How to do things when they do not want to do

Original author: Kate Matsudaira
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Five strategies to get things done

Have you ever come to work, sit down at a computer to start a project, open an editor, and then just stare at the screen? It happens to me all the time, so your torment is familiar to me.

Even if you like your work, you may not want to do it every day. There are many factors that affect your ability to come to work with enthusiasm and work all day.

Your mind may be busy with external events - problems in the family, breaking up relationships, sick pets - because of which it will be difficult to concentrate. At work, of course, there are also problems that make it difficult to feel motivated. A bad review of your work can knock your mind. And if you are working hard on a project that your manager does not appreciate, you can think about why you are so tense.

In other cases, you may need to work on tasks that you don’t like (for me, writing a lot of tests or documentation) or on boring projects. If your job is not interesting, or the task given to you is too simple for you, you may have difficulty finding motivation.

So what to do? Many people engage in procrastination or ignore the task - but this only delays the inevitable. You can try to refuse to engage in a similar task, and your manager may support you - but at some point you will have to do the work.

If you want to be successful, then it would be better for you to find the strength in yourself regardless of the circumstances. This means learning to overcome obstacles and delivering valuable results. Since this situation is common, I decided to describe five of my best strategies for how to do a great job, even if I don’t want to.

Gamification workflow

I used to be scared of especially big projects. If there are a lot of tasks in the project that I didn’t know how to cope with, or which seemed very difficult, I hardly even started on it, because I was overwhelmed by its scale. Of course, this meant that I was engaged in procrastination, until there was a minimum amount of time left to complete the project. After that, I tried to work an insane amount of hours a day, and sometimes gave out “working” code that was not ready for normal use (it was full of errors, did not cover extreme cases, was subjected to minimal testing, worked only in my development environment). It bothered me a lot, and usually meant that the quality of my work was not as good as it could have been if I had just started work earlier.

It was one of the biggest obstacles at the beginning of my career: it was very difficult for me to start. But I found that if we simplify the beginning of the process, then the first steps on this oppressive path turned out to be more tolerant. And taking the first steps, it was much easier to go on.

My decision was the approach to the project, which breaks it down into as many tiny steps as possible. In this way, I managed to record many victories at my own expense. For example, one step could be a task like “to search Google for this or that” or “to talk with that”. Crossing out the items on the list provides your brain with small, happy portions of dopamine, even if these puzzles were tiny - it supports your motivation and does not allow excuses.

Try to break the project into the smallest steps you can. Each step should be really small (I try to accomplish tasks that take no more than 15 minutes to complete) and really easy - so that you can write a victory into your account! You need to overcome inertia, and small victories are added up, facilitating this task.

Reserve time in the calendar for each project

Allocate time in the calendar to work on a task if you have problems starting it. Treat her as seriously as any other assigned task or meeting. You should come and start working on the project.

Reserve as much time as possible to make real progress - at least 30 minutes to an hour. This is a key strategy for busy people or managers. If you do not allocate time for meaningful strategic work, your time will be filled with tactical tasks.

But what if you don’t want to work on a task in the allotted time? Set a timer to get started. Set it to 10 minutes, and promise yourself that you should only work until the end of the timer. Start working on the list of tiny steps that you have done for yourself: google, set up a project, send one letter, view the document.

Almost always, one or two such steps will trigger your brain, and it will be easier to continue. You will do one task, cross it out of the list, and proceed to the next. The 10-minute timer will finish, and you will continue because you are already involved in the project.

If you don’t get involved in a project after 10 minutes (although it rarely happens to me), allow yourself a break. But select another period of time in the calendar to return to the project soon.

Involve other people in the project

Sometimes the best way to do something is to make yourself accountable to another person. According to a study by the American Society for Training and Development, people who promise something to another person have a chance to achieve goals of 65%. This figure rises to 95% when you agree to a special meeting with a report on the work done.

Our brain is tuned in that we should not let other people down. If someone invests in you, agreeing to help you achieve your goal, you are fueled by the desire to fulfill the promise. This can be done in several ways:
  • Set a deadline for certain aspects of the project together with the manager, and discuss regular reports on the status of the project.
  • Ask for help on any part of the project. With the help of another person, reducing your workload, you can complete other parts of the project. Schedule a meeting with someone who helps you to combine the results.
  • Set up regular meetings with a colleague to work together. Suppose if the two of you were instructed to conduct several difficult tests that you would have better postponed, set a time to meet and finish them.
  • Take the scrum part of Agile technology and discuss your work with your colleagues every day.

Delegating work can be especially useful when you have a really large project in hand. Sometimes the scale of a project is so overwhelming that it’s hard to start. If you can ask a team to help with a part of it, you can concentrate on more doable work.

Talk about it

It will be much easier to deal with the problem, clotting it in a specific shape. In our imagination things can be greatly exaggerated, especially if we are suppressed by them.

Do not count the episodes when I started telling someone how much the project was pressing me - for example, that I had no ideas for the article, or that the problem was so complex that I had no idea how to solve it - after which by the end of the conversation I was already inspired by the full program. At other times, I am so afraid that something will go wrong (or that something is already going wrong) that these feelings overwhelm me.

Scientific studies have shown that telling aloud about feelings reduces stress and discomfort. Imaging of the brain byat the University of California, Los Angeles, showed that when an image of an evil face is shown to a person, his almond-shaped body becomes more active. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for activating the anxious system of the brain - it lets you know that you have something to fear, and starts a reaction in the body to fight the threat.

However, when the subjects could call what they saw, a simple design of their feelings into words lowered the activity of the amygdala. Moreover, in this case, the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex was activated. Other studies have shown that this area of ​​the brain is associated with the processing of emotions and the selection of words for emotional experiences.

So a simple story about your big project can help you get started. In addition, if you are talking to smart friends or mentors, they may have suggestions related to how to start a project, or a suitable experience with similar projects. You can relax and wise up at the same time.

Practice the art of "prestige"

Do you have problems working from home when you are distracted by dirty dishes in the sink or washed things that need to be folded? You may have been called a procrastinator, but in fact you may be the opposite.

I used to master procrastination skillfully. I could find excuses not to start work and not even think about it. And, as I understood again and again, procrastination is bad. It comes from the fear of starting work, and you do not allow yourself to achieve results by doing things that distract you from what needs to be done. But there is also such a thing as a “prescription”, and it is just very useful.

When working on a project, your brain needs breaks - not just to recharge, but also to form new connections, to generate new ideas. Therefore, if you get up from the table to wash the dishes, fold the laundry, take a shower, take a walk, do other simple things, at this moment your mind can calmly dream, and this can have a very positive effect on your productivity.

When you do something nice, your brain secretes dopamine (just like when you delete a task from the to-do list - because it's nice!). So when you go for a walk in the middle of the work process, your brain secretes dopamine. It activates parts of the brain that are associated with creativity, and makes them work. It is then that moments of illumination occur - as your brain sends energy to areas that help create new connections and see things in a new light.

The next time you hang out with a project you don’t want to start, try doing something nice. You may have a great idea when you rinse dishes, and this can make you happily run to the computer and get to work.

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