Shorter Undistraction Steps

23:52 Wed 10 Jan 2007. Updated: 20:14 27 Jun 2013
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Last Saturday I wrote about a set of steps to get into a focused state of mind. I haven’t managed to use those steps yet, suggesting that they were indeed too long.

So, I thought I’d try a shorter version. Some assumptions govern this process: that you have a list of possible tasks; that you are having some difficulty in doing any of them; that at the time you’re doing these steps there are no external constraints preventing you from doing them.

  • Find a place to write (notebook page, new buffer in text editor, whatever).
  • Take 5 deep breaths.
  • Write down the possible tasks; there should be between two and five of them. You may need to add items and start again from this point if you get stuck below.
  • For each one, write down:
    • How urgent it is.
    • How resistant you feel to it, and anything about that resistance that comes to mind.
    • Its sub-tasks, especially the first few things required to get going on it.
  • Write down how much time you can commit to the task you’re about to start.
  • Think and preferably say: confident, capable, calm, determined, strong.
  • Start the first sub-task for the most urgent thing on the list.
  • If you’re too resistant to that, go down through the list in order of urgency and start the first sub-task in the next-most-urgent task.
  • Work on the task you selected for the amount of time you have committed to, and then either continue or revisit these steps.

Better. This looks less daunting.

I haven’t tried this (or the previous version) out yet, because I’ve been focused and task-driven since I wrote the previous entry. When I do get some experience with it, I will note the results and return to this in a future post.

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5 Responses to “Shorter Undistraction Steps”

  1. mollydot Says:

    I tried the beginning of it. I did the deep breaths and making the list, then started the one I was least resistant to, rather than the most urgent. So it worked somewhat – I wasn’t doing the urgent stuff, but at least I was doing something. I’ve got a few non-urgent things more under control now, which is leaving my head a bit freer.

  2. Tadhg Says:

    Hey, that’s great! So it had some beneficial effect, and worked more or less as it was supposed to in theory… of course, the fact that you only did the beginning probably means that it really did need to be shorter. If you try the shorter version, let me know if it works better.

  3. mollydot Says:

    I suspect the issue is not so much length, as my unwillingness to analyze my resistance. My resistance to it, if you will. And thinking about the urgency increases anxiety & therefore procrastination.
    I reckon my recent knitting and crochet posts were thanks to doing this. I’d never written them down somewhere as a to-do, because I don’t have to do them/the individual steps seemed too small. But they were taking up headspace anyway. But when I wrote them down (all the steps in both posts were down as one item) with the other tasks, I scanned the list and thought – ok, I can gather the knitting together anyway. Later, I felt less resistant to taking the photo, so did that. Etc. And even though I couldn’t knock it off this list till all the photos taken, put on computer, uploaded and both the posts done, I was still able to feel better about seeing on the list, as it was progressing.
    I’ve left the list open in notepad on my computer, added to it a bit, and knocked a couple more things off it, or got some started (including a couple of the more important/urgent ones). Thanks!

  4. mollydot Says:

    Thinking about it some more, I think the most valuable thing I got from your process is taking resistance into account. Writing things down is good, but it’s not new.
    Sometimes when I decide to stop procrastinating RIGHT NOW, the mental conversation goes something like:
    -ok, I’m going to get up now and do something useful. What will I do?
    -you need to do A
    -ehhhh…. I dunno. What else?
    -I don’t feel like it. I’ll do it later.
    -well, that’s not urgent. I should do something else
    -tell you what, I’ll browse a little more as I think about it.

    Half-following your method, as I did previously, I would do C, which, while not as good as doing A or B, is better than continuing to sit there browsing.

  5. Tadhg Says:

    That’s more or less what the idea was, based on the idea that if you for whatever reason can’t do the thing you want to do, you should do something. And that getting into the habit of doing, rather than avoiding, would both make you feel better and eventually help you tackle the things higher up on the priority list.

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