An evening with Jens Bammel

by Áine Feeney

On 23 February 2021 I decided to pop into an evening Zoom with Jens Bammel, not realizing that in a short while I would be re-evaluating my approach to my daily agenda. Jens was a warm and welcoming presence and his intention for the talk was to explore the science of higher productivity in the home office, as illustrated by the internet’s greatest influencers: cats!

Jens was Secretary General of the International Publishers Association (IPA) from 2003 to 2015. He originally trained as a lawyer and now works as an executive coach.

The title of his talk was Self-Management, Time Management and Overcoming Procrastination. I must admit that even as I listened him explain about distractions and how we procrastinate, I found my eyes drifting to the notifications coming through on my phone, and that’s when it hit me just how relevant this talk was to my day-to-day life. I’m sure like many people, motivation and concentration have gone out the window because of a lockdown year and it’s been difficult to approach projects with a pre-lockdown level of determination. Once I realized that Jens was essentially handing me the key to a successful day I was hooked to my screen and took away four major points from the evening.

1. Willpower is a finite resource

This blew my mind! Jens explained how each day we wake up with only a certain amount of willpower, and that as the day progresses we naturally work our way through this set amount; it’s why people cave to cravings at night after a day of strict dieting. I realized that I used most of my willpower on frivolous things throughout the day that, while still part of my to do list, weren’t the real things that I needed to get done in a day … like writing a dissertation proposal (anyone else?).

2. Habits substitute willpower

We all know this already, and have been told by plenty of people the importance of making something a habit but Jens explained that habits do not take up our allowance of willpower. ‘Brushing your teeth’, he explained, ‘No one gets joy from it, but at the same time you don’t have to think about it, you are not exhausted by it … it doesn’t require willpower.’

3. Set clear and precise goals

I have a terrible habit of writing on my to-do list: ‘write essay.' Jens taught us that success lies in breaking these big intangible goals down into small concise objectives. Rather than telling myself to ‘write essay’, I should instead write ‘research topic, find 5 articles, write an introduction’.

4. The magic of LARPing

For those that don’t know, LARPing is an abbreviation for Live Action Role Playing and Jens explained how, in order to successfully get into the rhythm of working, we should have something that we wear or somewhere that we sit that is exclusive to the act of working. Be it a foldable table that you only write essays from, or a pair of shoes that you wear between your allocated work hours (both traits that Jens himself employs). That way you get yourself one step closer to a successful day.

Jens has created a formula to success through strong willpower, clear priorities, time management and the mastery of distraction and since the evening talk by Jen, I have found myself reviewing everything I do on a daily basis; Making my bed? A habit. No willpower wasted. Putting away that growing pile of clothes? Not a habit, it’ll need some willpower and maybe that energy could be put towards something more important, like transcribing that interview I hosted. The evening was fun, engaging and I took so much away from it that I even found the willpower to write this article! And if that didn’t sell the evening, then perhaps an hour-long presentation using only cat memes will.

Edited by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01 Mar 2021 around 8am

Last edited: 20 11 2021