If you really do want to teach yourself a new skill then it takes a degree of self discipline to keep our ‘eyes on the prize’ so to speak… I know this because I’m formally a competition level procrastinator 😉 There have been so very many times in the past where I’ve wanted to change some particular circumstance in my life and even with an extremely compelling reasons completely failed to do so.
I believe the majority of people (who do change) probably make their first step in a new direction for the simple reason that the situation they are in finally becomes intolerable and their subconscious mind finally, finally kicks in to help them save their arse/life/house/job/relationship or whatever.
It might be only after a person has made their first significant change by owning and taking responsibility for something that they have a ‘light-bulb’ moment and realise there may be other (less painful) things about their lives they can actually work on changing. They begin to work on going towards something good rather than trying to flee from something bad.
Still, even with a better perspective it’s always a massive temptation to do something else. So here are a few ‘tricks’ that I’ve successfully used to prevent me just giving up or not concentrating on what I’ve decided to do….
Record the time you spend on a particular subject. This is a trick I borrowed from Jerry Seinfeld who used it to make sure he was always writing and coming up with new material every day. What you do is print out a monthly calendar and then pick a highlighter colour to denote a particular activity. I used green for trading and yellow for going to the gym. Each hour spent solely on trading gets a green line. Count up the green lines and keep score. Here’s a photo of my calendar for March (I think)
- Another reason for recording time actually spent on a particular subject is the (now well know) study quoted by Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Outliers’ that references research showing that mastery of a subject comes not with innate skill, intelligence or luck but through practice. In fact it’s around 10,000 hours or 3 hours per day for 10 years… Now do you see why ‘Desire’ is so important? To spend such a long time in the practice of a particular skill you’ve really got to keep on the ball. For me, sitting here writing this I’m on 191 hours. In my whole adult life I can’t think of anything I’ve spent, well, anything like this amount of time on. With a (more than) full time job I’m only managing to average 30 hours per month on trading… Since my goal for this year is actually 1000 hours I’m not even close to nailing this right now… I’ll have to get in 115 hours a month for the next 7 months to hit this target. Getting in about 4 Hours per day is probably pushing it… but we’ll have to wait and see.
- The following point may apply more to us guys but I think it’s worth mentioning. Time is precious so attempting to concentrate on a large number of ‘things’ in parallel is very difficult. For me the magic number seems to be three. These currently consist of work, fitness and teaching myself to trade. That’s it, my life is full up! This may explain why I’m currently single – or if it’s not related it’s certainly a convenient excuse, right? (LOL) So pick three things and focus on them. More than three and you tend to end up stressing yourself out too much..
- Recognise that simply ‘dicking about’ is not really getting you anywhere. This includes un-productive use of time like watching TV. It’s worth thinking about how you remove the temptation to just mess about and sit passively from your life. For me, I don’t have a TV and I really, really had to sell my X-Box, again because of my competition level procrastination… Low attention threshold? Anyone?
What you’re really trying to do here is set up a new routine and get into a new habit. I’ve done this with exercise/fitness so I know I can do this with something more cerebral like trading. With working out I get a big endorphins high and if I don’t go to the gym for a week I notice I start to get slightly depressed or my thinking goes a little negative. I’ve not quite got to that ‘must do’ stage with trading yet, but that’s because really I’m still in the initial ‘what am I doing?’ stage without the payback coming often enough to create the virtuous circle necessary to re-enforce a particular behaviour.