Published: 16th November 2019
Canteen fundas: How to get past the starting problem and be more productive
Pro Tip: To avoid the ‘starting problem’, begin with smaller chunks and gradually increase difficulty
Bhaiyya, Rahul and I have to study,’ said Rinku. ‘But we’ve been lazing away here at the canteen.’
‘Yes, bhaiyya,’ said Rahul. ‘Please cure us of our laziness.’
‘Rahul, your laziness is not some medical condition,’ laughed Rakesh. ‘Tell me, how did you land up here?’
‘We started to go to the library to study for a few hours,’ said Rinku. ‘On the way, we stopped here for a 10-minute break and got distracted by social media. Before we realised it, our 10-minute break became a two-hour break.’
‘Basically, you took the easier, more pleasurable option and avoided work,’ said Rakesh and added, ‘Let’s see how we can convert work into pleasure. And pleasure into work. Let’s make two hours on social media compulsory starting today. Would it still be pleasurable?’
‘No,’ said Rinku. ‘That’s too much.’
‘That’s the key,’ said Rakesh. ‘When it’s too much, our brain freezes. Look at our social media behaviour. One notification sucks us in and then into another. It doesn’t feel like too much. But the same two hours if made compulsory at one go is not pleasurable, right?’
‘Yes,’ asked Rinku.
‘Anything big overwhelms our mind and it finds ways to put it off,’ said Rakesh. ‘You are overwhelmed and don’t start. You suffer from a starting problem, not laziness.’
‘What now, bhaiyya?’ asked Rahul.
‘Use the social media trick. Start with one bite-sized chunk to get started. Instead of two hours, let’s say, a 20-minute chunk. Not so small that it’s not taken seriously nor too big that you freeze.’
‘Isn’t that too less, bhaiyya?’ asked Rinku.
‘We’re trying to address your starting problem, Rinku,’ said Rakesh. ‘Once you start, you normally get involved and end up doing another 20 minutes and so on.’
‘Can we use our 20 minutes at any time?’ asked Rahul.
‘You can. But to maximise benefit, maintain a specific time every day. Over three weeks your brain gets wired to the new routine. Think of it like you’re preparing to run a marathon — you walk, then jog, then run, right? As your mind gets comfortable with a new activity, it stops distracting you. Then, you can increase the hours.’
‘Wow, I can get started right away bhaiyya!’ said Rinku.
‘Great,’ laughed Rakesh. ‘And to double your productivity, keep distractions away.’ ‘Yes,’ said Rahul. ‘Let’s have chai before we get started.’
Pro Tip: To avoid the ‘starting problem’, begin with smaller chunks and gradually increase difficulty.