Beating Procrastination
Started off as a tip to beat procrastination, ended up analyzing a whole swimming session, from beginning to the end.

In order not to procrastinate, we have to first develop a routine, and then you just get into the habit of following the routine. Once we follow the routine, we are not procrastinating any more, instead, we are acting.

What's a routine?

A routine is basically a succession of actions that we follow to perform a certain task. First we create the routine by adding together many actions and then we perform them in succession every day without ever changing them until they become second nature to us.

Once we have found a routine that works for us, when the time comes we simply follow it in autopilot till the task is completed. For instance I have developed a routine that I used this winter when I went swimming in the sea.

Swimming in the sea in the middle of winter is considered an extreme sport and can be quite dangerous so the routine as well as helping me get off my butt and get out there, helps me maintain a certain degree of safety throughout the whole process.

In other words, once all single variables that make up the routine have been tried and tested, and found to be working, they are not changed any more but become integral part of the routine, and then the routine is simply repeated, each time I have to perform the task.

And so long as I repeat each and every step of it every time, I know that I will be fine each time. I'll get into the practical example of all the pieces of my "going to the seaside in the middle of winter, (January/February) getting into the sea for a 13 minutes swim and then getting back home safely without suffering hypotermia, losing fingers from the cold, catching a cold or anything bad".

This is actually two routines joined together because I go there by bicycle, so I must also dress according for it otherwise I might be too hot/too cold. Anyway, I have a hot water bottle which I made, it holds exactly two liters of water.

Start routine on autopilot, time required: less than 15 minutes, no thinking just doing:
1) Fill hot water bottle with water right up to the top, empty kettle, empty hot water bottle content into the kettle, turn kettle on
2) take trousers/pants off put swimming trunks on, put red fleece trousers on, put padded shoes on
3) put top on, put flight jacket on
4) put funnel to water bottle, empty kettle into bottle, close lid, wrap bottle into big swimming towel, place all into rucksack.
5) add blue bathrobe to rucksack, wash swimming goggles with soap, rinse and dry, place them into their case with waterproof mp3 player on, place in rucksack together with video camera and freshly recharged batteries.
6) place fresh socks, underpants, t-shirt into a carrier bag, place bag into rucksack, close rucksack.
7) place headphones on, turn mp3 player on, put head wrap on, put beret on
8) put menthol sweet in mouth and one in the side pocket of rucksack together with rear and front bike lights with fresh batteries.
Grab keys and get out of the house.
About 10 minutes spent doing this and it happens without me noticing it.

I usually start this routine at around midday, that's if I see from my window that outside is sunny and clear. It seems like a normal routine if seen from the outside, but what I wear is very important and never changes.

I actually dress DOWN when I get out of the house, it is my "cycling uniform".. I know that when I dress like this I will be able to move comfortably and I won't be cold or too hot. Actually, by the time I get there I am sweaty but it doesn't matter as I have a fresh change for when I get out of the water.

Anyway, having got out of the house and onto the bicycle and started pedaling, I start to feel alive and very well, countryside is welcoming me with colours and smells.. I can't hear the birds as I am listening to my music.

Pedal on for about 5 miles, about 20 minutes on I get to the seaside and here starts part two of the routine, the part about getting into the water. At this point I am allowed a little bit of slacking off, maybe 5 minutes looking around, I might take my headphones off to hear the sounds and better check the place out.

Not too muck slacking off as I am a little sweaty and wet and I don't really want to get cold, so, while these 5 minutes are passing I actually still am following the routine in that I walk the bicycle up the breakwater to find a suitable spot where to fix it so that it will be pointing at the water between one breakwater and the next.

This is the space of water which I'll be swimming on, I'll go from one breakwater to the other and back. In the summer it takes me about 7 minutes, in winter it is about 30 seconds less but it varies on how I feel.

I position the bicycle this way as I then attach the video camera to its handlebars to record the swim. This, if I have a video camera with me. I have found that NOT bringing it with me slims my routine down by quite a long time and this is good for the mind, in the end the whole operation becomes easier if I don't bring it, so I often don't bring it. In this case I have brought it so I stick it to the handlebars, point it and turn it on. I then walk back to the beginning of the breakwater I find a flat rock as close to shore as possible, I then take flying jacket off, turn mp3 player on and wear headphones which are attached to swimming goggles.

The song I hear is always the same song, I now have time one song to perform some mild warming up, mainly for the shoulders and arms and neck I just "swim" in the air, without forcing it but being constant and without stopping, turning my neck each 3 strokes to either left or right, what I am doing is simply moving all the muscles which I'll be moving when I'll be in the sea, as far as I care I am already in the sea as I am already swimming.. as the song is coming to an end, I take shoes/socks/trousers off, take top off, t/shirt off and here I am, about 2 degrees in January, wearing only a swimming cup and trunks but the sun is hitting on my skin and it does feel great, if a bit naked..

I get into the water and I do have time till the start of next song to actually go all under water, at this point the body does feel the freezing water, my feet and knees do feel like they are in a vice of ice as I walk into deeper water, the new song blasts on, and that's when I go under and immediately spring back  out, then I let me fall back in.. the water is then taken, I now DEFINITELY am not thinking but acting and that's when I start swimming towards the breakwater on breaststroke.  I found that conditioning my mind to always listen to the same songs while I do this stuff, throws my body even more into autopilot and this part is almost painless, I definitely am NOT stopping at this point.

The breakwater is so far away, it is tiny and the water is total ice, the music is pushing to making me go absolutely and totally wild but there's no way I could do that as I'd be out of breath in about 3 minutes and would probably get cramps, which might equate to big trouble, so I am just doing my Breaststroke and at this point not even getting my head under, the face and head are the last part of the body to get used to the water and if I do it too soon I get that massive headache that we all have experienced when eating an ice-cream that's just too cold.

I am not too sure why that happens but it hurts a lot and I am definitely doing my best to avoid it, so on I go with my breaststroke, slowly but surely for maybe half way to the other side, every couple of strokes I get more and more water onto my face till I am getting under more and more, then by the time I have reached the other and I am already going under with my head at each of the breaststrokes and there's no headache, everything is fine, my whole body is numb for the first 1cm of my skin and cold, I do not feel.. just fresh...

At this point, I don't know if it is the adrenaline, the cold, the whatever it is, fact is that I am bursting with an extreme joy and I feel the sun beating on me as if it is golden honey over me.

I usually can't contain myself and having reached the other end I shout with joy, a cry that's mixed with laugh and who knows what else, I then turn and get back into the swim which is now a steady but sure front crawl, I swear I can sense the sun warming up the back of my head and my arms as they come out of the water. By the time I have got back to the starting point, song 3 has ended and about 13 minutes have passed. I then get out, put robe on, take a sip of hot water, rinse my feet with it, take my trunks off hang about maybe 2 minutes while drying up a bit, till now I am not cold, then I dress up, go retrieve video camera, get back onto the bicycle and here the cold starts to get into me but I then start to pedal back home which I do all in one go, by the time I am back home I might be sweaty again. When I get home I might grab some food and then have a coffee and that's when I am finally out of pilot mode. Everything I have written till the coffee gets repeated each time I go into swimming mode, nothing changes at all, not even the colour of the trousers I wear.

Said this I did try out the black trousers and found them to be quite equivalent to the red ones so they are now both part of the "winter cycling uniform" haha. I do change the routine, to improve it but when I change any major step of it I always do it very carefully and testing the change thoroughly before accepting it into the new routine. Of course the most important step of it all is the time I stay in the water, at first it was just a quick 5 minutes swim and 30 seconds at the time I know swim the whole length of my "pool" and back.

The next step will be to turn back once more and swim about 30 seconds out and then the 30 seconds to get back, and then see how it all feel when I am back home. Then do it again the next swim. And then if everything (when at home, all done and ended) feels just as good, i can then declare the extra one minute part of the routine and always do the extra minute, till the day that I will feel like pushing it a little bit more and instead of 30 seconds back out I might do one whole minute and then one whole minute back to bring total time to 15 minutes. To be said that as time passes and I do my testing, the winter starts to let go and so the water starts to get warmer.
February Swimming at Eraclea Mare Venice, Italy

For instance over here January and February are months when the water will be about 8 Celsius but coming march, we can already hope for at least one or sometimes 2 degrees more and this means WAY less danger, I do know that at about the middle of April I stop bothering about water temperature and although it might still be fairly cold, I have already swam more than an hour at that time of the year and one hour is the time I will swim in the summer too, so once I reach that time I come out, regardless.

The only time I might swim longer than an hour is when

1) it is past may and so I am already in the mode that I swim each and every day

2) I know that the day after I won't be able to swim, and so I might want to make up for the time that I'll lose