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20 Jan

Surprise yourself and improve your structure

Datum: 2022-01-20 16:20

Eri­ka e‑mailed me and gave me a tip about an episode of Tim­o­thy A. Pychyl’s pod­cast iPro­cras­ti­nate where a PhD-stu­dent describes how she in a fun and effi­cient way gets things done with greater ease. Her method inspired me and I want to share my ver­sion of it with you.

If you are read­ing my book Super Struc­tured: How to over­come chaos and win back time”, you know that I empha­size the impor­tance of reward­ing our­selves when we prac­tice the struc­tured work­ing method we have the inten­tion of estab­lish as a habit. If we start giv­ing our­selves rewards ear­ly in the process and reward our­selves often, it will become eas­i­er to main­tain the moti­va­tion for how­ev­er long we need in order for the habit to be con­sid­ered estab­lished”.

The PhD-stu­dent in the pod­cast told the lis­ten­ers about research con­duct­ed by Petry, Mar­tin, Cooney and Kran­zler whom had also deter­mined that we become more moti­vat­ed if we do not know what the reward is from one time to anoth­er. When a group of peo­ple addict­ed to drugs got to draw lots” every time they passed a drug test and where the win­nings var­ied between $1 and $100, almost four times as many peo­ple passed the entire rehab pro­gram com­pared to how many com­plet­ed the stan­dard treat­ment with­out the rewards. I assume that know­ing a sur­prise is wait­ing for us sparks our curios­i­ty more than a reward which we are pre­vi­ous­ly aware of.

When you reward your­self for hav­ing accom­plished some­thing dur­ing prac­tic­ing your struc­tur­al habits (such as man­aged to gath­er all your to-do-lists into a sin­gle list, emp­tied your inbox, set a lim­it for the max­i­mum num­ber of meet­ings you attend in a day or have done any one of the 31 exer­cis­es in the book, for that mat­ter), sur­prise your­self in order to make it eas­i­er to estab­lish the struc­tured habit in your work and life.

You could for instance do this

  1. Decide what you want to get bet­ter at or improve. It could for exam­ple be clos­ing the office door for a few hours every week, per­form­ing a morn­ing-rou­tine every morn­ing, pri­or­i­tize more con­scious­ly, or some­thing else.

  2. Think of what you need to do before receiv­ing a reward. Is it to do some­thing for a full week? Three in a row? Ten times (even if not consecutively)?

  3. Now set a goal for how many times you want to have suc­ceed­ed doing this some­thing before you can con­sid­er your­self done” with prac­tic­ing the habit. Let us say that you want to get in the habit of doing a morn­ing-rou­tine every morn­ing, that you receive a reward (for being suc­cess­ful) every time you have done the rou­tine for five con­sec­u­tive morn­ings, and that you con­sid­er the habit estab­lished when you have done this twen­ty times.

  4. Cut out twen­ty small notes and write a reward on each one. Write a real­ly big, juicy reward which is worth a lot to you on one of the notes. Write big, but still small­er than the first, rewards on three notes. On five notes you write medi­um-sized rewards and small­er (but still tempt­ing) rewards on the rest of the notes.

  5. Crum­ple them up and put them in a bowl.

  6. Every time you do what you want to prac­tice doing (such as the morn­ing-rou­tine in our exam­ple), make note some­where so that you keep track of how many you have done. If you have decid­ed that doing the morn­ing-rou­tine for five con­sec­u­tive morn­ings is the cri­te­ria for receiv­ing a reward, then you can for instance let a Pos­tIt rep­re­sent a week, and on it you write the first let­ter of every day you man­age to do the rou­tine. Or, use the Notes-app on your phone if you want to keep track digitally.

  7. When you have passed the lev­el for receiv­ing a reward (for instance five morn­ings in a row), draw a note from the bowl and give your­self the reward writ­ten on the note.

  8. When the bowl is emp­ty and you have received all the rewards, the habit can be con­sid­ered estab­lished (assum­ing that you esti­mat­ed the time it would take to form the habit accurately).

An excit­ing carrot
If you add a sur­prise to how you reward your­self for work­ing in struc­tured ways, the habits will become eas­i­er to estab­lish. It will also be much more fun and excit­ing to practice.

If you are even remote­ly like myself, you will feel eager to read what is on the next note pulled from the bowl and this feel­ing of curios­i­ty will be cru­cial to if you choose to pri­or­i­tize prac­tic­ing your new method or doing some­thing else which also some­how tempts and attracts you. 

What is your method?
What did you write on your notes and what kind of bowl are you using? Tell me.