Sure, I can write this article now. But first, let me make another coffee.
Yesterday, September 6th 2015 was Fight Procrastination Day.
Whether you knew it was Fight Procrastination Day yesterday or not, think about what you did: Did you complete something off your work or home to-do list yesterday?
When thinking about this issue of to-do lists and procrastination despite the best of intentions, I’m reminded of my Psych Honours thesis (2004). The thesis focussed on the effectiveness of “implementation intentions” (Gollwitzer, 1999). Implementation intentions are self-regulatory strategies that describe intentions to achieve goals. Put more simply, these can be called action plans.
But setting the goal is the easy part, isn’t it? Actually pursuing the goal requires the most effort, right?
“Good resolutions are useless attempts to interfere with scientific laws. Their origin is pure vanity. Their result is absolutely nil.” – Oscar Wilde
An action plan or implementation intention if designed correctly should push a high level intention beyond the mere ambit of aspiration, into the domain of engaging with and endeavouring through the task. Setting an action plan requires you to dictate specific detail of when, where, and exactly how you’ll do something, and it’s been shown under many circumstances to increase goal achievement. It’s a simple idea with broad effective application.
An element of an action plan that’s used in the workplace is a “time box”; a fixed time period where you commit to working on or completing a specific task. I’ve been consciously timeboxing every day for over a month now. At the end of each day, I timebox the following day.
Timeboxing is a technique that has succeeded with me, and what’s more it seems to have been successful in adding itself to the workplace vernacular. Timeboxing helps focus thought and action, in order to complete even the longest and most arduous of projects (you know the ones, with a protracted deadline some way into the future, which seem to come with a time vortex free of charge) faster.
So with my newfound devotion to the timebox, gone are the days where I find myself working right up to a project’s nominated deadline, filling my days with musings and procrastination, while I spend the total amount of time available to me. My attention is focussed where it needs to be, and my mind doesn’t wander off to try to address peripheral issues at the same time.
My little boxes of time and I are working together to fight procrastination and knock off projects on and ahead of schedule.
Anyway, article done, in good time. Time for that coffee.
-Marianne Campbell, Director, Mint Research