Choosing to Do Hard Work, is Hard

My aversion to non-optimal experience is such that I would rather fritter my time away on harmless distractions that don’t add much value to my day; in my primitive slug brain, the treat that pains me less is preferred to the possibility of something frustrating. It has gotten to the point where even allocation of time becomes an activity fraught with negativity; my assumption is that most chores and difficult tasks are going to be frustrating or confining, and my subconscious generates the negative anticipation.

Via Miser of All Time from David Seah.

Like Dave I have this problem too.  His list of suggestions to counteract this problem were spot on.

Care Before All Else

First care.

In my experience (yes, as I said, hard-won experience), obsessing over the slipperiness of focus, bemoaning the volume of those devil “distractions,” and constantly reassessing which shiny new “system” might make your life suddenly seem more sensible—these are all terrifically useful warning flares that you may be suffering from a deeper, more fundamental problem.

How to Reconnect to Your Work

There is something uniquely powerful about starting your day chatting it up with friends or brainstorming with coworkers.

Today, I had three meetings before I had a real chance to get started on any type of work. Normally this would be seen as a bad way to start the day. The conventional wisdom is to start with your most important task of the day, then the next, and the next until you’ve produced meaningful progress or results.

Typically I agree with this advice. But, I think it is also too simplistic at times for us fickle humans. For me personally I am often uninspired or just out of whack. Diving head on into my task list is thus difficult. The very thought of starting is really hard.

At times like these, and especially Monday mornings, I find it extremely helpful and really refreshing to talk about your work with others. For me it gives my work meaning and purpose. It gives me a connection to others on my team as well, which is often easy to forget. My three early mornings gave me a little bit of extra fuel that I needed to get to work.

The Takeaway

If you are feeling unconnected to your work or plain old uninspired, find ways to talk about your work with others, whether it’s coworkers, meeting a friend for morning coffee, or through social networks.

How to Focus and Beat Procrastination With the Pomodoro Technique

I first learned about the Pomodoro technique from Maren Kate and have loved it ever since.  If you are not familiar with the technique it goes a little something like this:

Set a timer for 25 minutes and work on one thing.

When the timer goes off, set the timer for 5 minutes and take a break.  This is one Pomodoro

Repeat until your heart is fulfilled

To avoid have a physical timer I use this app at work and this app on my Mac.

One of the new ways I’ve strategically started using this technique is to make a goal of doing two Pomodoros every morning before I go to work.  Even though this is only about an hour of work, I find that something magical happens when I press the start button to begin a Pomodoro.  I develop instant laser-focus and procrastination instantly fades.

I think it’s due to the fact that I’m only committing to working for 25 minutes at a time.  So pychologically I take have as much resistance to just getting started.  And as I’ve written about before, just getting started is the hardest part of Doing Work.  Once you get going it’s smooth sailing.

The Pomodoro technique has helped me start tasks and get things done.  I hope it works for you too.


What I’ve Learned from Merlin Mann and David Allen about Procrastination

The best way to fight procrastination is to figure out the very next action you need to take in order to meet a goal.

For example let’s say you need to buy shoes and you’ve been putting it off.  The next action is not “buy shoes.” That’s the outcome/goal/result you want to achieve.  You can’t just buy shoes.  There are several steps you need to take in order to buy shoes.

The next action might be to schedule a trip to the mall on your calendar.  Or:

Look up shoes on  (Notice how both actions start with verbs)

This is the best trick in the book to fight procrastination that I learned from David Allen.  Figure out the very next action and you will be on your way to completing your goal.

Okay, so now you know what the next action is to meet your result (buying shoes).  It’s all spelled out and you will bang out the task right?  Well maybe.  In most instances yes you will, but in some cases the procrastination gods are too strong.  Why is that?  Why can’t you do a simple task like go to the mall or browse a website?


The answer is that you simply don’t care enough.  This is profound, let it sink in.  You are procrastinating because the result of getting new shoes really isn’t that important.  You just don’t care enough.  This is what Merlin Mann taught me.

Maybe you will care someday, but today you don’t, so try not to feel bad about it.  Right now you have other more important or urgent priorities and that’s okay.  You can’t care about everything, otherwise you would care about nothing.

The thing to remember with tasks and projects that aren’t work-related (meaning you don’t HAVE to do them), is to go with your gut and what you feel motivated to do.  When you are motivated and passionate about doing something it will get done faster with less or no pain.

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