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How to Stay Productive During the Winter Holidays

How to Stay Productive During the Winter Holidays

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    It’s December and one side of my brain is already thinking about presents, imagining the warmth of home, and preparing a list of “must-buys” for Christmas entertaining . The other side ois stuck with the reality of my daily life: me, at the office, dealing with day-to-day tasks. My attention has been divided and this can be seen in my results. It’s not the best situation you want to deal with, especially when the boss has clear expectations from you and reminds you that holiday starts only on  the 24th of December. Therefore, we all most refocus and get concentrate to get things done in time. If this sounds like you, the tips listed below might help.

    1. Create shopping lists on the weekends. Gather with your family and write down everything you need to buy for Christmas: food, presents, etc. This is also the right moment to decide where you will go and to make reservation if applicable.

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    2. Beat the rush. To remain productive at work it’s important to make plans and schedule while you are home and to do this in time without delaying untilthe last moment. In this way you will not be stressed before Christmas.

    3. Dedicate your after-work time to online shopping. If you are searching for gifts and sales after work then you will not be tempted to do this at work the next day.

    4. Ask for favors. There’s nothing wrong in asking for help from your friends and family if you find yourself stressed by time.

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    5. Organize your work and get things done. Once you get to the office, forget about Christmas and organize your work. Schedule your tasks and start working.

    6. Deal with important tasks first. Morning is the most productive part of the day for most of us, so it’s better to get the most important tasks done in this part of the day. Doing this you might get some free minutes for daydreaming about the holidays in the afternoon (but don’t be too obvious).

    7. Steal time from your break if you want to check last-minute offers. If you know there will be a good promotional offer and you want to catch it, you can do this during you lunch break. But don’t waste all your time in front of computer eating junk food because this will definitely not increase your productivity.

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    8. Focus on your work not on how your vacation will be. I know the holiday spirit has caught hold of you, but stay on target. Try picturing yourself not taking that vacation because you lost your bonus due to sloppy work while you were daydreaming about your holiday trip.

    9. Avoid distractions. You will receive e-cards, your colleagues will go on about their vacations, but you have to ignore all that and stay focused. Don’t get involved. Choose an e-card and schedule it to be sent automatically to all your contacts and in this way you won’t have to worry you missed someone.

    10. Be consistent in your work. If you start falling behind, don’t give up! Take a 5 minute break and start over with new energy and fresh ideas.

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    11. Think about the consequences if you won’t finish the work. It’s not a nice approach but this might motivate you.

    Like everything else, we have to find a balance between work and Christmas preparations. Managers will not accept unfinished projects no matter how badly you need to go buy gifts for your family and friends. Moreover, you don’t want spend the Christmas Eve at the office finishing tasks that you’ve put off. Choose to be productive and you might receive a nice reward for your work.

    How do you stay focused at work with the holidays upon us? Share your strategies in the comments!

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    How to Stay Productive During the Winter Holidays

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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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