I’m a procrastinator. There, I said it. I have a hard time focusing on what needs to be done and find myself looking for any alternatives. Not to shrink responsibility or anything, but I’d like to cast some blame onto my ADHD. I can’t help it. For as long as I can remember, it has taken me a tremendous amount of effort to stay on task, especially with school. Because of this, in order to succeed, I’ve had to become intimately familiar with the way my brain prefers to work. Now,my style of getting work done and remote learning go together about as well as toothpaste and orange juice. I quickly realized that, if I am to succeed this semester, I must have a better idea of how to catalyze my productivity.
Enter the Fogg Behavioural Model, a system developed by Stanford University’s Dr. Brain Jeffrey Fogg, that helps one better understand under which circumstances do individuals take action. By understanding what triggers behaviours, we can give ourselves the best chances of staying productive.
So, what does the Fogg model actually say? Well, it’s remarkably simple. Behaviour = Motivation + Ability + Trigger. To take any specific action, one must simultaneously have the motivation, ability, and trigger to perform it. In order to understand how to employ this model, let’s break down each component and apply it to procrastination.
First, motivation. I often find myself with the ability to work and even a trigger, say a deadline, but still can’t seem to check off any boxes on my to-do list. I know I have to get things done and know I can do them, but the prospect of performing the necessary steps just doesn’t appeal to me.
I know all too well that motivation doesn’t just come out of the blue. So how do you create an incentive? While the idea may seem abstract, motivation is nothing more than a feeling that performing an action is valuable in some way. So, to build motivation, you must find meaning. You must be able to answer the question of why? Why am I doing this thing? Adding real, personal meaning to work is essential. Taking time to remind yourself of why you have this task on your plate in the first place will provide you with the motivation to get it done.
Next, let’s talk about ability. The problem is, everything seems more manageable than the actual work. Strumming my guitar for hours is easy, so is scrolling through Instagram. So, how can work and play co-exist? One of the most stressful feelings I’ve encountered is knowing that I need to get something done but feeling utterly incapable of doing it. This helplessness and uselessness can be paralyzing and, even worse, demoralizing. It’s near impossible to bring myself to attempt a task that I feel at the outset I don’t have the skill to complete.
The answer is to practice breaking tasks down into more manageable pieces. Figure out what the tasks comprise, break them down into steps, and tackle those. Create timelines or trees of small, easily achievable steps that build up to your final goal. If you can’t perform one action, you can leave it aside to return to later. At the very least, you can continue with other steps to gain that feeling of momentum and reward that make working easier.
Finally, let’s discuss the triggers. A trigger is that starting pistol that sets you off to work. Creating a trigger is easy if you plan everything out. But, if you’re like me, you know that keeping a sufficiently organized and detailed schedule isn’t for everyone. So, my approach is two-fold. First, keep a loose but strong schedule. Second, have a predetermined method of selection on choosing which task to complete first. Don’t try to plan every minute; instead, separate your time into blocks for working and for resting. That way, you can hold yourself accountable if you start slacking. Then, when work time comes, sit down and pick an item from the to-do list. Whether your system is to choosethe item that will take the most time or the least, the one due earlier, the one weighed heavier in a course; you need to have a starting point. Any amount of time wasted fretting about which task to tackle is time that can be dedicated to any of your studies, and those minutes add up.
Now to all the skeptics, the Fogg model is already working. You read this article with the push of a trigger—whether you found this article on your own or someone shared it with you and had the motivation to stay productive during these extraordinary times. And now, armed with this knowledge, you can face your procrastination habits and the challenges of online learning, and be the productive student and person you need to be.