My daughter is about to turn two and all of a sudden things are wild at home. Any direct request, is met with an instantaneous 'No!' (even, hilariously, the question 'Are you just going to say no all the time?') and attempts to force the issue are met with floor-kicking hysterics.
But I'm coping.
And no, my secret isn't just a glass or two of wine in the evening (though that often helps). My secret -- which won't come as much of a shock to experienced parents -- is circumscribed choice.
If I just tell my daughter to put on her shoes, screaming will ensue. If I hold up the white ones and the purple ones and let her choose, the odds of us getting out the door appropriately shod and vaguely on time rise exponentially.
Apparently, your procrastinating brain is basically a toddler.
Why am I telling you this? Not because this column has taken a sudden interest in parenting tips, but because my recent toddler challenges are the first thing that popped into my mind when I read a great recent piece on The Muse by Sara McCord.
In it, McCord shares a productivity secret that feels, as she puts it, "almost too good to be true." It boils down to tackling her procrastinating brain in pretty much the same way I tackle the objections of my recalcitrant toddler -- circumscribed choice:
Anytime you're faced with indecisiveness, if you narrow it down to options you have to choose between, the path forward becomes clearer... when I had chores to accomplish, I found executing them how I chose (in this case, which item I wanted to start with), helped me tackle my list faster, and more happily. For example, if I needed to work out, clean my apartment, and go to the store; I was much less resistant if I took a minute to let myself decide which task I was going to do first. From there, I wasn't dragging myself to the gym; I was going for a run because I wanted to do that more than I desired to clean the kitchen. And by the time I'd reached the bottom of the list, I was already feeling so productive that I wanted to accomplish that last, least favorite item, too.
I started applying the same strategy to my workload and found it works really well.
Of course, McCord admits that sometimes an impatient client or pressing deadline is going to choose for you, but most of the time simply tricking your brain into feeling like you've freely chosen your schedule works miracles to overcome procrastination.
All you have to do to implement this technique is "present yourself with two choices that'll actually advance your workload. Don't choose between answering emails or meeting a friend for lunch. Pick two work tasks that need to be accomplished, and then select the one you'd most like to tackle first," she writes.
Looking for other tricks to help you beat procrastination? Science has plenty to offer.
Do you think this technique would help you be more productive?