I Know What to Do So Why Don't I Do It? - Second Edition
eBook - ePub

I Know What to Do So Why Don't I Do It? - Second Edition

The New Science of Self-Discipline

Nick Hall

  1. 280 pages
  2. English
  3. ePUB (mobile friendly)
  4. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

I Know What to Do So Why Don't I Do It? - Second Edition

The New Science of Self-Discipline

Nick Hall

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About This Book

What's Your Excuse? Life becomes complicated when you realize that the motivation to start or delay a task is a tug-of-war between positive and negative emotions. Don't blame l ack of willpower, laziness, or low motivation if you aren't achieving your goals. Motivation is not a skill. Like a muscle, it's subject to fatigue when stretched. That's why f ascinating research in the field of psychoneuroimmunology has revealed another reason you may feel paralyzed to take action—one with the potential to dramatically transform your life. In this completely updated edition of Dr. Nick Hall's popular book, he shows you how to unlock the biochemical code that will free you to easily achieve any goal in life. And while the biochemistry may be complex, the solutions are actually quite simple. What's your excuse? This book examines ten of the most common excuses for inaction and gives you specific strategies for dealing with each one. You will learn—

  • An extraordinarily powerful stress-fighting tool that few take advantage of
  • An easy way to instantly regain control and stay focused in an emotional emergency
  • The mistake almost everyone makes when they organize their to-do list
  • The way to reset your internal clock for a positive impact on your energy level--and more

Nick Hall, PhD, is a medical scientist who has conducted groundbreaking studies linking the mind and body.

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G&D Media

1 Because I Always Procrastinate

The Problem
The timing of your company’s product launch is critical. If the new software is made available before testing is complete and then fails to meet the expectations of clients, it will be a severe blow to your organization’s stellar reputation.
On the other hand, if the competition gets their version to market first, losing that edge will cost your company millions in lost sales. It’s been more than a month since you accepted responsibility to compile a detailed analysis of current marketing trends along with other data essential to the decision-making process. Your report and recommendation are due in one week. But you haven’t even started!
You may never have been in this predicament; however, we all have faced rapidly approaching deadlines after leaving tasks to the last minute.
As a student, you may have delayed preparing for a final exam or writing a paper. You may have left unsaid what needed saying to sustain a relationship. To this day, you deeply regret having missed a golden opportunity when you needlessly delayed making a decision. Yet again, you have canceled the cancer screening appointment.
Despite knowing what needed to be done, you simply didn’t do it, perhaps using one of the following excuses to justify your decision:
  1. There aren’t enough hours in the day.
  2. I’ve got other things I want to do first.
  3. Something unexpected came up.
  4. There’s still plenty of time.
  5. I don’t want to deal with the follow-up.
  6. Someone else can do it.
Time is the common thread binding many of the excuses we use to justify doing tomorrow what should and could be done today. It’s also the dimension to which many people attribute their inability to complete tasks. It’s the reason time management is embedded in the titles of countless books recommending an assortment of strategies to better utilize this most precious of all commodities. These strategies include lists, color coding, sticky notes, breaking complex tasks into more manageable components, and who knows what else.
While time management enables you to use your time more efficiently, it ignores the primary reason you miss deadlines: You don’t start. Lacking the motivation to begin a task is the hallmark of procrastination.


Procrastination has two meanings: one derived from the Latin root meaning to delay until tomorrow, and the other from the Greek root meaning to do something counter to good judgment. Both involve motivation, which comes from the Latin root meaning to move.
While time management will enable you to use time more efficiently, it will not provide the motivation required to start. That’s an emotion-management issue and, once successfully overcome, will allow access to a pathway that often can whisk you along to the finish in considerably less time than you anticipated. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve finished a long-delayed project much quicker than anticipated, only to be left wondering why I put it off for so long.
Many of my clients have commented that, once they start, everything comes together quickly and, somehow, they manage to meet what once was viewed as a seemingly impossible deadline. They justify their habit of waiting until the eleventh hour because, “I work best under pressure.”
What they’re really saying is they need a high level of motivation to begin. It may be their best, but it’s certainly not the best they could do in the absence of the fatigue and anxiety characteristic of eleventh-hour efforts. They run on pure adrenaline, which enables them to burn the midnight oil and somehow sneak under the wire. In many situations, postponing the commencement of a project can be detrimental. However, there are circumstances when delaying the start of a project might be beneficial. Let me explain, next.

Procrastination or Reflection

For over twenty years, I depended on research grants to support my laboratories and personnel. There were many occasions when I didn’t begin preparing a grant application until the deadline was dangerously close.
Instead, I was riding my bicycle on off-road trails or paddling my kayak on a local river. At first glance, this was a textbook example of procrastination. Far from it! I was thinking far away from distractions. At the time, only a handful of scientists believed the brain was capable of modulating the immune system, and even fewer thought there was any merit to searching for signals the immune system might be sending to the brain. Identifying those potential and elusive substances is what I struggled to convince the NIH was worthy of pursuit.
But how do you start writing an application to study something with very little data to support even a shakier hypothesis? A convincing argument will come together only after a considerable amount of thought and reflection.
Whether being engaged in thought processes constitutes procrastination is arguable. However, the fact remains taking time to reflect, even if it results in a delayed start, can culminate in highly beneficial outcomes. It was while working on my doctorate that I discovered the value of taking time to think. My adviser often chastised me for sailing in the Florida Keys with my wife over long weekends or disappearing for a week or more while my classmates were laboring in labs. But he never stopped me because he knew I was extremely productive when I was at work. Indeed, over the four years of training, I generated more publications than many of the students who never took a break.
When contemplating a perplexing problem, I’ll often experience the elusive aha moment while immersed in nature. Indeed, I did this so much I habitually found myself completing urgent tasks minutes before the deadline or apologizing for being late. However, once I did start the grant writing process or experiment, the time spent outdoors enabled me to finish in much less time than I might have otherwise. It also may be the reason the task seemed easier after procrastinating. It may not be the deadline-related pressure, but the time spent reflecting that hastened the process. For me, it paid off.
Over several decades, I enjoyed a very productive research career. My scientific observations resulted in numerous publications that received national and international recognition. Once I collected sufficient data substantiating that the brain and immune system were linked, more and more grant money flowed into the lab. My success was due in large part to taking time to think and reflect.
On the surface, it could be argued I was procrastinating. However, my behavior was not an escape from the tedium of the grant writing process. Instead, it was an immersion in the planning phase, which couldn’t evolve into the start of writing until I was satisfied the proposed research would be successful. There are other examples of discoveries made not while focused on the problem, but during periods of recovery and reflection.
In 1665, Christiaan Huygens was researching ways to improve the accuracy and durability of clocks so they could be used by mariners navigating the world’s oceans. Being able to record the angle of the sun at precisely 12 noon GMT was critical for pinpointing their location. Then, his work was interrupted when an upper respiratory infection forced him to remain in bed away from his workshop. He whiled away the time observing pendulum clocks mounted on the wall of his bedroom. In doing so, he noticed that the clocks eventually became synchronized even after he deliberately altered the swing of their pendulums.
The principle of synchronicity arose from that chance observation. It was a milestone in physics that did not start out as a goal. It was the result of an astute observation, which would probably never have happened had Huygens’s focus been elsewhere. The principle of synchronicity eventually was paramount centuries later during the development of superconductors and pacemakers.
He achieved success not by focusing on the details of a specific goal, but by being observant and recognizing clues in the periphery.
Similarly, Albert Einstein had a breakthrough moment, not while working through mathematical equations when seated at his desk, but while staring out to sea aboard the ship conveying him to the United States. Taking time to reflect should not be mistaken for procrastination, which entails deliberate avoidance.

An Emotion-Management Problem

Many of us have been taught that procrastination is synonymous with laziness. The recipient of this label is viewed as unreliable and even incompetent, not only by others, but as a self-assessment. We’re aware we are intentionally avoiding the task at hand, which we know is wrong. However, rather than being a character flaw due to the inability to understand the concept of time, it’s a strategy for coping with negative emotions.
  1. Perhaps you resent the fact you were stuck with the project instead of someone else.
  2. You find the task boring.
  3. You worry about lacking the skills to accomplish the task.
  4. Anxiety builds due to fear of failure.
  5. You’re afraid of being labeled as unreliable or incompetent by others.
These thoughts are amplified by the Judeo-Christian work ethic commanding that adherents labor hard to achieve success and salvation. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop! As a consequence, some people routinely delay starting important tasks until it becomes a habit. Even simple-to-do tasks are put off. When you move a time sensitive task to a back burner, it may be out of sight, but I can assure you it’s not out of mind. If it’s a work-related project, you’ll be surrounded at your desk with hard-to-ignore reminders especially as the due date looms closer.
These constant reminders, even at the subconscious level, will trigger a gradual increase in anxiety as you begin to reflect on the consequences of either not completing the project on time or rushing the process and then suffering in the aftermath for having produced an inferior product.
If you continue to postpone an important discussion that is necessary to resolve a conflict, your well-being will be impacted in a dual manner: (1) by prolonging the unresolved conflict and (2) suffering the impact saying what needs to be said may have on the overall relationship. In both settings, you’ll feel inadequate, especially if you compare yourself with others who cheerfully meet deadlines and have the confidence to resolve issues before they get out of hand.
How ironic that what we think is escaping stress is actually creating more. This, in turn, further reduces the level of motivation you need to get started.

Getting Started

Nike’s clever marketing slogan, Just Do It, increased shoe sales, but the suggestion won’t help you break the inertia impeding the start of an important project. That’s because willpower is not a skill you can finely hone through practice and elicit on demand. Instead, willpower has many similarities with a muscle in that it can wear down and tire after excessive use. Research has shown that the more motivation required to achieve a goal, the less willpower you’ll have available in the immediate aftermath. I’ve observed this as both a scientis...

Table of contents

Citation styles for I Know What to Do So Why Don't I Do It? - Second Edition

APA 6 Citation

Hall, N. (2022). I Know What to Do So Why Don’t I Do It? - Second Edition ([edition unavailable]). G&D Media. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/2802364/i-know-what-to-do-so-why-dont-i-do-it-second-edition-the-new-science-of-selfdiscipline-pdf (Original work published 2022)

Chicago Citation

Hall, Nick. (2022) 2022. I Know What to Do So Why Don’t I Do It? - Second Edition. [Edition unavailable]. G&D Media. https://www.perlego.com/book/2802364/i-know-what-to-do-so-why-dont-i-do-it-second-edition-the-new-science-of-selfdiscipline-pdf.

Harvard Citation

Hall, N. (2022) I Know What to Do So Why Don’t I Do It? - Second Edition. [edition unavailable]. G&D Media. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/2802364/i-know-what-to-do-so-why-dont-i-do-it-second-edition-the-new-science-of-selfdiscipline-pdf (Accessed: 15 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Hall, Nick. I Know What to Do So Why Don’t I Do It? - Second Edition. [edition unavailable]. G&D Media, 2022. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.