Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Time Management Tuesday: A Willpower Training Opportunity

I'm a little late with this news, but being late is no reason not to do something.

Yoga Journal is offering a four-week Boost Your Willpower program that involves receiving daily e-mails and an opportunity to take part in question and answer sessions on Facebook with Dr. Kelly McGonigal who created this particular series of events for the magazine. The program began on January 14th, though I signed up a day or two later. The February issue of Yoga Journal carried an article on willpower and its four-week project.

Now, I need to make two points about this program up front:

1. As with most writing I've seen on willpower, the YJ article and its Boost Your Willpower program focuses a lot on using willpower to change behaviors such as eating rather than using it for our purpose, managing time. However, I'm a big believer in grabbing ideas from everyone, and I've found plenty to interest me in this material.

2. You're going to see a lot of yoga and meditation talk in this program. This is Yoga Journal, after all. Though we've discussed using meditation for concentration as part of time management, it's probably not a technique that people specifically interested in managing time will gravitate to. I took five yoga classes last week, and I'll admit that, for the most part, I'm skipping the yoga material. But as I said, I'm grabbing what I can here, and others can, too.

Over the next few weeks, Time Management Tuesday will be all about my involvement in Boost Your Willpower. At some point, I'll be writing about the Boost Your Willpower article. But in order to impose some order on myself, I'll first write about the weekly programs. Since Week 1 is already over, here's a quick overview of what I got out of it:

Week 1 was about choosing a focus. Initially, I chose managing time better. Makes sense, given my time obsession. However, I am seriously into setting goals. "Choose a focus" sounds like "set a goal" to me, and "managing time better" was not specific enough for my taste. Better than what? How will I know I'm managing better? So I switched to "staying on task while working" because I can easily tell when I'm on or off task.

"Self-Reflection Questions" are included for each week. The one I liked best was "When you're feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, or self-critical, where do you put your attention? What do you give your energy to?"  Managing time is particularly difficult when we're stressed and overwhelmed. I felt the question fit in with Day 3's e-mail, which included this line "Scientists have found that self-control is highest in the morning and deteriorates over the course of the day." When we're more likely to start feeling stressed and overwhelmed? (Timothy Pychyl  reported similar findings, by the way.) This suggests to me that by using the unit system we might be able to trick our brains into thinking we're just starting work when we have the most self-control, the way we use the unit system to trick our brains into thinking we're just starting work for other reasons.

And, finally, in the Facebook question and answer, Dr. McGonigal talked about the difference between habits and values-based commitments. Habits--or, some of my family members would say, rigid scheduling--have helped me accomplish a number of things over the years. However, they are hard to form and maintain in work situations that are constantly changing and/or with unpredictable personal lives. So I'll try to give this values-based commitments business some thought.

Those of you who are interested, go sign up for this program. We can start talking about it in the comments next week.

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