you hear the words in your mind 'Don't eat the chocolate cake' when you've already had a piece.) Our desire in the moment for the temporary reward often overwrites the deeper desire to be healthy and to choose fresh and juicy fruit and veg instead.

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This is simply how humans work, for the most part. But there are some strategies we can incorporate into our lives when dealing with Akrasia. So what can you do about it? You could try the 'if… then' strategy.

'If… then'

Using this strategy can help clarify what you are going to do, and to ensure you are focused on it. When there is no other option than doing what you have planned, it becomes extremely likely that you will do it. This is because then there is no deliberation, it becomes a certainty, so procrastination doesn't get a look in.

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To use this simple strategy, plan what you are going to be doing in a certain situation, time or place:

'If it is 8am, then I will get up and do some yoga and meditation.'

'If it is 10am, then I will begin writing my novel.'

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The 'if then' strategy has shown to increase levels of productivity 200-300% on average. That's some pretty good stats.

This is because it cuts out any thoughts that mean you can listen to the many excuses your mind will come up with to get you to put it off for a bit, or to think of the reasons you might change your mind and do something else instead.

Another practice that helps with this is trying cold showers, in which you hear all of your excuses not to do it, and do it anyway. Becoming aware of these thoughts is the first step to getting confident in the art of just doing it and being aligned with who you really are, and being able to do what you were brought here to do.

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Setting up a new habit is challenging, so don't be too hard on yourself about whether you make it to the gym every single time. Just the fact that you are trying to change is enough for now. And the easiest way to begin is to make starting as easy as possible. Once you've gotten over that hurdle, and have done so consistently, the habit will begin to feel more natural. If you begin to make it a part of your identity as in 'I'm a runner now', then you know you have won most of the battle.

Maya Angelou said that success is "liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it." Hopefully this little tip will allow you to be more of yourself and to contribute more of your time to enjoying the fullness of life, instead of worrying about what you have not done. That's pretty powerful stuff, and it all starts with your habits.

For more tips on creating healthy habits, check this out.

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More by this author

Daniel Owen van Dommelen

Coder, Director, Writer, Human

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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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