Motivation is a great thing. It helps to move mountains, make lemonade from the apples or build the snowman out of rain. Also it helps to perform your daily job. But when it’s gone, even Chuck Norris cannot help you to bring it back. The problem is that it can be gone in the middle of the day leaving you with a pile of work that you don’t want to do but you have to. So how to get the job done if this is the last thing you want to do?
This was the question I asked myself when I found that I was constantly diverging from my tasks. It’s not that I was interested in something particular, but I noticed I used every opportunity to not to do the job. When I tried to approach this problem scientifically and do some research, I found out that there’re many people out there with similar problems, but different reasons. Some couldn’t stop thinking about their personal issues, others - didn’t have the motivation to do virtually anything. There were also people who didn’t have a real motivation issue, but they wanted to become even more productive.
The first thing to do in such cases is of course to
change the employer take a vacation and try to get some rest. But if it does not work out well or you cannot take a vacation then you have to figure out something else.
So I decided to fight with this issue and this is what I did.
Block the distractors
First of all, I tried to block the distractors as much as possible. Since the main source of distraction is your
brain browser, there’re ready solutions for that. I installed LeachBlock extension for Firefox and configured it to give me only few minutes of access to the distracting websites per every 6 hours. I believe it’s better to leave a couple of minutes usage time since there’s not much of new content at other times anyway.
It is relatively easy to repeat this exercise on your phone using one of the ready apps like AppBlock or HelpMeFocus on Android or Let Me Focus on iOS. Now when the daily usage limits are enforced it’s easier to move on.
Blocking the distractors was the easy part. If you still cannot get inspired enough by your tasks, probably just like this guy from Oracle, read on. After some research I found the concept of “pomodoro technique”. You can read more about it in the blog, but what is important is that you split your tasks into pieces that can be done in some small reasonable amount of time (like 25 minutes). Then you write down what exactly you’re going to do and start the timer. During this designated interval of time you force yourself not to do anything else except of the task you chose. No calls, no emails, no helping your colleagues. Just you and the task. After that time - you’re free to do anything. In original “pomodoro technique” this “aftertime” is a fixed 5 or 15 minute rest interval, but this is not important at this point. After the rest you “rinse and repeat” this procedure with next task.
Even after my first “pomodoro” interval I understood this is a very good way to tackle the problem. Having promised “free time” after some small work interval relaxes mental resistance to force yourself to do something. It allows to fully focus on the task. Ticking timer keeps you accountable and also helps to get back to task if you accidentally diverged (yes, that could happen).
After practicing it a couple of days I found a magical property of this approach that I wasn’t aware of. Even 1 focused “pomodoro” window for me somehow works out to be more productive than “ordinary” couple of hours. Also it happens that after the timer has ended I’m still in the flow and don’t even need to get the break for some time. It feels like the ultimate goal of this approach is in removing the need to use the approach itself.
I figured out it helps a lot to stand during this time interval. So if your desk can be converted to a standing desk, I highly recommend to go for it. It makes it even more official, along with act of writing down the task and starting the timer.
Speaking about music, during the “pomodoro” interval I only listen to ambient, electronic or classic music. Music with lyrics seems to distract me a little bit so I tend to avoid it.
Another thing that can help with motivation is getting something new in your routine. Buy yourself a new headphones, mouse or a keyboard. Install a new application to your computer or anything that can bring a touch of unknown. Of course, you have to be careful with shopping because it is another dangerous pitfall, just like the lack of motivation.
In my opinion, this approach can help many people with lack of motivation. A reasonable amount of discipline can do wonders to people. A promise to work focused “just a little bit” and have rest after does it’s mental magic and is productive. In fact it could be even more productive than ordinary work. While practicing it myself I found there’re many ways to enhance it and probably even more that I don’t know of. All in all, it is worth nothing to try it out and the benefits could be huge.