Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: While We're On The Subject Of Shame

Last week I wrote about how shame motivated me to work for about an hour while I was on a plane a week and a half ago. It didn't do anything to help me last week while I was trying to get back to normal while preparing for a major family gathering, though.

Why Shame Doesn't Help Much With Managing Time

Our old friend Kelly McGonigal says in The Willpower Instinct that self-criticism (shame, for instance) undermines motivation and self-control. Feeling bad about ourselves leads us to give in, give up. (That's in Chapter Six, according to my notes.)

Timothy Pychyl in The Procrastinator's Digest says something similar about why some of us don't "self-regulate" better than we do. We want to feel good now. We want to avoid what's making us feel bad (being ashamed of not working harder and longer, for instance), and we want to avoid it right away. Which usually means doing something easier and more fun than staying on task with our work. (Chapter Three, according to my notes.)

It's kind of amazing I did anything at all on that airplane when I could have immediately escaped to that Megan Abbott novel I've been talking about for days.

Instead Of Avoiding What's Shaming Us, How About Using Some Other Kind Of Motivator?

Or you could put it this way--avoid using shame. Develop discipline in another way. But how?

Well, Kelly McGonigal had a whole list of ideas that didn't involve shame that she talked about back when she designed a Yoga Journal willpower program a few years ago: "want power," automatic goal pursuit, implementations, commitments, and the distress tolerance we discussed recently.

Timothy Pychyl offers strategies in The Procrastinator's Digest for improving discipline that, again, don't include shame.
  • Recognize that we're putting short-term mood repair before a long-term goal.
  • Recognize that the task is making us feel bad, and what we're trying to run away from is a bad feeling. 
Shame doesn't work, at least not for long, and there are plenty of other things writers can do to at least try to keep themselves working.

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