“Focus is a mental game! Your breath is your credit.”
Intrinsic motivation and procrastination
Understanding the key components of internal motivation is a good step to find the source of your procrastination. A study showed that participants with higher self-esteem and a higher resistance to peer pressure tended to show lower levels of procrastination. The finding suggests that intrinsic motivation works better against procrastination.
Time pressure and procrastination
Leaving a task to the last minute may makes us feel like we are working faster to complete the task. However, it does not mean we work better.
Time pressure generally impairs performance because it limits thought and action. Parkinson’s law suggests that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. The key is to find the right balance between productivity and performance.
Good Rituals for Focused Work
• A good ritual should be accessible most of the time you plan to work. If you focus best in a library, but it is closed on weekends when you need it, it is not a good ritual.
• It should assist with getting into work, not adding steps that turn it into a procrastination tool. If you first need to meditate for ninety minutes, then drive for two hours to a log cabin before you start working, it is not effective.
Good rituals can be done quickly, on-demand, and help you get into focus. Pairing a consistent routine with focused work can help to direct your mind into a state of productivity. But rituals can also prevent you from moving into focused work and instead become a tool for procrastination.
The Distractions We Can Control
For any focused work session, we should prevent the distractions we can control.
• Allow only a select few emergency channels to go through and interrupt you. Turn off all other notifications on your phone and computer.
• Ensure your email inbox is closed.
• Pack your phone away to minimize the impulse to check your phone.
• Schedule short focused check-in times for essential emails.
Plan Exactly What You’ll Work On
We often struggle with internal distractions. We get restless, bored, frustrated, or anxious about the task.
The best way to handle these emotions is to plan what exactly you will work on, how you will work on it, and what steps you will follow. Once you have a plan, getting started is easy.
Creating A Focused Space
Consistently picking the same space for focused work will condition your brain to enter the right state of mind.
You can also pick focused spaces that limit the kind of unfocused work you can do. If you don’t need the internet for your task, pick a spot without internet access to boost your focus.
Anxiety And Focused Work
Anxiety is a cause of procrastination. You feel your upcoming work will be difficult, so you find a way to distract yourself.
Sometimes your anxiety stems from the standard you expect from yourself. You need to do a practice test, but you don’t feel you’ve mastered the material. You want to write an essay but have no ideas. A good response is to simply lower your standards for now. Be okay with writing a draft you’ll throw away just to get the ideas out. A good first step is just to show up, reminding yourself that giving yourself space to focus is more important than an arbitrary standard.