Look around for a research-backed solution to your propensity to always put things off, and you'll frequently come across the same sensible-sounding advice: break down the project into tiny chunks, don't beat yourself up over lapses in willpower, be mindful of your inner dialogue, etc.
Which is why I was shocked to read a recent post on the Freelancer offering unconventional tips to beat procrastination by Robert Hall. Among the off-beat advice on offer were several outlandish-sounding ideas I'd never come across before, like this one:
"Take a cold shower in the morning. That doesn't sound remotely fun does it? Who wants to jump out of a warm, cozy bed to be pelted with ice cold water? Not many people but I promise you it is worth it to give it a try! A cold shower increases your alertness and increases your overall oxygen intake, which translates to more energy throughout the day," Hall, a professional blogger claims.
He's clearly right that a freezing shower in the morning sounds totally unpleasant, but I wondered if he was also right about its ability to energize you and help you push past procrastination. Obviously, racing from the snuggly comfort of your bed to an ice bath would shock anyone, but is there really any scientific reason to believe it might help you get started on that task you've been endlessly postponing?
It works... if you can stand it.
Apparently, the answer is yes. And not just because the practice is recommended by a handful of steel-willed luminaries from Katharine Hepburn to Tony Robbins. Pro athletes have long used ice baths to soothe and heal their battered bodies, but according to a fascinating review of the scientific consensus on cold water baths by Chris Gayomali for Fast Company, that cold shower really could perk up your productivity too.
"A 2007 study published by a molecular biologist named Nikolai Shevchuk found evidence that cold showers can help treat depression symptoms, and, if used regularly, might even be more effective than prescription antidepressants," he writes. How is that possible? In layperson's terms "cold water can flood the mood-regulating areas of your brain with happy, sparkly neurotransmitters."
The experience, disagreeable as it might be, thus tends to reduce tension, and improve mood and memory. And aside from these biological changes, a frigid dip in the morning also has powerful effects on your psychology, according to a New York Times piece praising morning cold showers by Carl Richards. Getting into a freezing shower is undeniably hard, he writes, but if you can make yourself do that, what else could possibly daunt you for the rest of the day?
"Starting your morning by tackling challenges head-on will help encourage similar behavior throughout the day. And, it turns out, there's a wealth of research to back up this idea as well. People who do hard things first tend to procrastinate less and get more done, according to Brian Tracy's book, 'Eat That Frog,'" he insists.
All of which suggests that, if you can stand it, turning down the temperature on your shower in the morning as low as you're able to bear, might just be a good way to get your brain revved up enough to power through whatever is blocking your productivity.