Advertising
Advertising

Avoiding The Butterfly Effect, The Supersaurus and Procrastination

Avoiding The Butterfly Effect, The Supersaurus and Procrastination


    In Chaos Theory, “The Butterfly Effect” explains how small changes in conditions can produce results very different from predictions. If good weather is predicted on a day at one side of the world and a butterfly flaps its wings on the other, this could actually cause a storm rather than the good weather as predicted. The flapping of the wings changes the air pressure very slightly causing a weather pattern completely different from the one originally forecast.

    Sometimes one simple action can lead to great results — or avoid catastrophic ones. Have you ever delayed paying a bill, resulting in a fine? The next day you have to leave the office to pay the fine. As a result you miss a meeting, delay handing in your reports and your hair gets wet because you were caught in the rain…and you were supposed to go out for cocktails after work! One simple action could have avoided the storm that followed.

    There may also be a project that you just can’t seem to get started on. You postpone picking it up, make excuses, distract yourself with menial tasks in the hope that it will disappear. Why do we do this?

    Advertising

    One of the chief reasons we avoid work is fear. We are afraid the task may be too big or too difficult for us.

    Fear – Panic – Dread!

    The task looks enormous. Never mind an elephant — this is a Supersaurus! You see yourself as a tiny dot looking up at the largest dinosaur that ever roamed the earth and think:

    “How in the world am I going to get this done? This is impossible, it scares me so much that I’m now going to pretend that dinosaurs (especially the Supersaurus) never existed and I’m going to start ticking all the nice little tasks that I enjoy off my list. Call Mary, yes I can do that, have a little chat and arrange the social club outing much more pleasant that super lizards…”

    But what happens? The super lizard won’t go away. He plagues your dreams.  You push him back into your subconscious and you pretend there will be no repercussions — but, alas, one day you are reminded.

    Advertising

    You are called to a meeting. A meeting in which you are reminded that, in fact, the Supersaurus does exist and all of the other people at the meeting know of his existence. You have no choice now but to face him head on…so what do you do?

    Gaining Clarity

    The fear comes from ignorance. Not having defined exactly what that the Supersaurus is, you sit down and open the files, you look at his size, you understand his form and composition, and then you assess its greatness and then break it down.

    What exactly needs to be done? How long is it going to take? When can this be scheduled into the day? Once you are clear about the size of the task then you can begin to break it down into a manageable size — you know, like a cow or a goat rather than a massive dinosaur.

    Taking Action

    The most important part of avoiding procrastination is the “Do Habit”. The planning and the scheduling is important — vital, in fact — for the smooth running of any project. But without actually standing up and doing something about it nothing will ever progress.

    Advertising

    The Do Habit

    Create a habit of doing. If it’s a project in work or a book you are writing, stop planning and start doing — even if you can only do ten minutes a day. Just do it. After all, ten minutes a day adds up to more than one working day a month. Every little bit helps, so make a plan and create space for the task every day.

    As Bob Marley (and probably someone equally as important person before him) said:

    “Every little action, there’s a Reaction”

    Start the momentum.

    Advertising

    Don’t allow your wings to flap aimlessly and cause a tornado.

    Start consciously fluttering…and the small little actions may just create amazingly big results.

    (Photo credit: Lesser Gull Butterfly via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    Ciara Conlon

    Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

    7 Characteristics of Procrastination (And How to Fight Them) This Is Why Taking Action Creates Success Less Is More: How to Become Productive with Less 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude Why Failure Can Take You One Step Closer to Success

    Trending in Productivity

    1 The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness 2 How to Stop Being Passive and Start Getting What You Want 3 How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement 4 5 Less-Known Reasons Why Less is More 5 10 Smart Productivity Software to Boost Work Performance

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, 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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

    Read Next