Putting off a task that needs our attention has become so easy in a world in which we are continually assaulted with myriad electronic distractions. Kids’ homework has never taken so long! Emails, Facebook and text messages appeal to our desire to be efficient, connected and relevant, yet they can take our focus away from some of the primary tasks that deserve our attention.
Being quick to act needs more than a decision to act, it needs us to act! Waiting for the right circumstances, thoughts or feelings is a recipe for underachievement. There are a few other techniques which I have found helpful, too. They can all themselves promote procrastination but can help us to stay focused and productive if we use them well.
1. Sharpen the mind – word puzzles, strategy games, playing music and recreational learning can all promote discipline as your brain is trained to adopt sequential patterns.
2. Reward yourself – a small reward for a small accomplishment might be a coffee break, a check of email or a short leg-stretch, but needs you to tell yourself you won’t move toward that reward until your job is done.
3. Switch tasks – more routine jobs still need to be done and these can be a great change-of-tack when you’re stuck on something. The physical and mental change that happens when a different type of tasks briefly takes our attention keeps us productive and returns us to the original task with freshness.
4. Be self-aware – open your web browser or inbox with deliberate intention each time, but also identify feelings connected with procrastinations and process with someone. If you find yourself in front of the TV again, it pays to ask where this particular moment is going to get you. I often take my reflections to prayer and find that the very act of praying also keeps me functioning more sharply, anyway.
In the end, discipline is a choice, even though it can be enhanced with a little retraining. But with persistence, discipline usually eventually stirs an interest in what we apply ourselves to. The joy of accomplishment also makes it that much easier to resist those procrastinations which we know, deep down, do us little good for all their attractiveness.