What follows is the 2nd insight from a series called ‘kitchen sink wisdom.’ Part 1 was Keep it Simple Stupid. in which we learned to dramatically simplify our lives—starting with the kitchen sink. You stopped using your trusty dishwasher, put away 80% of the dishes you own, and now have a lean and mean kitchen.
This simplicity in your kitchen has spilled over into the rest of your life as well as into your work and business. You’re more productive and happier as a result. But we’ve got more to learn. So we continue our conversation.
The “I love doing dishes” spell, your immediate reaction after putting away most of your dishes and simplifying your kitchen life, was just a phase; it didn’t last. Granted, it’s easy to do your dishes now.
But it’s also easy to NOT do them!
Besides, there’s always something more interesting than dirty dishes. You could go smoke something fun, you could grab a beer and chill, you could watch your favorite TV show and unwind on the couch.
Dishes, they can wait. Life, it can’t.
That is, until you’re back in your awesomely “simple” kitchen and can’t find a single clean bowl to eat out of. You now have only two, remember? And they’re both in the sink. So much for simplicity!
What’s going on here? Why do you still keep putting off doing your dishes?
For the same reason you keep putting off everything else in your life. To understand that, we need to unzip your skull and look inside your brain.
You got two brains, not one
Even though you’ve gotten rid of all those extra dishes and dramatically simplified your kitchen, there’s a battle brewing inside you. A battle so ancient it goes back to your ancestors, the monkeys.
“Party now, clean-up later” is something that seems tattooed inside your animal brain. Which is your brain’s limbic system. Your limbic brain is the older part of your brain, evolutionarily speaking. It’s the one responsible for your fight-or-flight emotional responses.
Your rational brain (anchored in your prefrontal cortex) couldn’t be more different from your animal brain. This part of you believes in “clean-up now and party later.” Evolutionarily speaking, your prefrontal cortex is relatively young compared to your more ancient and primal animal brain.
Anytime there’s an argument between your animal brain and rational brain, guess who wins. That’s right, your rational brain is the big loser. Your rational brain maybe wiser and more conscious, but it’s no match for your animal brain.
Your rational brain can look into the future and see trouble anytime you avoid doing what you should be done right now. Needless-to-say, this part of you is the one with all your “shoulds.”
I should work hard.” “I should save.” “I should exercise.” “I should be kind.” “I should share.” “I should care.” “I should give.” “”I should be faithful.” “I should meditate.” Should do this, should do that. Should. Should. Should.
Your animal brain, not surprisingly, sees your rational brain as a big, fat party-pooper. So what if he’s got reason and foresight and prudence and intellect? As far as your animal brain is concerned, your rational brain represents limitations and restrictions and boundaries and caution and hesitation. Your animal brain views him as the “dull one.” No fun at all!
So there’s a battle brewing inside you between reason and emotion, two sides that constantly pull you in opposite directions. And you thought you were just one person.
But hey, relax! You’re not that special, you know. This battle is brewing inside all of us. Some of us know about it, most don’t.
At least, you now know what enlightenment is. It is when your rational and emotional brains don’t just get along, they learn from each other, they complement each other—and they push each other to new heights.
By the way, you’ve discovered another thing about yourself recently (after you got rid of the dishwasher). What moves you to do anything in life is emotion. Feelings, baby. If you feel it, you’ll do it. Otherwise, you won’t. If you feel it, you’re capable of accomplishing anything in life.
And of all your emotions, nothing moves you to do things as does love or hate. For they arouse your passions.
Speaking of “love,” you love clean dishes and hate not having any. It feels good to see a clean kitchen sink and a rack full of dry dishes. Even so, your “love” of clean dishes is not strong enough to overcome your love of laziness.
So you still come up with new and creative ways to put off doing your dishes. Even though you don’t procrastinate as much, you still procrastinate. Only difference is you run out of clean dishes much sooner now, which forces you to start scrubbing.
Do it right away…or it’ll turn into a project
Now that you have a better grasp of what’s going inside your head, you want to stop pandering to your emotional brain and give your rational brain a chance for a change.
What if you were to do the dishes right after you eat, not later? You’re already at the sink to drop off your bowl and plate, aren’t you. You run the faucet to wash your hands. Then why not rinse and scrub your dishes right away?
Turns out, it’s a great idea.
It is much easier to do your dishes right after eating (when you still have the momentum) than later (when your mind is occupied with something else). Your brain is very good at putting off unpleasant chores. Just accept this as fact. But the longer you put off doing these chores, the harder they seem to your brain.
So KSW(kitchen sink wisdom)’s the second principle of success is also the title of this chapter: “Do it now or else.”
Or else what? Or else it’ll turn into a “project.”
Stuff will pile up in the kitchen sink and turn into a project. And another project you do not need!
Plus there are clear advantages to doing your dishes right after eating:
(1) You need much less detergent and water. Partly because when the stuff dries and hardens on the dishes, it takes more work to get ’em clean. And partly because it’s pure psychology: the longer things sits in the kitchen sink, the dirtier they seem.
(2) It takes less time to do your dishes NOW than it would to do it later. When you do ’em right away, often you don’t even need any detergent. A quick rinse and viola! you’re done.
No sir, you don’t need any more convincing. You’re sold. You’re going to start a new habit of doing your dishes right after eating. As far as you’re concerned, your meal ain’t over until your dishes are scrubbed and put away.
Over the next couple of weeks this new habit takes hold in your system. Your emotional brain thinks your rational brain is, well, cool. As you savor and celebrate yet another scintillating success in the kitchen, your mind is already scheming and plotting. How might you use your kitchen sink wisdom elsewhere in your business and work life?
Well, let’s see.
Open it to process it. Else, don’t open
Let’s talk about your daily snail mail.
Much as you like picking up your mail, you never deal with it right away. You put it off for later. Occasionally you might get a fun card in the mail, but usually it’s just bills and brochures. What’s the fun in that? So you drop it onto your mail pile, which turns into a “project” by the end of the week.
Thanks to KSW’s first principle “Keep it simple stupid,” you’ve already simplified your snail mail. You’ve setup automatic payments on most of your bills and opted out of many mailings. Now you’re ready to apply the second insight from your kitchen sink wisdom.
Which, once again, is “Do it now or else.”
What if you were to process your mail as soon as you get it? Given that you’ve already nipped most of it in the bud, there ain’t much to do anyway.
Got something in the mail today? Read it NOW, then keep or discard. There’s no “later.” And keep it only if you’re really going to read it later, otherwise see if you can opt out of this mail too. And if haven’t glanced at it in a week, out it goes.
Next, it’s your dreaded email inbox.
You see, you’ve been handling your email just as you have your regular mail. You get excited when you see new email; you open it to see who it’s from, but you don’t always read it right away. You leave it in your inbox for later. And that’s why your email keeps growing in leaps and bounds, day after day, week after week.
But you’re going to change all that.
First thing you’re going change about your email is how often you check it. Checking your email all the time is gratifying in the short run—and disastrous in the long run. This insane habit, which borders on addiction, has made you very unproductive.
So you’re going to stop checking your email every fifteen minutes.
You’re not even going to check it every hour. Actually, you’re going to keep your email client closed. The only time you’re going to open your email program is so you can process your email. You’ll do it twice a day, and promptly close it when you’re done. Perhaps mornings could be for reading new emails, afternoons for replies.
Ditto with Facebook and twitter and all your other social networks. Ditto with texting. You’re going to set aside time everyday to “play” on these social networks. When that time’s up, you’re going to log out of them.
So this is how you’ll beat procrastination. Any task you “open” in your work life, you’ll process it right away. You’ll do it NOW, not later.
Here’s to your simple & productive life!
Image source: sodahead.com