A couple weeks ago, I started with my the first entry in this series. If you missed it, read it first to learn more about what this is all about and the first keyword, motivation. Directly followed by motivation comes dedication!
When you are motivated, you start working on something. But to actually finish the job, you need dedication. Unfortunately, dedication and motivation are a bit hard to describe individually, but let’s try with some metaphors. Imagine drinking a bottle of cold water after a crazily hot day. The motivation in this case is the bottle. The technique you use to get it into your body (hopefully through swallowing) is the first part of the dedication – you’re making sure the motivation is converted into something that gets the job done. Unfortunately, you need to drink again in a couple hours – to think about it, and get a new bottle of water in advance, is the second part. So in other words, the two fundamental pieces of dedication consist of converting your motivation into creative energy and maintaining the motivated state.
Focus & Distraction
Focus and distraction is often considered as good and evil, but there’s a little twist to it. In general of course, you need to focus on your current task to keep being dedicated, and the worst thing that can happen then is to loose that focus again. Especially for most us (the internet generation), distraction is a real problem. The Web 2.0 gave us thousands and thousands of new opportunities to get distracted. Don’t worry though – there’s an answer to every problem.
Here’s a example list of things that will likely make you forget about your task, and how to solve them effectively:
Ok, this one is simple. First off, do not twitter in the middle of a task, unless it’s specifically related to solving the task. For instance, if you have a technical question that you can’t solve, it’s perfectly fine to ask for it through twitter. Secondly, try to get twitter off your PC, and onto another device, and only use it from there (i.e. your phone). It helps you to completely (re)move the focus.
Again, think about if using this particular community helps solve your specific task. If it doesn’t (Facebook for instance likely is a good candidate for wasted time – unless of course you’re developing a FB app), then simply don’t use it. If the community can actually help you getting your work done, then that’s great!
Family (if you’re working remotely)
It is extremely important to have a seperate office with a door that you can close. Make sure the process is the same than driving to another city – and make sure your family knows about how important it is not to get you distracted. Have them understand you’re collaborating with collegues online and via Skype, and let them contact you only if it’s really urgent.
Set up seperate groups or accounts for work and freetime. Set your status to ‘Working’, and let your coworkers know that this is just to tell people you’re ‘in the office’. Do not answer to IM’s from other contacts – or tell them politely that you can’t chat during business hours.
This one is dangerous, since chances are that most of the information is somehow important and relevant to you and your job, but not in this exact moment. That’s why I suggest to make sure to only open your newsreader once a day – after all, you wouldn’t bring a printed newspaper to the office and peek at it every half hour, would you?
Everything else in your head
To clear your entire head from everything else, I still highly suggest the GTD (‘Getting things done’) method and sort everything you have in your head into seperate todo lists that you can access at anytime. This basically is the essence of GTD.
As mentioned above, it is possible to use distration as a tool to keep motivation and dedication flowing, and I highly suggest to use at least one or two of the following examples to relax during work hours, or to get into a different thinking mode.
Music can be very inspiring and motivating if used right. Make sure though not to listen to audio books and songs that are focussing solely on the text – since listening actively distracts you too much.
Talk to your collegues every hour or two, even if you think they can’t solve your problem. Ask them what they’re working on. It’ll most likely move your brain waves into another direction, and you’ll get fresh new ideas. Also try pair programming of you’re a programmer!
Walking around in the office
This especially goes well with pinging collegues. Don’t just shout around in the room, but relax your muscles a bit by getting out of your chair and walking around a bit. If you think it looks too silly, go outside and grab something to drink.
Of course, there are thousand more ways to keep you in the flow, but some of them I feel are especially helpful. First off, try to split up your current task in the smallest possible pieces to work them off easily and always have an immediate feeling of accomplishment. Second, try to think about the goal! If you’re paid hourly for your work and your objective is money, think about what you earned already in the next couple of hours, and how much you’ll earn in the next ones. If you work in a team, think about how much your current work will help other people finish their job, and how much they’ll like you for it. There are many individual goals if you think about it, and those two are very generic, so try to apply them.
See you soon!