In the world of marketing, a Call to Action (CTA) is the part of an advertisement where the viewer/reader/listener is asked to do something – call this number, visit this website, buy this thingy on Amazon.
We are bombarded with CTAs, and we often tune them out.
But CTAs don’t just come from the media. Our brains do a fabulous job of continually presenting us with CTAs, also known as impulses.
I recently participated in an interesting discussion of ADHD and impulsiveness in the Facebook group for the Big Self School.
One member of the group posted the following question:
My son has ADHD and is a bundle of impulses. He is also a bundle of laughter, love, empathy, and joy. I wouldn’t change a thing about him.
Mom: “Son, when you use the last of the toilet paper, you must replace the roll.”
Son: “Okay, Mom.” *twinkle in eye*
Five minutes later…
When should we follow our impulses or ignore them?
Impulses are not inherently wicked. Some of my greatest successes have been a result of following a CTA.
However, if we followed every CTA our brains (or the media) delivered to us, we’d get nothing done. So, how do we decide when to react and when to ignore the impulse?
Follow the impulse when:
- It is consistent with your big-picture goals. This is assuming that you have set specific, measurable goals in the first place. If you haven’t, try this method.
- You have discussed the idea with someone you trust (and who is preferably, more “down to earth” than you), and they agree that it is a reasonable course of action.
- It causes no harm, takes little time, and brings joy to you and others (see toilet paper pyramid above).
Rethink an impulsive action when:
- The impulse is masquerading as procrastination…even if it is a “noble” distraction.* If it takes you away from a task you should be finishing, recognize the impulse for what it is.
- After taking a few minutes to think it through, the urge to follow the impulse fades. It is cognitively easier not to start something than it is to stop doing the thing once you are engaged in it.
- The primary driver of the action is a “gut feeling.” That may work on cop shows but doesn’t tend to function optimally in real life.
I love spontaneity. My Myers-Briggs personality type (ENFP) indicates that I am a person who thrives on variety. Sometimes I will create variety just to keep things interesting. For example, when I drive somewhere, I almost always take a different route back home.
Learning productivity skills has not stifled my love for spontaneity nor my ability to be impulsive from time to time. Being systematic in some areas of my life has given me bandwidth to follow my bliss in other areas.
Setting goals every year, AND tracking my progress toward those goals, gives me comfort that I am not wandering aimlessly through my life and work. So, if there is a weekend when I want to, well, wander aimlessly, I can do it without guilt.
Managing my calendar as if my life depended on it means that I don’t have to worry that my son is going to be left waiting outside the aquatic center with no parent to pick him up. So, if I want to get a massage, I schedule one.
Downloading my brain onto my Outlook Tasks list lets me know that I am not going to forget what I need to do. And! If I finish my tasks for the day, I am free to follow my neurological impulses all the way to a lovely game of Spider Solitaire.
Calls to Action can be wonderful and transformative. But look at them as coffee beans. If eaten raw, a handful of coffee beans can cause unpleasant physical…issues.
But, when coffee beans are roasted, ground up, put in a filter, and passed over with hot water, they become something warm, delicious, and uplifting.
Just don’t forget the filter.
*Hat Tip to Jon Acuff’s hilarious and useful book, Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done.
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Melissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.