Time management and willpower go hand in hand. Creating a plan for your day that maximizes your time is only half the battle. Finding the willpower to tune out distractions and carry out that plan in an efficient manner can be much more difficult. In her recent book, The Willpower Instinct, psychologist Kelly McGonigal explains that there is much more to willpower than simply having iron clad self-control.
A Constant Battle
We’ve all felt that frustrating, internal struggle. We are tempted to do something – be it procrastinate, skip the gym, or have that second cookie – even though we know it isn’t in our best interest. This happens frequently with our time management. We know that putting off that phone call will just make more problems later, but right at this exact moment, we’d rather do something else. We know that we just checked our email five minutes ago and now it’s time to focus on our work, but what if something really interesting just arrived in our inbox?
We fight these mini willpower battles every day. In her book, Dr. McGonigal explains that it’s as though we have two minds that are in constant battle with each other. One side is impulsive and seeks immediate gratification (I want to check my email NOW, not later.) The other side seeks long-term goals and sticks to a plan (I want to check my inbox, but I will finish the task at hand before I do so.)
Your Inner Procrastinator
McGonigal suggests coming up with a name for the impulsive side of you. For the purposes of time management, it could be “the procrastinator” or “the Time Killer.” She finds this helpful when a willpower battle begins to wage inside your brain. When you find yourself about to put off an important task, stop. Remember, it’s not you who wants to procrastinate, it’s that “time waster” who has taken up residency in your head. He’s doing battle right now with your productive self. Let your productive self win. He deserves it.
When I read this, at first I thought it sounded a little silly. (Really? You want me to pretend there are multiple people living inside my head?) But I changed my tune when I realized it can actually be helpful. As I sit here and type this blog, the Olympic marathon is on TV. I considered watching it and forgoing my work until later, but I realized that was my inner procrastinator talking. I was much smarter than that. I knew I should type the blog, and then go watch the end of the event, which was much more exciting anyway.
It’s All About Control
People want to be in control of their actions. When you are the one who wants to procrastinate, it’s tempting to do so. After all, you do what you want! But when you think of it as another person who is telling you to put off your work, then the story changes. Nobody tells me what to do! I have goals and I’m going to stick to them.
Photo Credit: Zirconicusso