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I have read things about productivity techniques here and in other places but I still can't get focused. Currently I am searching my first big paid job as I am a recent graduate. I also am designing and developing a small personal application to learn Python. Finally, I'm learning German (actually I'm revising what I learnt).

I know what I have to achieve, and I already have split this projects in small features and tasks, following a kind of SCRUM backlog. I schedule my daily tasks by mixing Pomodoro Technique and daily SCRUM. I take the split small tasks (2 hours max) and I schedule them taking into account some small breaks in between and bigger breaks every two hours (when the task is finished usually).

So, I have my daily plan ready, I think I have a kind good work environment (a desk in my dad's business), I play Chill Out/Lounge radio stations, etc. but I still can't start even doing my first task, which usually is having a look at new job offers send to my email during the last day, which rarely should be more than hour if I reply to all of them, 10 minutes if they do not suit my profile. I have the same problems if I schedule first revising a rule of grammar or defining certain feature of my small application.

What I do instead is surf the web in whatever site I find. I have blocked with Leech Block the usual suspects, but it is not enough, I'd better make a white list with the job sites I use. I track down the time spent in the current task with Project Hamster but even I see the time running, I consciously procrastinate. I find myself getting up early, setting everything ready for beginning a new day in my job hunt, but I am not able to effectively begin. I sometimes have some lucid days which I do follow more or less my daily schedule, but it's been a while from the last one.

My question is: how do I get the motivation I need to start working everyday in my daily planned tasks?

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9 Answers 9

how do I get the motivation I need to start working everyday in my daily planned tasks?

try a little trick from GTD: for each project choose a first physical task you can do in order to move the project along (if it's a job search, the task would be opening specific website and composing a criteria) etc

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Take a quick walk around the block before you get to work. Working in a home office means the barrier between home and work is diminished. Giving yourself a "commute" before getting to work can help adjust your mind to working.

Rather than planning your tasks so far in advance, try matching your currently energy level what you have in front of you.

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Sorry, I meant that I "work" in my father's business, in his office, so I do commute. Probably this time I'm focusing wrong. I started to do daily plans when I did my degree project in a company. It was useful as a daily Scrum for my team and to know "what I have to do now" instead of losing time thinking on the next task. But probably now I need some flexibility. –  JoulSauron Nov 29 '12 at 17:44

Its good that you are working in an office.

Motivate yourself this way: How would my boss, father, or coworkers react if they saw me goofing off on the internet instead of working on my job search, coding, or German?

If you need some help, maybe you could even have a 'daily standup' with someone in the office. Just 5 minutes, "this is what I did yesterday, this is what I am doing today, this is what is in my way".

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That's a good idea, report to someone as I used to do in my company (scrum idea), that really worked as I could be in trouble with my boss if I didn't do anything. Maybe I could now show my parents or girlfriend how may CVs I send everyday or how many German exercises I did. –  JoulSauron Dec 1 '12 at 17:25

Is there something blocking you? It isn't specified in your post, so I'm just speculating... For example, you are not really confident in how your CV is written, so you are hesitant to send the emails? Are you facing some bugs in your Python application, which make you feel as you are not proceeding in your learning?

If you recognize blocks like that, you should try to confront with an expert (or just an external observer), so that your issue can be clarified (even if the problem is not completely, at least you have more confidence on discussing it).

But don't interpret my answer as a suggestion to overthinking on hidden blocks! That can be procrastination too!

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I have sent my CV without hesitating, but for example I did had problems to write my CV because I didn't know how to do it. Now it's done, and applying to offers it's not difficult, just "boring". In this particular case there's nothing blocking me, I know what is blocking and what I have to do now is quite "easy". –  JoulSauron Dec 1 '12 at 17:17

It sounds like you're doing everything right. Maybe the missing ingredient is actual motivation. You've made the path forward frictionless, you've started your engine, but your engine is just not driving it forward.

Motivation is a very difficult thing to synthesize. External motivation - pay, fear, etc is not very powerful as they're not things that will lurk inside your head when they're not immediately visible.

You'd need some internal motivation. Find a good reason to want to do what you're supposed to be doing. How much impact do you have on your company? How much good will your company do? Why is this fun? How can I apply the skills I learned from this? How does this affect my long term goals?

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It's lack of motivation and laziness. I can think of all of those beneficial things and still do nothing. Actually, no I think that when I was motivated it was because I had something challenging. Probably I think "find a job" and "learn German" as boring. –  JoulSauron Dec 1 '12 at 17:12
    
You'd probably need stronger motivation. Something that makes you rage or cry. Something strong enough that it lingers at the back of your mind whenever you're not doing it. Some kind of cause -- relate it to what you're doing now. –  Muz Dec 2 '12 at 17:20

My suggestion would be to listen to something very motivating at the start of the day/ start of a long task. I prefer something like this : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTLgHEtG6JM&feature=related. You can have this as an mp3 on your phone and listen to it as and when required. Then after listening take a deep breath and start off with the task without any thoughts of the consequences.

It is important to have something that would motivate every single time. I think a speech with motivating words will work wonders, but some people even find the

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This is a problem I struggle with a lot. One of my fixes would be to have a sort of ritual.

  • close everything
  • go for a walk or just grab a cup of water
  • put on a certain kind of music (for me it's trance at http://trance.fm)
  • then get to work.

My key here is putting on a certain kind of music correlated with work. Your mind will adjust to that eventually, and it will correspond to focus. Try something non-vocal or foreign, and make sure it isn't similar to your leisure music (although you have to like the genre, you can't just listen to Bach because it's Bach).

Good luck.

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I do have "working mood" music, some time ago this worked, but it seems not any more even trying different things. In the past (degree thesis), closing everything meant unplugging the Ethernet cable. Now I can't do that as I need Internet to search jobs, this is why I try with anti-procrastination filters. –  JoulSauron Dec 26 '12 at 8:51

I see two challenges here = how do you get started with high motivation and how do you sustain that motivation.

Getting Started w/ High Motivation

You need a way to quite your mind and to get excited about doing. Doing anything - whether it's knocking out items from your task list or washing dishes. You need that burst and it has to come from somewhere. So where can you find it? I suggest:

  • watch your favorite tv show - hopefully a new episode or something really upbeat and where people take big risks to get big returns back (Entourage, Sons of Anarchy, etc).
  • go read through blogs by your mentors and people you look up to
  • exercise and get pumped up from your workout

This will drive you to free your mind of all bullsh*t and get tunneled in. Then you go!

Maintaining Motivation

In order to maintain the momentum, you have to complete tasks and see results from those tasks. If you're not finding immediate results from tasks, reorganize your tasks and rewrite them in a way that you can see daily results. Having results everyday is fundamental to your success.

Second, always start with easy tasks that build up to harder tasks. That way even if you dont' get the harder task done, you still feel like you completed something that day.

Lastly, cross things off. Everytime your cross something off, you will feel motivated to want to do more.

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You cannot really control or predict the outcomes of the work that you do.

What you CAN predict and control is how much effort you put in, and if you control that and keep it consistent you will do well.

A great productivity tool is called Time Boxing.

Here's what you should do tomorrow:

  1. Work on the most important single thing for 50 minutes. No email, no web searches, no Facebook.
  2. Take a break for 10 minutes. Repeat x2 and after 3 hours take a full hour break. You can check your email in this break

You'll find you get more done in the those 3 hours than in most normal days.

You can repeat this in the afternoon.

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The Pomodoro Technique is a specific form of timeboxing. –  Simon Gill Dec 9 '12 at 6:44
    
Well, if you read my question I am actually doing this already. The problem is that I can't even start "working on the mos important single thing", no matter for how much time I schedule it. –  JoulSauron Dec 26 '12 at 8:46
    
have you tried committing to work on the single most important thing for 5 minutes and you cannot even do that? –  Dave Hilditch Dec 26 '12 at 9:21

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