Eeny, meeny, miny, moe

Why you put off certain tasks and what you need to know

NRCA’s fiscal year runs from June to June, which makes my least favorite times of the year December-January and April-May. Those are the months NRCA vice presidents have to review our budgets, adjust them as necessary and make projections for the coming fiscal year. I am more comfortable with letters than numbers, so I put off the biannual budgeting task as long as I can.

Turns out, writing and doing math take the same amount of brain energy, but I am not motivating myself the right way, according to Andrew Westbrook, a neuroscientist at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J.

“Whether you’re engaged in a cognitively demanding task at work, or you’re staring off into space, your brain is using roughly the same amount of energy,” he told The Wall Street Journal reporter Michaeleen Doucleff.

Doucleff writes: “What feels more challenging is when a task requires the brain to go against its usual habits. Cognitively demanding work, such as complex accounting or writing a nuanced email, often requires the coordination of many different brain regions in novel patterns while silencing circuits that frequently fire together.”

There are a few ways to make this easier, according to Westbrook. He suggests getting past the initial hurdle of doing an uncomfortable task by focusing on the benefits of completing the task. For me, that would be turning in my budgets early, so I won’t be stressing about them and the looming deadline.

Another option is setting a time limit to work on tasks you find difficult. For example, I could set aside 30-45 minutes of uninterrupted time to get into a budget-focused rhythm.

“Next time you’re struggling to start a task, stop focusing on all the pain it may involve or the consequences of failing,” Doucleff writes. “Instead, think about how good it will feel to finish it and the rewards that will follow.”

AMBIKA PUNIANI REID is editor of Professional Roofing and NRCA’s vice president of communications.


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