For years I have beaten myself up over the occasional tendency to procrastinate on certain tasks. So when I heard about the book The Now Habit, I was eager to read and learn not only why I exhibited that tendency, but gain a framework for dealing with it. Fortunately, this book lived up to both of those traits – but it takes a lot of work on the part of the reader to reach these outcomes. Tonight, I realized that I had reached a turning point in my own thinking when I saw witnessed a fellow human procrastinating over homework. She was looking at her assignment and saying “Then I have to do this, this, and four more things. I’ll never be done!” I know the feeling.
The book quickly points out that we are not born when the instinct to avoid, or put off doing work. Procrastination is a technique we use to avoid the feelings of being overwhelmed or imperfect. I personally find myself with those feelings routinely. Sometimes there is a task or project so daunting, that I lose sight of what I can do TODAY to move it forward because I’m overwhelmed by ALL of the work that has to be done. I’m also very critical of my work – not to mention that I work with a bunch of critics, too! When you are afraid that your work isn’t going to be good enough, to be perfect, a typical pattern is to put off doing it. In my example above, Madison wasn’t worried about perfectionism (although her mom told her to take her time, don’t feel rushed, and do it right) – but was definitely overwhelmed by the amount of work to be done. I told her to focus on the one task she was working on and not worry about the next one until this was finished. It seemed to work in terms of getting her focused. I guess that book learnin’ is paying off!
So if you find yourself procrastinating, or think you are a chronic procrastinator, take a step back and look at your situation. Maybe even check out this book. There is no magic pill, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction!
I recently read Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. I originally picked this up as a result of it showing up as a recommended item in my Amazon Recommendations. I initially looked at the first chapter – one that talks about all the benefits of exercise and the brain. This struck a chord with me and I decided I wanted to read more. Notice that the hyperlink to ‘exercise’ above goes to brainrules.net – the book’s companion site with additional content and videos to help reinforce topics from the book.
The book goes on in detail to discuss the differences between how short term and long term memories work (and tricks to help improve them), differences between male and female brains, and a host of other interesting topics. At times the material is dry – Medina uses the medical terms for the different areas of the brain. If you’re not into that or wanting to go to that depth, it can become difficult to follow. If you hold on through a few pages of this at a time, you will be rewarded with a rather informative read.
There are numerous takeaways I had from this book that helped me understand more about myself. Here are a few:
- The brain can only focus on something for about 10 minutes at a time. It then needs a diversion.
- Exercise increases brain function / power and significantly decreases the risk of dementia. That brings new meaning to the saying “Running is cheaper than therapy.”
- Sleep is vital to committing what has been learned to memory. The brain is very active while you are sleeping.
- Multitasking is a fallacy. You are only able to focus on 1 thing at a time. If you are familiar with single core computing, you will recognize what we refer to as multitasking (conference call and email at the same time) is actually pre-emptive multitasking.
- Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power
- Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too
- Rule #3: Every brain is wired differently
- Rule #4: We don’t pay attention to boring things
- Rule #5: Repeat to remember
- Rule #6: Remember to repeat
- Rule #7: Sleep well, think well
- Rule #8: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way
- Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses
- Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses
- Rule #11: Male and female brains are different
- Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers