PM Guest Article May 2020

How to STOP Procrastinating

Brij Sethi

Director, Dost Expertise Pvt. Ltd.

Brij helps you apply Head Heart Hands to work (see HeHeHa.org). Head – Build and Share Expertise. Heart – Care and Persist. Hands – Stay Healthy and Get things done with grace and ease.

Jayesh is in an IT job in the busy and traffic ridden city of Bangalore and life is a boring routine of stress, coffee and missed deadlines.

Jayesh wants to do well and be successful. That is why he moved here from Dahod, after finishing his engineering.

As soon as he is back in the apartment at 7:00 Jayesh puts the laptop bag on the small dining table, that is also his work desk and settles on the sofa. He looks for the TV remote. Where would it be, after the binge watching last night?

“I must exercise, before starting dinner”, he tells himself. He has been putting on weight and does not feel as energetic at work, as he earlier used to.

Just then, the phone rings. It is his boss Surya, calling to let him know that now that it is morning in the Americas, Josy has not liked the code they sent across. They need to work on it, first thing tomorrow morning.

Jayesh feels the acid building up and switches on the TV to distract himself. He quickly switches over to Netflix and starts surfing the choices in sitcoms. He wants to watch something mindless and distract himself.

A part of Jayesh is telling the rest of Jayesh that this evening too is following an all too familiar pattern of decline.

Soon he will be ordering unhealthy Rolls on Swiggy instead of cooking for himself. Soon he will be binge watching till 2 AM in the morning. And then feel ‘not-so-good’ all of tomorrow in office.

What should Jayesh do?

How to stop procrastinating by using the 2 minute Rule

Each evening, there is a tiny moment that shapes the rest of the day. You come back from office and either you change into your workout clothes or you crash on the recliner with a TV remote. The habit that you need is not for exercise. That is too big and unnecessary. The habit that you need is to change into your workout clothes.

Habits are like the entrance ramps to highways. Once en-route you will continue down the road. Just like you do when you continue to watch a bad TV show or binge after you are full.

#doableAction identify your decisive moments. Every day, there are a handful of moments that deliver an outsized impact. These choices are a fork in the road.

  • Ordering takeout or cooking dinner
  • Driving the car or walking / taking the bike
  • Doing the homework or Taking the TV remote

We are limited by where our habits lead us. That is why, mastering the decisive moments throughout your day is so important.

You need to design the habits for your decisive moments with care. They should be super easy.

As habit designers we can get carried away and it is easy to plan on starting too big. You can sabotage your best plans by trying to do, too much, too soon.

#doableAction – Explore, and you will find that nearly any habit can be scaled down to a 2 minute version. Prefer that!

  • Read before bed each night’ becomes, ‘Read one page’.
  • Do 30 minutes of Yoga’ becomes, ‘Take out my yoga mat’
  • Study for Class’ becomes ‘Open my Notes’
  • Fold the laundry’ becomes ‘Fold one pair of socks’
  • Run 3 miles’ becomes ‘Tie my running shoes’

The idea is to make your habit as easy to start, as possible. Once you have started doing the right thing it is much easier to continue.

#doableAction – If the 2 minute rule seems like a trick to doing more, also try limiting it to 2 minutes and then no more. Habit formation will still work. The secret is to stay below a point where it feels like work.

If you have tried to do journaling or write creatively, set a target to write only for 2 minutes and no more. Do it for a few days so the writing-for–2-minutes does not seem strange any more. Then see where it takes you .

Strategies like these work for another reason too. They reinforce the identity you want to build for yourself.

Remember process trumps goals. You want to be the person who does not miss commitments to himself. You are not the person, who is worried about the next promotion, every day of this difficult life.