Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Getting Started Pt II: Staying Focused

A couple of weeks ago. I came up with an idea for a great project. Early last year I would have probably dismissed the idea fairly quickly, but this time around I was ready for all the But How!? questions and made sure I didn't kill the idea prematurely. I decided to start sketching out aspects of the idea in the hope of making it a reality someday.

I Initially started by focusing on aspects of the idea that originally inspired me and found that relatively easy. My thoughts flowed and I found it easy to put them down on paper. Then I hit a part of the idea that wasn't as intuitive to me and my focus started to evaporate fast. A couple of minutes later I felt like I needed a break, but I'd only been going 20minutes!? I ignored the break impulse, at which point I started to get hungry, then thirsty followed by sleepy. I decided to take a break ... 3 hours and several episode of Modern Family later it was time for Dinner and a few hours after that, it was time for bed. The day was over, I'd lost so much time and I felt extremely guilty. Why couldn't I stay focused?

Blog12 SmallMovePt1

Here's what I know:

  • When I'm working on something I enjoy or am experienced in I can "get into a zone" and can go for hours without taking a break
  • If I'm working on something where there are lots of unknowns, no right answer, many choices, my focus can get derailed
  • While I'm getting derailed I usually end up getting hungry, thirsty, sleepy etc ...

Theory: It's the lizard brain!

Blog12 SmallMovePt1 Slide2

I made a small reference to the Lizard Brain (aka The Amygdala - see Seth Godin's Linchpin for more details) in an earlier post. It turns out the Amygdala can also make you think you need to take a break, eat or drink something when in fact you don't. The lizard brain might do this in order to avoid the effort necessary to do anything outside of your comfort zone, e.g. things that may cause you to lose time, money, reputation, or that may bring you ridicule. So is it possible my Amygdala was trying to get me to stop thinking about the already challenging details of a potentially risky project? If so, I need to figure out a plan to combat this!

"It's go time!"
As it turns out my plan is fairly simple. I'm going to power through my procrastination symptoms one small step at a time. By this I mean, the next time I feel like I need to take a break, I'll force myself to go an extra minute or ten. Over time I'll steadily increase those minutes into hours. I've already started executing this plan tonight (this post was surprisingly challenging to write - lizard wasn't happy about this instalment and has been fighting me for days to delay publishing). Tonight I've managed to keep going. I was getting insanely sleepy up till a moment ago (after eating a big bowl of Bi Bim Bop  at my local Korean it would be weird if I was hungry so I guess the lizard skipped right on to sleepy :-)

So there it is, the post is finished, the amygdala can have it's sleep, but before I go here's a message for Lizard Brain to sleep on: (consider yourself on notice!)




VĂ©ronique said...

Aaaah my little genius geek :) This is so you :) movies playing simultaneously with your thoughts :) lovely.

Arti said...

you're an incredibly inspiring cousin :) Thanks for this...something I decided to look up while my 'lizard' was at work...shall see if that trick works with me too!

Raj said...

Good luck with the battle Arti and thanks for inspiring me to start writing again :)