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Despairing Against Yourself

13th May 2019

Have you ever had a situation where you have looked over at the important work you need to do, and felt a whole body rejection of it?

You know it’s important work, and that if you don’t do it then nobody will. Yet something inside you wants to do literally anything but your task.

“I need to clean my apartment, it’s so messy.”

“I’ll just watch this one video…”

“The cupboard where I keep my plastic bags has too many in there, I need to go through and fold them all into triangles to save space…”

Your body is looking for any reason to stop you in your path.

You shall not pass.

Maybe you want to do all of those things, but they are distracting you from the most effective thing.

Important: doing something does not mean you are doing something valuable.

There are 2 choices here: you can give up on the task and let yourself be distracted or you can despair against yourself and struggle through till the job is done.

Giving up may be the right choice at the time. If the work isn’t really that important or your time would be better spent elsewhere right now, then stopping might be the right course of action. Pay close attention to your own mind at this point – are you rationalising your decision to give up (making excuses) or is it really the right move.

Despairing against yourself and getting the job done at all costs might make you feel good when you finally get the work done, but in the end it trains you to react in the same way to work you don’t feel like doing right now: with despair.¬†There’s a third choice, to train yourself to enjoy serendipitous productivity.

You can build the muscle up slowly, and this is what I’ve been working on doing for myself for the past 3 years, and I would largely say that it has worked. When you feel that familiar whole body rejection of the task at hand, promise yourself to sit down and look at it for just 10 or 20 minutes (you can start with 5 if you’re really struggling). Do this as little as once per day, or as often as you can, but just sit and think or work on the task at hand with a stopwatch next to you. If possible, use your phone’s one without any notification sounds, and have it on the table where you’re working. On mine the screen turns off after 2 minutes, so if I want to check the timer I need to press the button. If you’re still struggling to enjoy the work after the allotted time, you can give yourself a break. However, if you find that you reach that state of flow and totally forget to check the timer, just keep going until you don’t want to anymore.

Eventually you’ll find that sitting down to do the work will become a habit, and you’ll get a lot more work done than if you despair against yourself, and you’ll feel much better about it.

And you’ll definitely get more done than if you give up.



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