Do you have something you have to do, but you procrastinate because there is no external push or deadline attached to it? Or do you procrastinate because it is stressful and you can’t make yourself do it?
What is your default setting:
- Do you get distracted easily because everything in the world seems fascinating to you?
- Do you have a low motivation to begin something you want to achieve because it brings up stressful emotions?
- Do you usually get started and then veer off a task when you starting to make progress?
- Do you think you want to do millions of things at once and can’t choose?
Welcome to the Scattered Brain club. You are not alone in this.
How do we deal with this? Start by recognizing what you HAVE to do and Prioritize a list of 4-5 tasks. Make a second list of all the other thoughts and things to do that flit through your mind and seek attention. Once it is written down you can tell it go away because it is not forgotten.
A lot of productivity experts emphasize listing and prioritizing. This is critical in learning to control your brain. It is like training wheels for the brain. It is simple, clear, and very effective in dealing with your scattered brain.
You will never get the satisfaction of doing anything if you don’t know what you want and stuff is just flying around in your head. Keep a paper and pencil near and jot it down—just list everything that pops up in your mind.
Then once a day prioritize into:
- MUST DO,
- Want to do,
- Worry about,
- Thinking about doing.
This tells your brain to stop bothering with the little things, and things that can wait, and focus on the most important things. Thoughts reoccur because you are afraid it won’t get done or will be forgotten, Once it is written down and prioritized your brain can relax.
On your Priority list, break each task down into steps. Keep it simple, only 1 activity per step.
Choose one task to start with and break it down to the simplest steps that will take no more than 15-30 minutes to complete.
Once you have your list of steps for the top priority, assign it a time length to work on it.
Give it no more than 15 to 30 minutes to complete each step. Break it down further if it takes longer. The assigned time is how long you think you can stick with it whether or not you finish it. So let’s say washing dishes: the steps you choose are:
- Gather and take all the dirty dished to the kitchen -4 mins.
- Empty the sink and run hot water, and clear off the drain board, put away clean dishes -5 mins.
- Rinse all the dishes and stack by type, throwing all the garbage in the garbage can -5 mins.
- Wash all the cups and glasses, rinse and put on drain board -4 mins.
- Wash all the plates and bowls, rinse and drain -4 mins.
- Wash pots and pans -6 mins.
- Wipe counter tops and table -2 mins.
Now if you get to the end of the time (use an actual timer) and you aren’t finished you can choose to finish up before restarting the timer, or you can choose to leave what isn’t done of that step for next time and simply not do it.
Congratulate yourself for sticking to it for that number of minutes.
It’s the not quitting or giving into distraction that counts. The more you do it the better you will get. It’s OK to stop at the end of any one of the steps, knowing you have actually accomplished those steps. You can come back and go at the rest later if you need a break. Having little steps helps your brain stick too it longer.
Understand that the smaller the task, the easier to get it done, and the more you will stick with it.
What you are doing is telling your brain to stay with it for 5-15 minutes.
Choosing long tasks or expecting yourself to do something for hours, will only burn out your energy.
You won’t have the motivation to come back to it.
Take a break and do something fun after completing a 15-30 minute task with 2-6 steps. You can move, stretch, walk, or do something you like doing.
Time your break too! 5-10 minutes is enough, then go back to what your next priority is.
Give yourself a longer break, 20-30 minutes, once you complete 4 tasks (not steps) on your priority list. You are guilt-free and you can do something fun or relaxing or go for a walk.
Start the timer and go have fun.
The purpose of this free time is to help you empty your mental cache. Avoid squeezing in anything else or thinking about your list during this period. You will feel motivated and energized to get back to your work after the break.