5 Practical Tips to Do the Hard Work


“Don’t seek a soft ground to pick your pickaxe” – Malagasy proverb

Do you often work on secondary tasks as a way to avoid hard work? You know what I mean… like suddenly sorting that messy drawer instead of writing a challenging essay or checking your emails every five minutes instead of filling that convoluted tax report.

This is called procrastination. And here are 5 practical tips to help you get started on this tricky task you keep postponing…

1. Timeboxing

According to Parkinson’s law, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”. That’s why you need to put your time in a box. In other words: give yourself time constraints.

A classic method for this is the Pomodoro Technique: working in 25-minute chunks separated by 5-minute pauses. In my case, I prefer 90-minute chunks. I explained why in this article: Maximize Your Productivity With 90 Minutes Work Intervals.

I use the Forest app on my phone to set a 90 minutes timer. I have conditioned myself to start working on my task as soon as time starts ticking. Also, the Forest app has a nice option to listen to rainforest noises while working!

2. Plunging into your task

According to psychologist “Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi”, all you need to be happy is to be in the flow of your task. But you can’t do this if you have thousands of distracting thoughts in your mind.

To calm the chatter in your mind, just do a short meditation. Close your eyes and think about all the details of the task you have to do. After 5 or 10 minutes, your mind will be deeply engaged in your task and eager to do the work.

Here’s a detailed article I wrote about the technique (one of my all-time most popular): Pluging into your work

3. A warm-up task

Another way of getting absorbed in your task in a gentle way is to have a warm-up task. I often use this technique for complicated tasks.

What I usually do is gather every element of the problem and display them in front of me. This can be done physically with post-its on a wall or on a desktop computer using multiple windows on a big screen.

I’ve already spoken about this in this article: Stop Agonizing Over Painful Problems With the Minority Report Principle.

4. Delayed rewards

Delayed rewards are a technique I coined to help me do the hard work. It’s a way to give yourself a reward that is impossible to get immediately.

The way I do it usually is to put frozen strawberries on a plate, and slowly warm up the plate by plunging the bottom in boiling water. After about 30 minutes, the reward is ready and I can eat those delightful strawberries! (I like it with cream).

Here’s an article where I explained the technique: Improve your self-discipline with delayed rewards

5. Repetitive music

At the end of my workday, while I am tired, I like to put on some music. It’s a form of continuous reward since you get rewarded all along the task you are doing. But some music pieces are more effective than others.

For example, you can use apps like Focus@Will and Brain.fm to listen to music pieces specially optimized to get focused at work.

But I also like classical music, such as Vivaldi’s Four Seasons or Shubert’s The Trout. Here’s a recomposition of the Four Seasons that’s a joy to my ears!

Everyone procrastinates from time to time. But if it affects your productivity too much, you need time-tested techniques to do the hard work.

That’s why I shared with you 5 techniques I’ve been using for years. I encourage you to write down the list on a piece of paper. You will be thankful for it, I promise!

Feature photo credit: samer daboul from Pexels

About the author 

Alex Philippe

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