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Seven Things That Keep Us From Getting Home on Time

Seven Things That Keep Us From Getting Home on Time
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Time wasters are often things that we enjoy. They often are the seed of great frustration as well. The frustration manifests at the end of the day when we think, “What did I do today?” or “Why didn’t those things get done?” or “I guess I’ll be here until 8pm so that I’m not late with that project.”
Recognizing some of our time wasters as we get into them is a great thing to do because maybe we’ll limit that habit of wasting time. And, limiting our wasting time hopefully means that we’ll be getting our things done and getting on to things and people we enjoy.

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  1. Procrastination in making decision is one of the unrecognized time wasters. It is under the radar because we are sitting at the desk immersed in data, thinking, and collecting more background. We have conversations with people more expert or closer to the situation than we. We appear busy because we are BUT it’s time to make a decision already. There is a time when we have to pound a stake in the ground by making the best decision we can given the information that we have. Be done with it. And, move on. It is likely that whatever the decision is, you can refine it later as things are tested, more information is gathered, and time passes.
  2. Surfing the net, also known as ‘research’, is a time waster that is noted for being the #1 time waster – even at work. This was recognized at polls done this year, 2007, by Microsoft and Salary.com. (see a summary article at Reuters). It is easy to follow a series of interesting articles on and on and on until you are completely off the topic that you started reading about. Yeesh that can take a lot of time.
  3. Meetings that are disorganized and unplanned are commonly pointed at with remarks like, “That was the biggest waste of time.” Meetings without agendas are offenders. Meetings that are political over productive can be demoralizing and demotivating. Even big meetings with attendees flown in from across the nation are considered a waste of time when the information isn’t relevant and meaningful to the attendees.
  4. People not meeting their commitments is a time waster. When a group of people is working on a project often completion of one set of tasks precludes the start of the next set of tasks. If the first set isn’t complete the work cannot move forward and those waiting for results to be handed off are wasting their time in the waiting game.
  5. Chit chat at the water cooler and instant messaging are often time wasters. Sure, recounting the great soccer game from the past weekend can be entertaining and enjoyable. Instant messaging with a few people is definitely distracting and can interrupt your flow of getting work completed. Chatting can be motivating and promote inclusion. Chatting can take you so far off track that an hour passes without productive results.
  6. Playing solitaire or other games on your computer. I am a testament to losing track of time while playing games on a computer. I could not tally the hours I spent playing backgammon online one year – but it was a lot of hours. So, I quit. Haven’t played it for a few years.
  7. Perusing catalogs can be an immense time sink especially at this pre-Christmas time of year. In my classes I assign ‘record the time you spend viewing a new catalog’. The results average to approximately 12 minutes per catalog. 5 catalogs totals an hour of lost time.

What’s your favorite time waster? Tell us in your comments to this post.

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Susan Sabo is the writer at Productivity Cafe – a favorite place to stop and spend some time.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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