This led me to think about the work of positive psychology. The medical field frequently dichotomizes health: we are either healthy or not healthy. Positive psychology adds an additional layer: health is not simply absence of illness, it is promotion of wellbeing. I will dedicate future blogs to stepping off the hedonic treadmill and increasing gratitude and acceptance. For now, I want to write to the concept of flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi identified flow in his research and defines it as occurring when one is engaged in a task with energized focus, full involvement, and ability to focus on the process as opposed to oneself or emotions.
This flow, this being in the zone, is the direct antidote to multi-tasking. Brooks flushes out Phillips' interview to argue that, following the attitude of a healthy child, it is necessary to "focus on the external objects of fascination, not on who you think you are." This removes anxiety around your desire, your appetite, your next needed task. The concept of flow is similar in that you dedicate yourself to tasks that hold intrinsic meaning. Brooks says "dive down to your obsessions." I agree that you need to identify your life compass [see my blog post] to best anticipate what activities can cause flow.
When faced with looming deadlines that don't optimize flow, there are concrete tools that can also be used:
1) Break tasks down into bite sized pieces and cross each item off.
2) Don't just turn devices off once a week. Instead, dedicate one hour each day to email response and shut off email, and other social media, the rest of your working day.
3) Determine stages to reinforce completion. I recommend non-food based rewards.
4) Call someone to bookend beginning and ending the task.
5) Explore whether perfectionism is playing a role in the procrastination. I will dedicate a future blog post to navigating perfectionism and, for now, see the initial step as only the first iteration. Changes can be made.
6) Take a 5-10 minute break, if possible, every 90 minutes of work. This can be a deep breathing exercise at your desk or a quick walk around the block.