How many loads of washing does it take to write a blog or a book?
It might sound like the beginning of a joke, but most people find this no laughing matter.
Procrastination is the number one issue that many thought leaders, business experts, professionals, writers, and creatives report hold them back from actually finishing what they set out to achieve.
Some statistics show that procrastination affects over 20% of the population and 95% of the student population (just think back to when you were a teenager!)
The thing is that procrastination is not entirely your fault, but you are part to blame. Here’s why.
When we think about something we don’t want to do or we don’t necessarily like, then the area of our brain that experiences real pain gets activated. The brain quickly replaces the thought with a less painful idea not related to the task at hand.
If we let this repeat over and over again the brain builds new pathways that reinforce the behaviour.
Fortunately, you can use a tomato to help you overcome and disrupt the pattern.
The best ‘hack’ to outsmart procrastination is called the Pomodoro Technique developed by Italian Francesco Cirillo. (FYI: Pomodoro = tomato in Italian.)
In her upcoming book The 25-Minute Meeting: Half the Time, Double the Impact, productivity expert Donna McGeorge explains it like this:
The technique centres around short bursts of work for 25 minutes at a time followed by a short five-minute break. This choice of 25 mins was not arbitrary and was based on several different trials, experiments and iterations before landing on 30-minute work intervals. (Fun Fact: I wrote this book using the Pomodoro technique.)
The lesson here is simple.
When we concentrate our effort in controlled periods of time, and reward those efforts, we achieve more.
In addition, research by psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik in 1927, and many studies since, have found that tasks left unfinished for a period of time can actually help your ability to retain and recall information.
So here is how to get started with the Pomodoro Technique:
- Identify your tasks for the day
- Set a timer for 25 minutes
- Work for the duration of the timer
- Take a 5-minute break
- Take a longer break of 15 minutes after every fourth break.
The most important part of this, which is overlooked is to make sure you REWARD yourself with an activity that is different to your focused activity.
So if you are writing a chapter, then in your break, don’t go onto Linkedin or Twitter and write a post.
The best breaks are proven to be unfocused and physical, like walking or exercising.
Rewarding yourself at the end of this focused time means you are actually training your brain to start enjoy what it’s doing – even if right now you would rather put on a load of washing rather than write.
Give it a go and see.