Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Being bad effectively

You may be familiar with some of the techniques that are advocated for being more effective in getting things done: for example, if you feel overwhelmed by a task and therefore keep putting it off, one technique is to do a deal with yourself that you'll just work on it for ten minutes, then stop if you want to. Usually, you won't want to: once you're over the initial hump of resistance, you actually get into it, and start to have fun (or at least build up some momentum).

Another way is to plan what needs to be done minutely, splitting it up into very small sub-tasks, each of which leads to the next. It's a lot easier to start a small, easily-done task, than a huge job that will probably take days to complete.

It occurred to me recently, while analysing why I ended up doing something I didn't actually want to do, that my Evil Inclination is already pretty adept at doing this, but to a bad end, obviously. So if I decide that I don't want to go out drinking, but would rather stay in and get some work done, the obvious course of action when the friend I usually go drinking with phones up is to not answer the phone. But the Evil Inclination will say, "Oh, just talk to him. You don't have to go. Just talk." So I do. Step one along the path.

Then my friend will say, come on down, the gang's all here. And the Evil Inclination will say, "Just one drink. Then you can leave. Easy!" And there's step two.

And of course the momentum builds up, and I end up staying till closing time, and that's the end of the evening. I end up doing what I decided I didn't want to do, and every step of the way the Evil Inclination says "Don't be afraid of taking the next step. You can stop whenever you want!" Which is true. But unlikely to happen.

So I guess the trick is to catch out the Evil Inclination, and tell it that there is no point in taking the first step: if you've decided not to do something, there's no point in flirting with it. Don't do it. At all. Not even the first step. In fact, especially not the first step.


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