Alex BespoyasovAuthor's photo

Don't Push Yourself

This is “Tips from Captain Obvious” segment. In this post, we'll discuss what to do if you can't get yourself to do something.

When you can't force yourself to do something, don't force yourself to do it. Instead, put yourself in such conditions that it will be impossible or very expensive not to do the task.


Cool story from the past. Once upon a time, before I came up with a normal work time division system, I couldn't bring myself to take breaks while working.

I tried Pomodorro, but it didn't work. I'd put off rest, score breaks, and find myself working 14 hours straight. And then tried to figure out what was wrong.

“Wrong” was that I would get distracted by the notification that it was time to take a rest. I would mark it in my head “as read,” and continue working thinking that I just “postponed” the rest. In the end I would just forget about the rest altogether.

I thought that it would be a good idea to take the control over this somewhere outside of my head. I installed a program that locked my computer at certain intervals. It gave me a 5-minute warning, and then blocked the hell out of everything: the music would stop, the monitor would go black, the computer would stop responding to the keyboard and mouse.

I had no choice but to get up from my desk and do something else. That is, I couldn't avoid taking a rest, because there was no way not to do it :-)

Too Radical, Isn't It?

Well, yes! But it's a way of telling if I really care that much about the stuff I can't bring myself to do. If not, why even bother?

If it's important, then there's an opportunity to think about what priority it has over other tasks. A disrupted Skype, for example, might make me wonder if the advantages of regular interruptions are really higher than the disadvantages of abruptly locking up the computer.

Best of all, this method takes away from me the task of keeping track of the arrangement. This frees up resources in my head for something else. And the fewer background tasks in my head, the fewer problems I have to pay attention and concentration to.

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