Level 2: Terminate procrastination in a snap

Procrastination corners us into tight spots.

Wastes away our time, opportunities, and then leaves us with regret.

We have all experienced how corrosive it is.

However, it is our very human nature to avoid pain and frustration and to seek out pleasure.

The quicker the gratification, the better it is.

Not only that, when actions become knee-jerk we don’t even think before doing them.

It almost seems as if our conscious will is offline, and as if our meagre willpower is too feeble to do anything other than letting us be carried off by a stream of consciousness.

While this might sound like a description of procrastination, it perfectly describes psychological flow - our peak mental performance.

The same human nature, emotion, desire, habit can be bent to our will, or erode our willpower in almost no time, and lead us into a Self-sabotaging loop.

So why fight against our human nature, and not use it to our advantage instead?

Emotion, desire, habit and conscious will are pseudonyms for 4 brain abstract networks that neuroscientists have deciphered in recent decades.

And we are going to exploit these recently developed knowledges: ‘mental contrast with implementation intention’ - a simple step that is proven not only to improve academic performance, but also to reduce procrastination.

The logic is pretty simple, our mental imprint of ideas, such as consequences to actions are usually in a fuzzy liquid form.

Using mental contrast would help us solidify this mental imprint, together with the emotion and desire pertaining to it, to make the decision to stop procrastination or not.

This simple step of solidifying the idea (quitting procrastinating) and an emotion (fear of regret), and a desire (craving for catharsis), put our human nature as the weapon of our choice, instead of the hurdle we need to overcome.

When the notion of the consequences of our action are in a fuzzy liquid form, it is human nature to lean toward immediate gratification.

However once emotion and desire for consequences solidify with this simple step of mental contrasting, we work human nature to our favor.

Not only that, when used together with implementation intention in a sequence, it works habit in our favor, helping us solidify notions to break the inertia and get the ball rolling to start work.

Every time we repeat this particular sequence, it gets more into our habit until it becomes totally our knee-jerk.

For we are living in a ferociously fast moving world, where the future is unknown, we deserve to stay ahead.

So practice and get it into your knee-jerk.

 

Objective

Practice the following ‘If-Then’ and build this Level 2 Focus Skill into your knee-jerk in 66 days, the natural habit formation lifecycle.

 

IF

A:you feel that you are procrastinative, or

B: you receive a distraction streak, or its haptic alert

THEN

Step 1: do a mental contrast self-talk for 1 minute.

Step 2:do a Focus Biofeedback training, and wipe out all the droplets on screen.

Step 3: do a 10-minute Deep Work Session, to break the inertia of getting started.

 

If A: you feel that you are procrastinative

The feeling of procrastination is the direct opposite of feeling in control while doing things, like making your favorite breakfast, you don’t need to think about what you should do, you just do it.

This typically happens when you anticipate effort, negative emotions or even pain. For example, starting a long and difficult task, working on something you find emotionally toilsome or are struggling with. At times, even the thought of the problem is enough to cause frustration. 

This feeling of procrastination means that you not only actively avoid thinking about the problem, and are happy to be distracted, you may even proactively seek out distractions to help forget the problem at hand. For example, you might start to read irrelevant news, catch up on social media or even start to daydream, doing whatever helps you delay getting started.

What essentially happens,  is “reason is the slave of the passions”. Your desire and emotion make the decisions for you, and then you rationalize after-wards. So even if you think “I have to finish up this trivial task first, to get it out of the way” or “I need to read this news to stay in the loop” sound like rational decisions, actually they are not. They are merely a reflection of priorities decided by your desire and emotion.

In contrast, when you are not in a procrastinative state, both your desire and emotion want to get the task at hand done, and you would no longer rationalize the delay, but rather see distractions as obstacles that prevent you from finishing the task. You know what you are doing, and you feel in control.

If B: you you receive a distraction streak, or its haptic alert

In FOCI, you can tell you are in this procrastinative state, when you start to form distracted streaks. This is because your focus is offline, and you are likely to have been carried away by distractions for quite some time.

 

Deep work summary, procrastinating and distracted while working, struggling to focus.

Figure 1. You can tell that you are in a procrastinative state, when you start to form distracted streaks and receive distraction haptic alert. This Deep Work Summary shows Amy was in a procrastinative state for the first half of the 30 min session.

Then Step 1: do a mental contrast self-talk immediately for 1 minute.

At the prompt of the cue keywords below, recall the relevant memories and the associated desire and emotion. The purpose of this self-talk is to construct cues to help you remember and elicit the memories, desires and emotions to work human nature to our favor.

There are two types of self-talk, the first one is easier to start with. If there are parts that are uncomfortable to you, you can omit them until you feel more comfortable with them.

 

Self-talk 1

Your name,

You know you hate procrastinating.

It is toxic.

And you don’t deserve it.

 

Because in the end, you lose not just time, but the chance, the freedom to choose what you really want to do Cue 1.

 

It happened to you before.

 

Regrets Cue 2, lost, and it might happen again this very moment, cornering you, into an unsettling future Cue 3 you don’t even dare to think.But now, this moment, this chance, is in your hand.

 

Because every time you beat your worst self, you get better at it.

Because it is difficult, and not anyone can do it.

But you can do this Cue 4.

Because you’re your name

 

Self-talk 2

I hate procrastinating.

It is toxic.

And I don’t deserve it.

 

Because in the end, I lose not just time, but the chance, the freedom to choose what I really want Cue 1.

 

It happened to me before.

Regrets Cue 2, lost, and it might happen again this very moment...cornering me, to an unsettling future Cue 3 I can’t even dare to think.

 

But now, this moment, this chance, is in my hand.

 

Because every time I beat my worst self, I get better at it.

Because it is difficult, and not anyone can do it.

But I can do this Cue 4.

Because I am, I am.

 

Cue 1

Remind yourself of the goal that you are working towards. For example, the pride of doing well in the exam, getting a promotion, providing security to your family or yourself.

 

Cue 2

Remind yourself of regrets of procrastinating. For example, the embarrassment of missing a deadline, producing sloppy work, wasting time.

 

Cue 3

Remind yourself of an uncertain future that you would not want. For example, the fear of failing an exam, the rejection from admission into particular schools, or job.

 

Cue 4

Remind yourself of the achievements that you are proud of. For example, winning a competition, organizing a successful event, acquiring a new skill.

Self-talk makes use of psychological commitment and consistency, and would create cognitive dissonance - an unpleasant feeling, if the self-talk is inconsistent with your subconscious decision to pinch fear or bad memories in order to make yourself feel better.

The process of unpinching these memories is emotionally painful and challenging at the same time, however, the benefit is huge. You can use these memories to gather emotional strength, to make decisions that would otherwise be too hard to make.

The often misconstrued ‘iron will’, is in fact not willpower, as our brain’s executive control is very limited biologically. Because of that, ‘motivation’ is often disappointing. That is, it was. Now, ‘motivation’ can be whatever you want, if you master the skill of eliciting the right memory and associated emotion and desire. This skill of consciously manipulating your own motivation can give you an ‘iron will’.

 

Then Step 2: do a Focus Biofeedback training, and wipe out all the droplets on screen.

Focus Biofeedback helps suppress a Mindlessness Loop which often accompanies a Self-sabotaging Loop. Removing secondary complications is absolutely essential.

Let Focus Depth value guide you, 

1) Relax your body as you breathe in.
2) Try to feel as much bodily sensation as you can as you breathe out.

 

Repeat these 2 steps.

You may want to use Focus Breathing Technique with the guidance from inhale and exhale beat.

 

Focus breathing technique

Figure 2. Focus Breathing Technique: Breathe in twice with one beat, and breathe out with one beat.

 

With the audio, you can control the rain. As you go into deeper focus, the sound of the rain would get lighter and softer, and as you get into deep focus, you would begin to hear the birds chirping (best used with headphones).

With the visual, you can try to control the liquid and fill up the bulb.

Then Step 3: do a 10-minute Deep Work Session, to break the inertia of getting started.

Do a Deep Focus session, for just 10 minutes. Not more, not less. Tell yourself, that after this 10 minutes, you can go back to whatever you were doing before that. This is a mini goal that helps you break the inertia that prevents you from getting started.

 

Summary

 

IF

A: you feel that you are procrastinative or

B: you receive a distraction streak, or its haptic alert

THEN

Step 1:do a mental contrast self-talk immediately for 1 minute

Step 2:do a Focus Biofeedback training, and wipe out all the droplets on screen

Step 3: do a 10-minute Deep Work Session, to break the inertia of getting started.

 

Build this Level 1 Focus Skill into your knee-jerk in 66 days.

Tick off a checkbox for each day you practice “If-Then”.

 

How to beat procrastination, build new habit in 66 days.

Focus Skill Foundation: Discover your Achilles’ heel of your performance

Identify the 5 main types of vicious loops that could be affecting you all the time.

Level 1. Tune out distractions at your will

Understand the perennial chaos happening inside your brain and bring it under control in minutes with biofeedback.

Stay balanced with fatigue and stress more effectively with added emotion-awareness and the right countermeasures.

Level 4. Triumph in getting into your peak mental performance

Learn to tune your emotion states with breathing pacing technology to get into psychological “flow”.