One of the more common issues that professionals struggle with is the all-too-common procrastination. Procrastination, just like salsa, can be mild (putting off a simple task that you eventually complete within a few days), intense (developing a pattern of avoiding certain activities or tasks that one day lead to serious consequences), and everything in between. However, unlike salsa, there is no mango version of procrastination.
Simply put, procrastination is avoidance. We avoid things that make us uncomfortable. We avoid things that we fear. And the more you avoid something, the harder it is to confront. It’s like that email you got from an old friend that you were meaning to reply to. At first you put it off because you weren’t sure what to say (avoidance), then maybe you forgot about it, then you remembered that you hadn’t responded, you then felt bad, and then continued to avoid responding because it was now more uncomfortable because you still don’t know what to say AND you feel bad about it.
The aptly named 2-Minute Rule suggests that one can get a lot accomplished in just 2 minutes. This is an effective technique to get tasks accomplished on a regular basis as they present themselves. The first step is to do a quick assessment of the task. Ask yourself, can this task be completed in 2 minutes? If the answer is “yes”, then do it! Right then and there. If the answer is “no”, then plan another time to complete the task. It’s just that simple.
Although this is a simple technique with promises of decreasing procrastination (and the work build up that comes along with it), we, as creative human beings, can find plenty of ways to derail it. For example, if I feel resistant to being proactive I can be tempted to over-estimate the time it takes to complete a task (as a result everything takes more than 2 minutes). If you find yourself tempted in this way, I recommend rephrasing the question slightly. Ask yourself, can this task be started in 2 minutes? This is particularly helpful for tasks that objectively would take longer than 2 minutes (such as exercising in the morning for 20 minutes). If I often put off exercising, and I know it takes more than 2 minutes to go for a run, I can trick myself (I mean help myself) by asking whether I can start the task in 2 minutes. In reality, I can put my running shoes on within 2 minutes, and maybe even head out the door before 120 seconds go by. And quite frankly, once I have my running shoes on and I am heading out the door, it just seems pointless to resist the task at that point. And voila! I’m exercising.
The hardest part of accomplishing any task is often starting the task. Practicing starting small tasks and the sense of accomplishment from completing them will often give you extra motivation to focus on getting other things done.
Shawn Healy, PhD
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Find our full post on Tips for Lawyers and Law Students to Reduce Anxiety here.