Yesterday’s theme being “How to get things done” it’s time to present the variations. On with the show:
The underlying message to rule number one in yesterday’s post, was that of not doing too much. Those that do, tend to crash and burn, bite off more than they can chew and so on. So if you’re thinking of taking up a new skill or rejuvenating one you paused for a while, you could possibly fall into the trap of being tempted to do too much. If this is you, do please, read on…
10 minutes per day is a way of controlling the urge of self improvement, willpower can only take you so far – it’s a finite resource; and, in much the same way as the most prevalent finite resource – crude oil, once you start scraping the inside of the barrel you won’t end up with anything that flows smoothly, rather just a gloopy slop. If you keep the flow of your willpower to a steady trickle rather than a wasteful gush, you can train the neurones in your brain to habitualise this behaviour. By the time this happens, you will find it feels unsettling NOT to to engage in your hobby or commitment. You won’t run out of “puff” so to speak, because you simply won’t need willpower any more. This next bit will explain everything, using the example of sleepwalkers…
In 1994 a man drove 20km and stabbed his mother in law and father in law, all while asleep. It may sound like an impossibly absurd feat, but many people experience a similar phenomenon every day when commuting to work. Regular behaviours such as a trip to work year after year become stored in the mid-brain. This governs all automated behaviours so that we can do things efficiently without our pondering and decision making areas (like the cortex) putting their ore in. Its because of this, that a person can drive from A to B in the morning remembering hardly anything about how they got to the destination, the cortex is hardly used. Its because of the activation of the mid brain that sleep walkers can carry out such complex behaviour, without even thinking about it, or being conscious.
You might be interested to know that this author is very taken with the piano, and music in general. From cool jazz, improvisation and soul, to the contemporary R&B and Lady “meat-dress” Ga Ga. Recently, following the intrusion of other commitments like a new daytime occupation, this valuable, magical and wonderful skill began to require more mental exertion than could be reasonably summoned. To those used to something more to the point, this means, “can’t be arsed”, excuse my French please. My Dad makes a living as a piano teacher. Gives me lessons and has plenty of proficient students; he is so technically accomplished it’s difficult to imagine a time in which he didn’t want to practise, although he went through exactly the same period of low motivation I experienced; and, I think, what most people experience at some point in their lives. The Mother of young Dad, (obviously not a Dad when a teenager) put to one side the cultural norm of ruler-hand-slapping, and instead encouraged him to practise, just for 10 minutes a day.
Now the story snowballs, 10 minutes a day rapidly evolved to 20, 30 minutes a day. When results are seen e.g. you learn a new piece, positive reinforcement turns a chore into something enjoyable. The routine of practising becomes less dependent on willpower, and instead is taken over by the habitual centres of the brain; meaning it feels “wrong” not to practise.
Notice how “wrong” it feels not to eat? Drink? Even getting up in the morning for dreaded work?* Thanks to your mid-brain, any behaviour you engage in every day for an extended period is remembered in your very own built in autopilot. Just like the sleepwalker. On that note, if you find that you suddenly get very good at a particular skill, you could possibly be partaking in your hobbies whilst sleep walking! (If your hobbies include swimming, be sure to put on swimming trunks before going to bed – it could save a lot of embarrassment should you get up again!)
So give it a try. Pick whatever you like, and do it for just 10 minutes a day. It can be anything: music practise, learning some French vocabulary, revising for mastermind even. Eventually if you stick with it, 10 minutes can evolve into a lifetime’s obsession.
*By the way, after subsequent posts on this blog you may end up loving work, even more reason to get up.