Advertising
Advertising

Force Yourself to be Productive with Conditional Events

Force Yourself to be Productive with Conditional Events
    Photo credit: gayle_n (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    I’ll be the first to admit it; doing stuff is difficult. By “stuff”, I don’t mean eating, or playing video games, or doing easy things – nope, I’m talking about the things in life we decide we’ll do because they’re good for us or will help us improve.

    Every day, I find things that I’d like to in order to live a better life, such as doing a certain exercise every day, drinking enough water, or writing morning pages. These are all things that I know will make me feel better or learn more.

    So why are they so friggin’ hard to do consistently?

    Advertising

    My theory as to why these things are hard stems from Isaac Newton’s first law of motion: a body at rest tends to stay at rest. We humans operate kind of like lightening; we naturally want to take the path of least resistance. Most of us live a in a country prosperous enough to afford us a comfortable living in exchange for work that is oftentimes sedentary and mentally easy after the initial learning period. Because we can get along fine doing this kind of work, we’re content to spend the rest of our time diverting attention to TV, video games, and other things that are easy to consume.

    Still, we all have goals and know we could be doing more to reach them. Maybe it’s being leaner. Maybe it’s learning a new skill. Maybe it’s a big goal like writing a novel. Whatever our goals may be, the steps we need to take to achieve them are usually right in front of our faces. The hard part is getting up off our butts and doing them.

    Today I’m going to detail a technique I use to make myself do the things I know are necessary for reaching my goals. This technique involves removing the need to internally motivate yourself by setting up conditional events that make doing things necessary, or at least very, very easy.

    Advertising

    So, What Are Conditional Events?

    The way I think of conditional events is in the context of computer programming. In a computer program, a conditional event describes something that will be done once a certain condition is met. Most programming languages use “if” statements or “while” statements to accomplish this. Here’s a small example that anyone should be able to understand:

    if (user logs in) {

    display welcome message

    }

    This is pseudocode, meaning it’s not written in any particular language, but it should still illustrate the concept well. Basically, a conditional statement makes something happen every time something else happens.

    How Can I Apply This To My Life?

    Applying the logic of conditional events is quite easy, actually. I have a four-step process for incorporating a conditional statement into my own life that you can follow:

    Advertising

    1. Pick a specific goal you have
    2. Isolate one action that needs to be taken to work towards achieving the goal
    3. Tie this action to another action you already do (we’ll call this the parent action), making sure the pairing makes sense
    4. Make sure you do the conditional action every time you do the parent action

    Building conditional actions into your life in this manner has a very powerful effect: it eliminates much of the preparation involved in doing the desired action, thus removing any reason you could use to justify not doing it. Essentially, it makes working towards your goals a part of your daily routine. This is a really important fact, as something that’s part of your routine will take a lot less of your mental energy to do than something that’s been added on.

    Now that you know how to build conditional statements into your daily life, as well as why doing so is beneficial, let me provide you with a few examples of conditional statements I use in my own life. I’m sure you’ll be able to use at least one of them!

    • Goal: Drink at least a gallon of water a day. Conditional: Every time I use the bathroom, I down a 20 ounce bottle of water and refill it. This essentially creates a loop that keeps me well hydrated.
    • Goal: Be able to do at least 15 pullups. Conditional: I put a pullup bar in my dorm room. Every time I come in, I do five pullups. This is a conditional I took from the Army; many basic training camps will make cadets do a few pullups before entering the mess hall for meals.
    • Goal: Write down my thoughts every morning in a journal. Conditional: I made my computer be my alarm. Every morning, it wakes me up and I have to turn on my monitors to disable it. At this point, I’m already at my computer, so I sit down and write.

    These are just a few ideas; there are literally endless possibilities for conditional statements you can build into your own life. Come up with some of your own, and start making headway on your goals! If you like, you can also share the ones you create in the comments to give inspiration to others.

    Advertising

    More by this author

    Force Yourself to be Productive with Conditional Events Give Your Mac A Productivity Power-Up With LaunchBar

    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