23/02/2015 - 14:28

Give yourself a break, be productive

23/02/2015 - 14:28

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Taking a small timeout from work can help you refocus your attention and achieve your goals

DON’T BITE: Self-control is easier for some that others. Photo: iStockphoto

Taking a small timeout from work can help you refocus your attention and achieve your goals 

Why is it sometimes difficult to stick to a task? Why do we allow constant interruptions and distractions, such as text messages and social media, steal our attention?

I recently listened to a webinar called ‘The Science of Motivation’ by Mark Waldman – one of the world’s leading experts on communication, spirituality, and the brain.

He was talking about how our brains are inherently lazy and how we hate to work and hate things that take a long time to do. We are motivated by pleasure and want it instantly.

When we see something we really want, and realise that is going to take some time to achieve, we have an interesting problem on our hands; our brain wants us to go out and get it, it doesn’t want to wait. But because we know we are going to have to wait, and we are going to have to work to get it, we have a dilemma.

What do we do? Take the action that will be of benefit to us in the future and keep taking action until we achieve our goal (delay gratification), or go for the instant pleasure?

In the late 1960s, Walter Mischel, then a professor at Stanford University, led a study called ‘The Stanford marshmallow experiment’.

In these studies, a child was offered a choice; they could eat a marshmallow now or, if they waited 10 to 15 minutes, they would get two marshmallows. The kids are hilarious as they struggle to choose between immediate gratification or the reward of two marshmallows.

Have a look at them here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX_oy9614HQ

Fifteen years later the study’s authors followed up with these children and found that 90 per cent of the children who were able to resist and wait longer were more successful and had better life outcomes.

So, how do you keep going until you achieve what you want? How do you keep focusing until you finish what you need to do? How to you keep doing activities that make you money, when you really don’t want to?

Mr Waldman suggests you give yourself a regular pleasure breaks. Five to ten-second breaks, three times every hour; or a minute break at the end of the hour.

Our motivation to keep going is driven by pleasure.

The best type of activities to do during the break are:

• self-massage like a head or neck massage;

• yawning;

• stretching;

• doing an exercise activity you enjoy (e.g. a quick jog on the spot or a samba move); and

• look at pictures of smiling faces (now you know why you can’t get enough of Facebook).

These activities are the best because they stimulate the brain, increase confidence, relax and reinvigorate us so we are able to be more productive.

Mr Waldman stresses we must have constant rewards to keep us going and have an accountability partner (your boss, a coach) and support group to cheer us on so keep us going when we feel like giving up.

Of course there was lots more information he went through about how to motivate yourself and break procrastination.

I’ll write about this in my next article … if you can wait that long.


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