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Tag Archives: Thought

I’ve been writing a post every day, just a quick note on my work habits and what thought patterns or external conditions are affecting them (you haven’t seen them because they’re marked “Private”).  It’s helping me to recognize what helps me focus (a good night’s sleep) and what throws me off the rails (having to make a tough decision).  I’m finding it helpful.

Here’s today’s nugget of wisdom.  A few minutes of down time really helps me to re-focus.

I often find myself staring at the screen, sleepily wondering what I should be working on.  I semi-consciously scroll through my inbox or gaze at my old to-do list, half the items crossed off, unable to make a decision.  Without a clear sense of priority, I too often just start goofing off instead of working.

Contrast that with today: on my way back from a morning meeting, I turned off the radio and just let my mind wander (that part of my mind which wasn’t engaged in driving!).  Pretty soon I was thinking about what else I wanted to accomplish today when i got back to the office.  I was remembering things that I want to get done, mentally prioritizing them, and even started to work on one of them in my head!  When I got home, I quickly scribbled out a prioritized to-do list and dove into work on it.

I should take some time every day to do nothing.  Not a web-comic break,  but really to do nothing.  A ten-minute walk, or a sit in the back yard to listen to the birds.  Followed by a bit of thought on what else I want to accomplish that day.

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Why am I procrastinating like a bastard today?

  • got woken up in the middle of the night last night, didn’t get back to sleep.  So, a bit sleep deprived.  It has been shown in scientific studies that we have less willpower when we’re fatigued.  That goes for everything from goofing off to resisting junk food.
  • I’m at the start of two big, messy projects.  They’ve been hard to break down into digestible tasks.  So I’m dreading working on those.
  • Some non-work things came in on the email today, but I’m sure I could have resisted those til later if not for #1 and #2.
  • I have recently upped my daily productivity goal, and I’m finding it hard to achieve.  In fact I haven’t achieved it yet (today is day-3).  I have probably set the bar too high.  Baby steps.

Ok, its 2:00, I can still get a fair chunk of work done today.

Oh damn, the AC repair guy has just arrived…

-J

Great little article on Lifehacker, I had a lightbulb moment when I read it.

Bring a Little Imagination to Your Work Planning for a Motivation Boost

It’s a summary of a longer article just published by Psychology Today, which you may also read (link in the Lifehacker article).

Briefly: it’s hard to motivate yourself when you are expecting boredom or other unpleasantness from the task before you.  Instead, imagine the good feelings that you will have when the task is complete.  Relief, pride, the joy of getting paid, a day off, whatever is your light at the end of the tunnel.  Take a moment, imagine it, feel it, associate it with the task at hand.  Feeling a little more motivated now?

-J

One idea that has been ringing very true for me lately is that the “me” who sets my deadlines, writes my to-do list and creates my daily plans is not the same “me” who actually sits down to do the work.

I feel so empowered and optimistic when I’m planning.  I’m going to get it done early, I’m going to be so productive today, I’m going to replenish my bank account, I’m going to make my clients happy.

And then I try to get down to work.  I read the first item on my list, and the next thing I know I’m checking Facebook again.  I try to re-focus on the task at hand – and there it is waiting for me, that feeling of dread.  The optimism of a moment ago is already forgotten.  It’s like I’m two different people, the planner and the worker.

I am most productive when I am interested in the work I’m doing.

I am most productive when I have a due date, and there is a real person expecting my results on that date, and especially if I know that the client of my efforts will be in a difficult position if I don’t deliver – in other words, the deadline is not an arbitrary.

I am most productive when I get out of the perfectionist mindset and into the just-get-it-done mindset.  This tends to happen on every project as the deadline looms.  I need to get better at making the switch sooner.  Some people have the just-get-it-done mindset by default.  These people amaze me, they are maximally productive by habit.
 
When I have not been productive, I feel:

  • anger at myself, for sliding back into the same bad habits again
  • dread, over having to tell the boss/client that it’s going to be late, and having to make excuses
  • fear, of contacting stakeholders for further information, because now they will realize that I’m just starting the work
  • despair, that I’ll ever get my life going in the direction I want it to go

 
Tactics that rarely incent me to work harder:

  • meticulous planning
  • obsessing over the consequences of non-performance
  • deadlines set far in the future
  • setting personal rewards for completing work on time

 
How about you?  Anything to add?

-J

You know, we like to think of ourselves as these beings of pure intelligence that happen to ride around in fleshy bodies.  But the truth is, we ARE our bodies, and our bodies have a huge influence over our mental states. *

What have I done so far today?  I could list 15 things I’ve accomplished, but they can all be stated as “sitting at the computer and…”.   As far as my body is concerned, I’ve been sitting still for hours.  No wonder I start to get bored, restless, have trouble concentrating, can’t force myself to work anymore, want to do something fun!  And if I do take a break to email a friend or watch some movie trailers, in other words still “sitting at the computer and…”, NO WONDER I still don’t feel like working afterwards!

Physical action is so important to feeling good, happy and willing to work!  Paradoxically, even getting up from the computer to take out the garbage and empty the dishwasher can lift my mood.  Walking to the store and back can replenish my mental energies enough to allow me to finish up a work task that was depressing me, before.

Get up and move, keep your body happy and your mind will follow.

-J

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*this also explains why it’s so hard to avoid temptation.  A craving is more than just your mental desire for something (junk food, drugs, sex), a craving is your body’s way of MAKING you do something that it thinks it needs!  That’s why dieting doesn’t work.  That’s why you can’t talk teens into not having sex.  For every craving, there are good and bad ways to respond — but you WILL respond, eventually.  The body always wins.