This To Do List Hack Has My Rebellious Brain Actually Wanting to Get Things Done!
The secret: stop telling yourself what to do
I still can’t believe the impact one simple change to my to do lists has had on my productivity! On my desire to get things done, instead of rebelling against the load.
Even though I know it’s a trick (of sorts), it continues to work day after day, motivating me to leave procrastination in the dust. For the first time in my life I’m approaching task lists with optimism and enthusiasm, instead of subconsciously looking for excuses to do something else.
The idea behind the trick is this: Never Write a To Do List Again!
What’s the Problem With To Do Lists?
When I use that term I mean any group of words that describe a job to be done, written as an instruction. It includes at least one noun, and one or more verbs conjugated in the present tense.
Clean the bathroom
Call client X to discuss the proposal
Listen to Y Podcast
Research Z topic
Each of those items contains an action (verb) to be done to a thing (noun). Obvious, right? Identifying the thing + doing the thing = making progress.
The problem I often find with writing tasks like this is that my brain perceives them as being told what to do. And that very often turns into a recipe for rebellion. It doesn’t seem to make sense because I know the task needs to be done, but there you have it.
Apparently this is a thing, and it’s called psychological reactance.
In simple terms, it means that when people feel their freedom to choose their own behaviour is in danger of being reduced, they’ll be motivated to stop the threat.
It’s the “You can’t tell me what to do,” mindset. Even, it seems, if the reduction of freedom comes from a task one has set for oneself.
Saying that one is suffering from Control-Averse Behavior sounds so much better than admitting we’re procrastinating, doesn’t it!
The Time Travel Trick
What’s in, then, if To Do lists are out? Is reverse psychology the answer?
Not for me, it isn’t. I’m not qualified to comment on why that is, but I can tell you it’s not something I respond to.
What does work for me is a form of time travel. I imagine the task as if it’s already done, and I’m giving a brief report.
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