As boring as it might sound: If you want to become more effective, it is vital that you learn how to NOT always act on your impulses.
As with so many other things in life, it takes practice and determination and self-awareness. But over time, you can learn to stick just slightly longer to one task. And you can learn how to do the most important things on your to-do list (rather than the funny or easy ones). Also, it can help you overcome procrastination. And it can help you become more focused when you need it.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that life should be boring or that you should never act on your impulses. Because in some situations, being impulsive and experiencing flow is definitely what you want to do.
The key thing is being able to strike a balance where you’re in control of your life and where YOU decide when you want to be impulsive and when you want to work focused.
So how do you train this?
There are a couple of simple things you can do:
- Delay! When you feel an impulse, don’t act on it right away but make a conscious decision to stick to the task you’re working on. The more you do this, the easier it will become.
- Write it down! Write whatever the impulse tempted you to do down on your to-do list. But don’t do it right away. After writing it down, go back to the task you were working on, knowing that you’ll not forget your idea or the task that popped up in your head.
- Simply be aware! Notice how often you get impulses to switch to a different task. And force yourself not to do it right away (in other words:”Delay!”). You can also try to notice during what kind of tasks you’re more likely to act on your impulses. It might be an escape from a task you find difficult or boring or scary.
- Write down each time you switch to a new activity (including distractions and interruptions). This is a different way of becoming aware of what distractions you act on. And as with the bullet above, you can use his exercise to learn more about when you’re most likely to give in to your impulses.