I’m in full-blown holiday mode, completely caught up in that end-of-the-year vibe that makes me want to do nothing but wind down with some hot cocoa by the fireplace while I ruminate on what remains of 2017 and mentally prepare for doing big things in 2018.
For lack of a better phrase, it’s like my brain is hibernating from productivity.
But alas, I do not have the luxury of not doing shit. Until I am massively wealthy or at least financially independent, shit must still be done. Editors want articles. Comcast wants me to pay my bill. The world turns, so I must continue to churn out the work, which is hard to do when you want to hibernate. If you’re on the same page, you know it’s a challenge to force yourself to work when you just don’t wanna. Here are three things that are working for me.
Work in Increments
It’s easier to write a sentence than it is an entire article, so I focus on finishing a sentence at a time, which is very easy to do. Similarly, you could focus on working for merely an hour at a time. Lie to yourself! Tell yourself that’s all the work you have to worry about getting done today, just one measly hour. You can do that, right? Lying to yourself seems ridiculous, I know. But once you finish that little hour, the momentum makes it easier to finish the next one, then the next, and so on and so on until that TPS report is DONE.
This is why, despite how frequently I’ve already recommended it, I’m going to once again suggest the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a magic bullet for procrastination. Work in 25-minute increments, take a 5-minute break. Repeat three times, then treat yourself to a longer, 30-minute break. Watch a scene from Home Alone. Drink some hot cocoa. Make a gingerbread house. That time is yours.
Emotionally Detach From Work
If workaholism is a thing, make no mistake about it, I am a workaholic. But this kind of “rut” is less about burnout and more about a lack of motivation and willpower. My usually work-centric mind is elsewhere and as someone who is very emotionally attached to work, this shift can be jarring. In short, I don’t really know how to work without motivation because I almost always have it.
However, in this Harvard Business Review article, author Heidi Grant makes an interesting case: you don’t need willpower to get stuff done.
“In his excellent book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, Oliver Burkeman points out that much of the time, when we say things like ‘I just can’t get out of bed early in the morning,’ or ‘I just can’t get myself to exercise,’ what we really mean is that we can’t get ourselves to feel like doing these things. After all, no one is tying you to your bed every morning. Intimidating bouncers aren’t blocking the entrance to your gym. Physically, nothing is stopping you – you just don’t feel like it. But as Burkeman asks, ‘Who says you need to wait until you ‘feel like’ doing something in order to start doing it?’
Think about that for a minute, because it’s really important. Somewhere along the way, we’ve all bought into the idea – without consciously realizing it – that to be motivated and effective we need to feel like we want to take action. We need to be eager to do so. I really don’t know why we believe this, because it is 100% nonsense. Yes, on some level you need to be committed to what you are doing – you need to want to see the project finished, or get healthier, or get an earlier start to your day. ”
When you’re emotionally attached to work, however, it can be hard to latch onto this thought. You’re hooked on capturing that invigorating drive, and if you don’t have it, that becomes the task at hand instead of the actual task at hand. It’s helped to take a step back from my work and just see it for what it is: stuff that needs to be written, whether I feel like it or not. As Grant says, you need to be committed to getting the thing done, but you don’t need to FEEL like doing it in order to check it off your list.
Enjoy “Micro-Moments” of Positivity
On the other hand, detaching from work is easy this time of year because there are so many other things I want to do besides work, like Christmas shopping, or writing cards, or wrapping presents. I’ll admit: I’m a cheesy, holiday spirit kind of person. I LOVE this time of year and I always want to soak it in because these few weeks just go by so fast. And then it’s January, and we’re right back to the grind.
One simple trick that’s helped me live in the moment and still get shit done: treat myself to small holiday-related indulgences. For me, it’s usually a cup of hot chocolate after lunch (even if it is 85 degrees in LA). This way, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on the moment.
Here’s another way of thinking about it. Barbara Fredrickson, a researcher who studies happiness and relationships, argues that love is not really an everlasting, always present emotion. We don’t really experience love that way, she says, at least as an emotion. Instead, we feel love in “micro-moment of positivity resonance.” Here’s how the Atlantic explains it:
You can experience these micro-moments with your romantic partner, child, or close friend. But you can also fall in love, however momentarily, with less likely candidates, like a stranger on the street, a colleague at work, or an attendant at a grocery store. Louis Armstrong put it best in “It’s a Wonderful World” when he sang, “I see friends shaking hands, sayin ‘how do you do?’ / They’re really sayin’, ‘I love you.'”
Whether you agree or not when it comes to love, I do think happiness is found in those micro-moments. So even if you’re not a holiday person, a focused, five-minute break can be pretty powerful.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch a cheesy Hallmark movie.