“In the background, while you crochet and golf and browse cat videos, science is fighting against your stupidity. No other human enterprise is fighting as hard, or at least not fighting and winning.” — David McRaney (@davidmcraney)
In his book You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself, author David McRaney gives us a tour in all the ways we can use our brains to fight against how we skim over inconvenient facts and self-sabotage our work ethic. In that vein, we’ve come up with three quick ways to trick yourself into avoiding procrastination, rise and shine with the best of them, and get more work done right, right now.
If your Achilles heel is procrastination, you’re going to have to do some quick reflection. Don’t feel too guilty, though! 20% of people in the U.S. are chronic procrastinators, and put off everything until they have no other choice but to perform, leading to poor results in the long run.
If that’s you, then here’s something to think about: most of the time, procrastination is caused by anxiety, a fear of failure, or a twisted sense of perfectionism. Procrastination is an anxiety that compounds; after you’ve put off a task, you feel guilty about not doing it. Then, as the deadline approaches, you’re guilty about not having done it and you’re worried you won’t be able to get it done on time now. Once you’re done, you’re worried about the results because you know you haven’t done your best.
You’re not lazy in the sense that you don’t like getting work done. If anything, you’re afraid of doing poorly, which is in some sense admirable. Your first step in beating procrastination is forgiving yourself. There’s more self-forgiveness than a morale boost, too. It’s science: studies have shown that people who more readily forgave themselves for procrastinating on a particular task were less likely to procrastinate the second time around. It won’t completely rid you of your desire to put things off, but calming yourself down and saying “it’s okay,” actually gets results here.
Mastering Your Sleep Schedule
Napping at work can boost your performance by up to 34%, but it’s not as easy as it looks. Sleep is counted in hours, as a measurable amount, and while it’s clear that at least 40% of Americans don’t get as much as they should, more is not always better when it comes to sleep. Sleep works in cycles, (there are five stages of sleep if you include REM or the dreaming stage) and there are ways to assure that you wake up when you’re least likely to end up groggy.
But you can work on your sleep cycle at home. You need a boost now, right? Well, just take a short nap, if you can find the place to do it without setting off your boss. Some people hate naps because they always end up feeling like zombies, and others just can’t get enough of them. The key is making the nap short. The ideal length for a nap is not much more than 20 minutes — any longer and you’re likely to go into a deep sleep, which is why some us end feeling worse after a nap. Other things to keep in mind: you want to take your nap between 1 and 4p.m., take it in a place where you can sit upright, and if you can, try to exercise a little before taking one. Or try a coffee nap.
Do the Moonwalk
Or something like that. Research shows that exercise (even for as little as 20 minutes) can increase creativity, break up the day and maybe even work off that Thai food you had for lunch. Take a stroll around the block, run up and down the stairs, or grab yourself a mini-trampoline (if you have a door on your office). No matter which way you choose to exercise, do it a few times a day. Apps like One Minute Desk, StandApp and Time to Move can help you remember!
Doing exercise can even help you sleep at night, despite the rumors, so when you exercise, you’re also helping yourself sleep as well, which can lead to double-boost in productivity. The key to sticking to a regular exercise routine is to make sure you’re staying within your limits (you don’t want to run a 10k on your first day, after all), but also pushing yourself to do a bit more every time. Once you’ve gotten into the swing of things, you’re going to reach a point where the days you don’t exercise feel more odd than the days you are, and that’s when you’ve developed it as a habit.
Ready? OKAY! Make it habit to not get so bent out of shape when you put things off and figure out your perfect napping conditions, and exercise just a little, you’re much more likely to work when you should and feel better doing it.