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I am a student, so doing my homework has to be the most horrid part of my day. Although I know I can do it, and it really won't take that long, I hate it. Something in my mind makes me repel against the requirement of homework.

I recently started to use the Pomodoro technique, and I really do like it, but I can't seem to press start on my timer. How do you make yourself press start? After starting, I'm on a roll, but then the break comes, and I'm hesitant (once again!) to start.

Is there any way to combat this?

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Have you tried letting someone else press the button for you? – Demian Kasier Sep 8 '14 at 8:48
@DemianKasier I like this idea, very good. I was also thinking flipping a coin twice, and if I get both calls correct starting it. I would then do these flips frequently. – Display Name Sep 8 '14 at 22:26

12 Answers 12

The Pomodoro technique and other productivity tools are to improve your productivity/efficiency. They are not to motivate you. You must have inner motivation to work. You must be fully convinced that education is your mission today. It is your top priority. It is your life.

One way to motivate yourself is to think of the alternative. Imagine your life in the next 40 years without education. Today's effort is an investment in the future. Sacrifice today for the rest of your life.

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I agree vision and goals are absolutely necessary to give us the kind of motivation we need, and we must constantly keep them in mind. But without a practical plan to establish the habits that will support those goals and lead to long-term achievement, your answer will not provide much help. "Motivation" can't make a procrastinator bull his way through work all the time, willpower is limited, but habit is not. So the key is spending finite willpower in setting the habit, as an investment. – Vic Goldfeld Dec 14 '11 at 16:22
After re-reading "The Pomodoro Technique", it does say one of the goals is to: "Boost motivation and keep it constant", as well as "Bolster the determination to achieve your goals". I always thought the way it did that, is to make a task small and short enough to be easier to motivate yourself, i.e. "it's only 30 minutes, I can do that..." – John C Dec 20 '11 at 13:52
+1 to motivate by future; long term plans; you invest in the future – srnka Mar 27 '12 at 7:11

This has to do with having discipline to do something everyday. For me the the best way to start doing something is to associate it with triggers so that you always do them. For eg: You wake up(which would be the trigger), you immediately go brush your teeth, you would not really "lack motivation" to brush your teeth. It is just built in your head that it is what you do right after waking up.

So similarly you can set a trigger after which you start working. How about tell yourself say you will start working right after breakfast.There would be nothing to think about. Don't think too much, just do it. After a while it will just become something you do or rather a habit. It would not be a forced decision to work because you have to.

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Habit is the real answer here. +1 – Vic Goldfeld Dec 14 '11 at 2:22

Anticipation makes something hard even harder. It's best if you try not to think about it. Just go through the motions to get started. Get out your books and your pen and paper and start reading. Don't worry about how hard it will be or how long it will take. Just don't think or anticipate it. Just start slow.

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This is good advice. I remember once I was working with a student during a study hall period. He was adamant about how he couldn't do his math assignment because it was too hard and he couldn't think clearly. I fought him tooth and nail to do very simple tasks. 1. Get out your book. 2. Get out a piece of paper. 3. Put your name on your paper. 4. get out your planner. 5. write down your assignment. 6. open the book to the right page. Then I told him that we were just going to talk about a sample problem. He then realized how easy it was and was done in 15 min. – Roseaboveit Dec 14 '11 at 21:56

Productivity, at the basic level of working vs. not working, is not something you can best elicit through clever tricks and techniques; it depends on your physical capacity more than anything else.

The reason many of us like to procrastinate is because we want to move from activities requiring lots of mental effort to activities requiring less mental effort. Ask yourself this: When you think about starting to work, do you (a) feel you could easily do it, but you decide to do something else instead, or do you (b) feel that you find it hard to bring up the mental strength to start working, so you spend time with less demanding activities instead.

Most people pretend that the answer is (a), but usually the answer is (b), otherwise you wouldn't have much of a problem.

If you don't feel like working because you "lack the mental strength", the problem is very similar to not being willing to run five miles, or not being willing to lift a large barbell: Mental work requires you to shift blood to your brain, while physical work requires you to shift blood to your muscles. In both cases your cardiovascular fitness determines, more than anything else, how hard it feels for you to do it.

Mental effort, willpower and mental endurance are not unrelated to your body, but are directly related to physical parameters such as cerebral blood flow and neurotransmitter levels. Train your cardiovascular system and you'll find it easier to start working on whatever you want. I recommend high-intensity interval training (HIIT) at least 3 times a week, details are beyond the scope of this answer but can be found easily. Long-term exercise will physically strenghten your heart, allowing your body to pump more blood through your body, including your brain, which means you'll be more awake, more energetic, more determined, and feel less challenged by complex or boring mental tasks.

Techniques such as the Pomodoro technique are similar to using supportive belts to lift weights, or running with special shoes that make you faster: They might make the task at hand a bit easier, but ultimately they are only an aid, no replacement for your own capacity.

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Very nice answer. Many people don't realize that the problem is they are not willing to put in the extra effort to do something. Which is why eating and sleeping well is so important also. Too hungry to work? Eat. Too tired to work? Sleep. – toby Dec 13 '11 at 16:50
I actually think a procrastinator's mind is much more wickedly complex than simply motivation and fitness, and clever tricks should in fact be used. If you're not a heavy procrastinator, your advice will only sound like "just do it!" to one, no matter how you paint it. Habit, though, is one such clever trick and quite a natural one too. – Vic Goldfeld Dec 14 '11 at 16:18
People can give incredibly complex explanations for any type of behavior.. it's called rationalization. Habit can be pretty effective, but getting into a certain habit requires strength, plus not everyone can afford to have a tightly structured life shaped by habits. – M. Cypher Dec 14 '11 at 20:23

I get started by telling myself that I do not intend to finish whatever I'm sitting down to work on. Instead I break off a small piece and tell myself that I'll only work on that. For long papers I'll just try to work on an outline, the cover page, or a few references. For programming projects I'll only try to write the pseudocode or a few simple unit tests. The key is to break a big problem down into smaller problems that you can manage in under 30 minutes each. That's usually enough that once I get started I don't stop. If I don't get in the flow, that's fine too. At least I've gotten something done and I can come back and try again (with a smaller problem) after a break.

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This is essential! I'd say the biggest roadblock to procrastination is being overwhelmed, either not knowing the precise next step that needs doing, or feeling like everything needs to be finished in one go. – Coldblackice May 7 '13 at 11:35

I could easily suggest you to just do it and perhaps suggest you to start earlier, but let's just suppose that you ain't going to do these anyway because you want to do something else instead. That's right, I'm going to suggest you to do something else instead!

Go behind that computer (social networks, games), or television (movies, series, shows) or what else really makes you happy. Keep doing that same thing till it bores you to death and that makes you really wonder whether you should be starting your homework before it is too late. The context switch where you have done something that you really wanted to do is the right moment to press that button on your Pomodoro timer, because that thing you really wanted to do is out of your head.

This is very important! Let's say that I wake up and think about playing some Sim City 4 as it has been ages since I did that. But I also have a deadline tomorrow evening for which I have to work like half a day. If I start now I know I'm going to stop within an hour because that game is on my mind. So I start doing that game first instead and then I can keep working beacuse that game is not buggering my thoughts anymore.

The necessity to procrastinate battles with the necessity to do your homework. Balance both...

Consider an Apples System for non-productive activities; some apples are fine, too much apples aren't.

Please note that there also exists the opposite view on this problem, where you do all your work first so that you can spent all the rest of the time gaming. But I find that one tries to firish his work too fast in that case...

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I agree with this, and also - there might not be enough time to game to your heart's content, and then do work. – Radh Dec 14 '11 at 4:53
I don't agree - usually there is still something to do, or spend all day by playing, watching TV, and the necessity, learning and so on, would be postponed all the time, till it must be done because of deadline. And that would be in hurry. And the second thing, the TV, game,others, can eat all time,and one can be bored from it - the motivation to do something mental hard is unthinkable then. – srnka Mar 27 '12 at 7:03
Don't take bounty before making work done. Use it as your motivation - after finishing this, I will reward myself. – srnka Mar 27 '12 at 7:20
Yeah, I don't agree with this. I know drug addicts who revolve their entire lives around this same principle, to their utmost detriment. – Coldblackice May 7 '13 at 11:32

I think the hesitation comes from the fear that you will not be productive during the session. The way to overcome this fear is to build a track record of being productive, and the way to start that is to build good work habits. Set aside time, everyday, ideally at the same time of day, to work for a fixed period of time. Make things the same every time. The more regular you make it, the higher the chances are that the habit will stick.

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Ah! This happens to me every. Single. Day.

My own trick is to make sure I'm totally comfortable, so I won't have anything that will make me procrastinate or move around senseless. So, I go to the bathroom. I make sure my chair is in a comfortable position. I make sure I'm neither cold or hot, etc.

When you feel more comfortable in the place where you need to work, it is easier to start. Once you started, you're already on your way and it's harder to just quit.

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That's right. The biggest problem is to change activity. Once you started, it is OK and it is harder to quit :). So give effort to start activity, to make yourself comfort and next would be easier – srnka Mar 27 '12 at 7:09

As software developer I often has this problem. That might be couple reasons that I cannot start working on problem right away: I might be tired, this is too big chunk of work, etc.

But, there is one simple trick.

Take paper notebook and start writing+thinking how to do task you are going to work on. Drop in on small tasks and write what you are going to do first, next , etc.

Keep your mind like "wolf walking around" :) as many circles as you want , until you feel you are ready to start.

Hope this helps :)

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Associate rewards with your work.

You like to spend your time chatting with your friend? Tell yourself that you can earn 15 minutes of chatting 'only if' you have studied for 45 minutes.

You like listening to songs? You can listen to 'one' song 'only' in the 5 minute break of Pomodoro.

You want to play sports in the evening? Tell yourself that it is possible 'only if' you have studied for 2 hours in the afternoon.

You want to go to movies on Sundays? But that is possible 'only if' you finish your work on Saturday.

Same conditions can be set for watching TV or reading novels.

I guess there would be only these much things that you do when you are not studying. You can note these 5/6 things on a page , along with the conditions to do that, and may paste it on the lower side of your mirror (if it has enough space). This would help you discipline yourself and sooner it would become your habit to give appropriate time to both urgent and important things, or you may say, both uninteresting and interesting things.

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I sit down and start working.

Sure, you can weigh the pros and cons of working v. not-working. You can say "I'll start working as soon as I X, Y, and Z." You can say "I could work if only A, B, and/or C."

Pick a time, set an alarm, work at that time, for a certain amount of time.

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You have to use implementation intentions. That is, if then statements that get you to work. Mental contrasting and implementation intentions work wonders. You should also have a strong goal intention. For example, "if it is 12:00 Pm, then I will do X." It is more concrete and less abstract. This is known as construal theory.

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