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17 Oct

Wait for it… now GO!

Datum: 2022-10-17 09:00
A slender hour glass entirely in glass on a white table top.

Peo­ple talk about impulse con­trol, that is, the abil­i­ty to remain focused on doing some­thing even if you get an impulse to do some­thing else. My good friend and fel­low speak­er Jens Hec­tor at Igni­con told me that some­one had inves­ti­gat­ed this abil­i­ty in a study and found a con­nec­tion between high impulse con­trol and suc­cess­ful goal-attainment.

The peo­ple inves­ti­gat­ed in the study who found it easy to remain focused on what they had pre­vi­ous­ly deter­mined to do in spite of get­ting new impuls­es, reached their goals to a greater extent than those who found it dif­fi­cult, since those who tend­ed to act on new impuls­es and changed activ­i­ty and direc­tion more fre­quent­ly, did not achieve as much.

For you who pre­fer lis­ten­ing to read­ing, this post is also avail­able as an episode of the Done!” pod­cast:

Always imme­di­ate­ly?

How does this apply to you? When you are work­ing on a task and come to think of that you need to check some­thing that does not have any­thing to do with what you are cur­rent­ly doing, do you do it right away or wait until the task with the high­est pri­or­i­ty is com­plet­ed? When you have decid­ed what you want to focus on for the next few months ahead and you run into some­one at a par­ty with whom you have a great time and you even­tu­al­ly start talk­ing about doing a project togeth­er; do you put your plans aside and hop on this new project, or do you stick to your plan as you orig­i­nal­ly intended?

Prac­tice your way out of multitasking

Per­haps you share my per­spec­tive on mul­ti­task­ing and hence see the val­ue in remain­ing focused on one task dur­ing a longer stretch of time rather than attempt­ing to do sev­er­al simul­ta­ne­ous­ly? If you are not already excel­lent at main­tain­ing focus, you can prac­tice new habits that reduce the ten­den­cy to mul­ti­task. Jens told me that his mentees prac­tice increas­ing their impulse con­trol by giv­ing them­selves a time-lim­it which means that they have to” wait for 20 min­utes before act­ing on an impulse.

You and I can prac­tice the same thing.

Doing so will give us the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get some per­spec­tive on and dis­tance to the amaz­ing idea we just got. We put it in anoth­er light — one oth­er than that daz­zling, infat­u­at­ing glow spon­ta­neous ideas tend to have. We can decide more con­scious­ly if we want to act on the impulse or not, and we are not car­ried away against the will of our future self and its more long-term desires and aspirations.

Do this

  1. Fig­ure out the eas­i­est way for you to set some kind of 20-minute timer when­ev­er you get an impulse to do some­thing. Per­haps you have a watch with a count­down timer. Your smart­phone def­i­nite­ly has a timer func­tion you can use.
  2. Try using it dur­ing the next week to sus­pend the fol­low­ing of impuls­es you get by 20 min­utes. When you get an idea and want to google some­thing, call some­one (even though you are in the mid­dle of work­ing on a task), to devel­op some­thing, to sketch up a new project you thought of, and so on, set the timer for 20 min­utes and do not allow your­self to take the first step on the new thought or impulse until the clock rings.
  3. Take out your cal­en­dar right now and sched­ule a five minute meet­ing with your­self in a week dur­ing which you look back at the week that passed and reflect on how your prac­tic­ing went. Do you want to keep prac­tic­ing? Did it make a dif­fer­ence? Were you just frus­trat­ed by not being able to do what you want­ed right away and felt unable to appre­ci­ate the ben­e­fits? Did you feel a greater sense of sat­is­fac­tion regard­ing what you have accom­plished this week?
  4. If it moti­vat­ed you to do even bet­ter and you expe­ri­enced ben­e­fits with using this method, then prac­tice for anoth­er week. Sched­ule anoth­er five minute meet­ing with your­self in a week’s time right away dur­ing which you reflect and evaluate.

Restric­tions that give you more free­dom in the long-run

If you have thus far expe­ri­enced your work and life as some­what scat­tered and going in too many direc­tions simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, this sim­ple restric­tion is a way to help you focus bet­ter. Dur­ing the 20 min­utes you have giv­en your­self to hold your impulse, you will have plen­ty of time to remind your­self of where you pre­vi­ous­ly have deter­mined you want to be head­ing and what you want to do, and hence make it eas­i­er to stick with your orig­i­nal inten­tion. The prob­a­bil­i­ty that you reach your goals soon­er increas­es since you are able to com­plete more of the tasks that bring you a step clos­er to attain­ing your aims and aspirations.

Dur­ing the 20 min­utes you will let pass before act­ing on an impulse you will get a lot done. The task you almost left half done will be one step, or 20 min­utes, clos­er to being fin­ished, and per­haps you can even check it off your list com­plete­ly before your timer rings. Instead of scat­ter­ing your atten­tion and ener­gy, you will work more con­scious­ly and with con­cen­tra­tion in the direc­tion of your desired destination.

And no, you are not putting blink­ers on your­self and you are not real­ly miss­ing any new oppor­tu­ni­ties due to lack of flex­i­bil­i­ty. After all, we are only talk­ing 20 minutes.

What is your way?

What method helps you focus for longer peri­ods of time on your most impor­tant task? Tell me!

(You might get the impres­sion that you have to be harsh and rigid to your­self to suc­ceed in hav­ing good struc­ture at work. That is not the case. Shape a struc­ture that is easy to fol­low with­out you hav­ing to be dis­ci­plined.)

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If you want more tips on how to create good structure at work, there are many ways to get that from me - in podcasts, videos, books, talks and other formats.

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