Day 2 wasn’t bad. In between negotiations with my organization’s director, meeting an entrepreneur, cleaning my house with my cleaner (I always do that, more on that in another post), and connections with some key people in my industry who will be critical in helping us get funded, I mostly spent the day preparing for an upcoming trip dedicated to moving and shaking. You could say I am training for my marathon next week. You could say I am building momentum.
(And yes, I successfully practiced link and balance, but did mess up a little bit where I had more than 30g of carbs for dinner and immediately felt the difference. Kaizen!)
One of the books I am reading, in lieu of not having ANY formal business training and starting a new venture, is the insanely insightful My Personal MBA. I was shocked to find an entire section dedicated to “working with yourself”. While I can go on and on about how amazing this book is and how brilliant this kid Josh Kaufman is, I will focus this post on one particular concept that hit home for me. I have been overcome by Akrasia for quite some time, even though I was convinced that I am one of the most goal-driven people I know. The Personal MBA Guru Josh Kaufman tells us that akrasia is the primary barrier to getting things done and here’s why:
There are seven primary causes of akrasia:
1. You can’t define what you want.
2. You feel the task will bring you closer to something you don’t want.
3. You can’t figure out how you’re going to get from where you are right now to where you want to be.
4. You idealize the desired End Result to the point your mind estimates a low probability of achievement, resulting in Loss Aversion.
5. The “should” was established by someone else, not you, prompting Persuasion Resistance.
6. A competing action in the current Environment promises immediate gratification, while the reward of the task in question will come much later.
7. The benefits of the action are abstract and distant, while other possible actions will provide concrete and immediate benefits.
By these standards, I experience akrasia…a lot. You could say I lead an “akratic life.” And this is why a psychologist recently diagnosed me with ADHD. I tend to experience akrasia when I have a large, looming project and I am unsure of the next steps (for example: become a prolific writer – should I be spending my time writing blogs or paid professional gigs? do I have good ideas so that I can query editors? Who are the editors? Why isn’t my system/spreadsheet set up yet where I have everyone’s names and access information? Should I spend my time building my systems and then querying?). After five focused years of practicing the principles of self-development and achievement, I am convinced that even if I took a pill I wouldn’t be able to know these answers. The right answer is a combination of all of these, and sometimes I have trouble prioritizing, for which this sabbatical has helped me tremendously in putting the systems in place, and a plan to do the rest.
I also experience akrasia when I have a deadline for a task that I have idealized and when I have idealized my own (awesome) input for that task (for example: My director asks me to write a one-page proposal, I spend 6 days doing everything else to “prepare myself” and to “learn more” and to “learn how”, and then work on it at the last minute). After enough experiences, I know that the best thing to do is to start the document right away, keep iterating, and learning by doing.
In order to combat akrasia, when I actually become conscious of an akratic situation, I still don’t always begin the task. I simply spend time with something else on my list that I should be doing.
Here are some ways I avert being afflicted by akratic situations:
- Establish Success, Goals, Tasks, Habits, and Routines. This links to my principle of living a successful, intentional life.
- Use my Pomodoro Technique via my Chrome plugin or iPhone 25 minute timer to Get things done: Do 1 thing per session. For example, when blogging: I write a blog post in 25 minutes or less, and then add links and images and publish in 25 minutes or less. This links to my principle of doing one thing at a time, systematically.
- If I’m stuck, I work on a different goal (a technique I learned from The Art of Procrastination) or do something completely different (techniques I learned from the seminal Edward de Bono’s lateral thinking toolkit). Go to the gym or a farmer’s market (to meet my healthy, vibrant well-being goal), go for a coffee and read a book or visit a museum (to meet my self-development goal), call a friend, family member, or work on a family blog post (to meet my engaged social life goals), spend an evening or weekend doing something wildly different (to meet my adventure goals). This links to my life principle of applying creative thinking and non-linear approaches to everyday problems.
- I allocate 100% extra time to a project, depending on how gnarly it is. I measure my achievements by the difference between how long I thought it would take, how long I scheduled it to take, and how long it actually took. This links to my principle of doing what I say, and saying what I do.
What have I achieved in the past one month of my deliberate attempts to gain momentum in my life?
- Established a new daily routine with enough legroom and diversions built-in for akratic moments.
- Embarked on a new career journey.
- Practiced extreme self-care: putting myself first, not overwhelming myself, regular exercise, acupuncture, linking-and-balancing (my new new thing).
Becoming a prolific writer permeates all of my central life goals.
- Writing helps me clear my mind, which helps me meditate better.
- Writing puts me in a flow state, giving me dopamine and making me less likely to eat mindlessly.
- Writing helps me feel more optimistic, actually – invincible, and this helps my performance when I am writing for reals and when I am in meetings.
- Writing helps me pay my bills: As I sharpen my skills, reduce the number of hours that go into akratic moments, and build my portfolio, there is no way to go but up.
- Writing makes me happy.
What are my prolific writing goals for today?
Write my morning pages on Becoming Prolific (planned: 25 minutes; actual 2 hours)
- (want to do) Finish reading My Personal MBA (2 hours while working out, coffee, down time)
- (want to do) Write a blog post for my personal blog (1 hour, 2 hours with room)
- (need to do) Write up a draft of a content strategy document (3 hours, 6 hours with room)
- (need to do) Write the one-page paper (3 hours, 5 hours with room)
- Work on my habits + routines + systems (30 minutes)
- Review and reflect, plan for tomorrow (30 minutes)