Getting to the end of the week…finally it’s Friday!
But where did all the time go? Why are there still so many tasks on your to-do list? How could you have been so busy, yet nothing got done? Being overwhelmed and underappreciated and already worried about Monday morning.
I’ve taken courses and attended seminars claiming to tackle this problem. I’ve spent an obscene amount of money on planners, trackers, apps and programs guaranteeing they are the answer. With the right tool, I’ll be able to manage my time better.
So why, if I know how to do something, I don’t do it?!?
The Brain Science of Knowing
Our brains rely on patterns and these patterns become habits. Habits aren’t only formed around our actions but also around stories and beliefs we hold. Our thoughts and mental habits form the same way we form physical habits. So much like getting a cup of coffee first thing in the morning is a physical habit, believing we can’t survive without it, is a mental one.
Knowing how to do something and doing it are two separate things involving two separate parts of our brain. The cerebrum is the part of our brains that are activated with learning through reading and watching while the basal ganglia and striatum are involved in action and habit formation.
Believe it or not, knowing doesn’t come before doing! The pattern is not a linear one and there is no cause and effect.
We act, or don’t act, out of habit. Period.
Regardless of the number of videos, webinars or classes you take, the consumption of the information has nothing to do with acting on the information. Until we become aware of the “know-do” gap, we continue to put off the things we want, acting solely out of habit rather than motivation.
The reasons we don’t get sh*t done
1. We don’t believe we can…not really
There is a story behind why we don’t do it that has become a habit of what we believe about ourselves. I have a hard time writing articles because I carry a story about not being a writer. The habit of “not writing” surpasses all desire and motivation if I am not aware of it.
2. We aren’t connected to the outcome
There is cue-routine-reward process in full swing with the formation of habits. I’m thirsty and my body signals me to drink. I take a drink of water and am no longer thirsty. We receive a signal to do something, slip into a routine to receive a reward. When we start a new process or routine, there is no connection from the outcome until it happens many times. If the task at hand is something new to you, you’re not connected to the outcome. Because you have attached a task to a goal, it doesn’t mean you know (in your mind) there is a reward.
3. We don’t really know how
How-To books and videos often provide context but until we do, there is no pattern for our brains to follow. It’s forging a new action path. Knowing does not provide us with the experience of doing.
How to Get Sh*t Done
Now that we know what prevents us from doing those important things, there are a few actions that can help you get over the roadblocks your brain is throwing up.
1. Break out the task into small actions
Actions you have done before and remind your brain that those actions are doable. Visualize yourself doing the actions. This will trick the brain into believing you have done it before and will start forming those neural pathways you need to start forming new habits.
2. Attach the task to an outcome that is rewarding.
When we can attach what we are doing to something we really want, we start to form the cue-routine-reward cycle. Maybe you are struggling with managing your work calendar like I was. I started attaching my most important things to the feeling of accomplishment that I wanted to feel at the end of the week. Then I backed into my goal by identifying those things I needed to do to feel accomplished. I also permitted myself an extra 20-minutes Monday morning to plan my week and set myself up for success.
3. Start doing.
There is no direct link between knowing and doing, it is not cause-and-effect so until you consciously activate the experiential parts of your brain, you can have all the knowledge in the world and still do nothing with it. It will feel awkward and uncomfortable at first but this is all about forming new habits and getting you something you want. Doing start imprinting experiences in the action and habit parts of the brain so the next time you do it, or even do something similar, the action is imprinted and it becomes easier for you to do.
We can waste so much time consuming information and educating ourselves thinking and believing we just need to know one more thing or find the “right” way when the reality is we are only creating a habit of learning. When you want to move forward in your life, there is a time you are going to have to jump in and start somewhere doing something that moves you down the path you actually want to go.
I still struggle with time management occasionally, but I have created a habit of doing and trying new things instead of just researching the answer. That’s a big step for a data geek like me but what it allows me to do is collect experiences. Once I have an experience, the brain can start to make better-educated guesses on how to do something.
Knowing doesn’t lead to doing…action does.
Having trouble getting the important things done? When you feel like you have tried it all and you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, it’s time to start doing something different.
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