A Good Habits type post today. My effort to develop a robust-but-flexible weekly schedule continues: January feels like it’s underway with lots of potential. We did some Herculean decluttering / reorganising of the house in the last days of the Christmas holidays, and in parallel I’m reading The Organised Mind, after last autumn listening to Daniel Levitin’s TED talk on making good decisions in moments of crisis. The book’s big idea is that multitasking is a myth, and we do things best when we stay focused, removing distraction.
Like all of us, I have a whole bunch of plates spinning, and one of my strategies to keep them all in the air is to add alarms to my phone to remind me of daily routines, until they’re so well established I won’t overlook them. So throughout the day I get an array of bleeps, buzzes and chirrups to let me know what I’m missing: Ping! Rose’s morning asthma inhaler… Ping! The kids should be putting their shoes soon, we have to leave for school soon… Ping! Weekly check on the PTA email account…
But Levitin lays out some pretty compelling evidence demonstrating constant information bombardment like this can lead to brain overload. The more times I have to make a decision – even a seemingly trivial one like whether to snooze a reminder to check off a small task – the more bandwidth I’ve used up. My creativity, accuracy and brain processing power gets depleted as I move through the day, and if I’ve overtaxed it with twenty tiny niggles, my productivity declines commensurately. The biggest culprit to this process power drain – for me at least – is all of those reminders to which I don’t instantly respond, and therefore repeatedly press on my consciousness.
I have a small set of daily physio exercises to improve my core / glute strength, directly impacting on my return to running. For someone who has been habitually spending an average of 1.5hrs each day either exercising, preparing to exercise, or showering and changing afterwards, a 15 minute set of crucial stretches and lifts should be a no brainer, right? Wrong. Every day over the last week I’ve snoozed the physio alarm at least once – it’s never the right moment, and the motivation just hasn’t been there to get this thing done. Crazy, frustrating, and damaging to my overall focus and productivity.
Until today’s little moment of genius.
Ping! Physio… snooze [guilt, annoyance, distraction] Ping! Physio… snooze [more guilt, more distraction] Ping! …and suddenly I remembered brilliant James Clear’s article on ‘Temptation Bundling’ from early last year. Link an activity you want to do (and even better, can’t easily justify taking the time for) to an activity you need to do but can’t get motivated about. 15 minute physio set, and The Archers podcast*. Simples.
It won’t take long for the two activities to become so embedded I no longer need a physio reminder (one less Ping! in my life), just the natural prompt as I inevitably download my latest fix of Horrible Rob and Worried Clarrie. So both for your own mental decluttering, and to help you stay motivated on those bits of your routine which you know matter, but you just can’t get excited about, I highly recommend a bundle of fun.
(*Disclaimer: if listening to The Archers podcast makes you simply want to start running to get away from it, well there, you see – I’ve still motivated you.)