If You’re Busy, You’re Doing Something Wrong: The Surprisingly Relaxed Lives of Elite Achievers

“Study Hacks” answers the question “Why elite players are better than the average players?” in his post titled “If You’re Busy, You’re Doing Something Wrong: The Surprisingly Relaxed Lives of Elite Achievers.”  Interesting conclusions…

  1. The obvious guess is that the elite players are more dedicated to their craft. That is, they’re willing to put in the long,Tiger Mom-style hours required to get good, while the average players are off goofing around and enjoying life.  The data, as it turns out, had a different story to tell…The time diaries revealed that both groups spent, on average, the same number of hours on music per week (around 50).
  2. The difference was in how they spent this time. The elite players were spending almost three times more hours than the average players on deliberate practice — the uncomfortable, methodical work of stretching your ability.
  3. But the researchers weren’t done.  They also studied how the students scheduled their work. The average players, they discovered, spread their work throughout the day.  The elite players, by contrast, consolidated their work into two well-defined periods…one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
  4. The researchers asked the players to estimate how much time they dedicated each week to leisure activities — an important indicator of their subjective feeling of relaxation. By this metric, the elite players were significantly more relaxed than the average players, and the best of the best were the most relaxed of all…furthemore, the elite players slept an hour more per night than the average players.
  5. The average players are working just as many hours as the elite players but they are not dedicated these hours to the right type of work.  And furthermore, they spread this work haphazardly through the day.  So even though they’re not doing more work than the elite players, they end up sleeping less and feeling more stressed. Not to mention that they remain worse at the violin.
  6. This analysis leads to an important conclusion… if your goal is to build a remarkable life, then busyness and exhaustion should be your enemy. If you’re chronically stressed and up late working, you’re doing something wrong. You’re the average player…not the elite. You’ve built a life around hard to do work, not hard work.
  7. The solution suggested by this research, as well as my own, is as simple as it is startling: Do less. But do what you do with complete and hard focus. Then when you’re done be done, and go enjoy the rest of the day.

Image: Frenetic Wallpaper at Layoutsparks.com

10 Things You Should Be Able To Say Before You Die…

From the “Best Article Each Day”:

1) I followed my heart and intuition.

2) I said what I needed to say.

3) I did what I needed to do.

4) I made a difference.

5) I know what true love is.

6) I am happy and grateful.

7) I am proud of myself.

8) I became the best version of me.

9) I forgave those that hurt me.

10) I have no regrets.

Complete Article @ “Best Article of Every Day” by Marcandangel
10 Things You Should Be Able To Say Before You Die.  Image: Far From Perfect Mama

What is the “Zeigarnik Effect” and how does it help you avoid distraction, focus and get things done?

I came to learn of the Ziegarnik Effect in PsyBlog.  In 1927, Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik conducted a study in a busy restaurant in Vienna where she found that waiters remembered uncompleted orders or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.  This is described as the Zeigarnik Effect.  In 1982, almost 60 years later,  Kenneth McGraw conducted another study of the Zeigarnik Effect where the participants where asked to do a tricky puzzle; except they were interrupted before any of them could solve it – – and then they were told the study was over. Despite being asked to stop, nearly 90% kept working on the puzzle anyway.   These incompleted tasks “rattle around in our heads,” distracting and interrupting us from being focused and getting important things done.

PsyBlog’s recommendations below are on point.  I would suggest an alternative approach in one area.  PsyBlog suggests that in order to eliminate unfinished tasks from being a distraction, you need to get specific about action plans on your tasks (what, when, how, where).  I prefer David Allen’s strategy in “Getting Things Done.”   If it’s on your mind, your mind isn’t clear – – you will be distracted.  You need to clear the noise.  Get all of your tasks written down and out of your head.  Have a system you trust to keep track of your tasks.  And then ask yourself: “What’s the next action”.   Then,  take the next action to move the task forward – no matter how small it is.  You’ll find that you’ll have more mental capacity to focus on what’s in front of you.  Getting too specific about action plans can be overwhelming and will lead many of us to do nothing (to procrastinate).  Outcome: we will continue to have “rocks” rattling around in our heads.  Best to get started, gather momentum and then dive deeper into the planning process as you gather a head of steam.

Here are some of the key excerpts from Psyblog on the Ziegarnik Effect:

  • On average each of us has 15 personal projects ongoing at any one time. It might include planning a trip to Europe, spring cleaning the house, getting a new job or any number of other goals.  Plus there’s all the stuff we’re doing right at the moment like working, shopping or reading.
  • Psychologists have known for a century that incomplete goals rattle around in our minds until they’re done. It’s called the Zeigarnik Effect.”
  • The down side is that we can be distracted by incomplete goals while we’re trying to pursue another goal. And according to new research this is precisely what happens unless we have made very specific plans
  • “In a series of studies researchers found that while trying to enjoy reading a novel, participants were frequently interrupted by intrusive thoughts about an unfinished everyday task.  But when researchers told participants to make very specific plans about that unfinished goal, while reading they experienced less intrusive thoughts about the other activity. In fact the intrusive thoughts lessened to the same level as a control group.”
  • Making plans helps free up mental space for whatever we are doing right now, allowing us to be more efficient in the long term.”
  • “Specific goals include the how, what, where and when of whatever we want to achieve. For example if you’re planning a trip you might decide that during a quiet moment in the evening after supper you’ll draw up a list of hotels and flights to discuss with your partner. Then you can book them online on Saturday morning when you’re fresh (make sure, though, that you focus on the process and not the outcome).”
  • “If the plan is specific enough, it is automatically activated when the right circumstances arise. The rest of the time our minds should be freer from the other 14 goals that we’re not currently pursuing.”
  • “What all these examples have in common is that when people manage to start something they’re more inclined to finish it. Procrastination bites worst when we’re faced with a large task that we’re trying to avoid starting. It might be because we don’t know how to start or even where to start.”
  • “What the Zeigarnik effect teaches is that one weapon for beating procrastination is starting somewhere…anywhere.”
  • “Don’t start with the hardest bit, try something easy first. If you can just get under way with any part of a project, then the rest will tend to follow. Once you’ve made a start, however trivial, there’s something drawing you on to the end. It will niggle away in the back of your mind
  • “Although the technique is simple, we often forget it because we get so wrapped up in thinking about the most difficult parts of our projects. The sense of foreboding can be a big contributor to procrastination.”

Sources: PsyBlog – “The Zeigarnik Effect” and “How to Avoid Being Distracted From Your Goals”.  Image: 8tracks.com/dmark210

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