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5 Tips to Get Started Working NOW

5 Tips to Get Started Working NOW

Does this seem familiar?

“You get to your desk and prepare to work. You look around to make sure all your gear is there; pen, paper, desktop… All good. You check the clock, and it’s just about time to start. And then just as you get to it, your mind kicks into over drive.”

  • This is going to suck.
  • I know this’ll be boring.
  • I don’t feel like doing this.
  • Do I REALLY have to go through with this?

Recognize these thoughts? Of course you do, we all do. It’s what we think when we don’t feel like doing something.

You see, whenever we sit down to work, there’s always a chance that we’ll ruin our productivity before we’ve done a single thing, and it’s because it only takes a single thought of doing work to set off a chain reaction of procrastination inducing thoughts.

Is there no way to prevent this? Are we always at the whim of a single thought ruining our productivity?

No, there is something you can do about it, and all it takes is a couple of smart tips.

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You just don’t “feel” like working

It’s true, and you’re not alone. Even if you love your work, sometimes you’re going to sit down and realize that you just don’t feel like doing it. It’s a common problem, which makes it all the more important that you figure out how to fix it.

You rely on willpower to do all your work

Willpower certainly has it’s place when it comes to being productive, but not as the sole force behind getting to work. Relying on it guarantees you’ll burnout long before the day has ended.

5 tips for getting to work

If you want to know how to get to work without draining every ounce of willpower you have, you’re going to need to know how to leverage the willpower you have.

And you can do that by using your willpower on these tips instead.

1. Make a work-time ritual

The most important part of being able to work when you need to, is making it a habit.

When work is habitual, the transition into it is more seamless. There’s much less chance of thoughts like “I don’t feel like it” to make you procrastinate, and it’s because habits are something we compulsively do.

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(Even when it comes to working).

The ritual is all about what comes before the actual work, and is very personal. Here’s some things you can do to ritualize your work process:

  • Light a candle
  • Turn on some music (or whatever you use as background noise).
  • Have a piece of candy
  • Organize your work space
  • Prepare a cup of tea/coffee

These actions can serve as cues that prepare the brain for the work that follows. Once you do it enough times, you won’t even realize that you’ve sat down and started working.

2. Create a to-do list beforehand

The reason a to-do list is helpful is because you prevent ambiguity from ruining your work session. If you don’t know what work you have to do, then eventually you’ll drift into semi important tasks because you have no direction.

A to-do list take the guesswork out of doing your work, meaning you expend less mental energy deciding what to do and more on actually working.

Here’s a basic template to get you started:

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1x3x5 method – Pick one important task, three medium important tasks, and 5 random tasks to accomplish each day. Do them in order of importance, and that’s all there is to it.

3. Work on the tiniest/easiest task

Often times we feel overwhelmed by the amount of work we need to do. When this happens, we back away from the work because we feel a lot of pressure to complete it.

To combat this, don’t look at your work as a whole. Instead, focus on the smallest, easiest thing you can do, and imagine it’s all you have to do. If you do that, you’ll have a significantly easier time engaging with it and prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed.

4. Work for 2 minutes only

Another simple hack is to say to yourself “I only need to work for two minutes, then I can stop if I want.” This lowers the expectation of long, tedious work to follow and makes work engagement easier.

You’ll find that by simply starting to work, you’re able to push past two minutes and – more often than not – work to your designated break time.

If two minutes still seems too long, feel free to lower it. The key is to start working, once that occurs you’ll naturally want to continue.

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5. Use gamification apps

Sometimes using an app or tool can bring some freshness to the work process, and motivate you to work just so you can use the app.

With gamification, tasks feel more like game and can even be fun. Here are some good ones to try out:

  1. HabitRPG
  2. TaskHammer
  3. EpicWin

If you’re a video game lover, then this is perfect for you to try out.

Do you have any tips that get you in the mood to work? Leave your answer below because I’d love to hear it :)

Featured photo credit: BK via secure.flickr.com

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Ericson Ay Mires

Ericson is a writer who shares about work and productivity tips on Lifehack.

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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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