My question is: how do you get yourself into working mode?
I've been trying to establish a "here we go" ritual of making tea. I
fill the water cooker/boiler and while it works I, I put away clean
dishes/neaten up house, getting those things out of the way until water
is ready. then I make a cup of tea and sit down to "work." It's kind
of effective, but I'm still very easily distracted.
Thanks, for the tips Jeffrey! I'm a grad student too and Niel Fior's
book The Now Habit was sooo helpful to me, and you are right on about
the internet being a time waster. (Like, ahem, right now.) I'm going to
add Joan Bolker's book to my wishlist.
I've taken to using timers to place a limit on some of my home
puttering time, but it is too early to tell how well it works. If you
try it, I'd like to know the result.
It's hard in a student apartment, but the more you can create a
separation of work and leisure space, the better off you are. Perhaps
you could do the bulk of your work in a library or cafe.
If you must work at home, then the arrangement of the physical objects
can signify work. For example, if there is a reference book you use
frequently while working, keep it close at hand when you are working
and put away (or even out of sight) when you are not. Perhaps there is
some furniture you can put in a different place while working.
I find that music can help me to focus, but not just any music will do.
A brand new album from my favorite artist is too distracting. For
much of high school I listened to the same two albums repeatedly
whenever I wrote English papers. As a professional programmer, I find
that music with a strong, relentless rhythm like techno or heavy metal
can get me in the zone quite readily. Jazz is too distracting and
makes it hard to concentrate on work, perhaps because I associate it so
strongly with leisure. Music with a prominent vocal is distracting as
well. Your ideal working music may be completely different from mine.
The basic idea is that you are doing what psychologists call "classical
conditioning." The more you come to associate a particular ritual or
environmental element with the work mindset, the more it will trigger
Of course, if you end up associating something with procrastinating and
saying "Oh, shit. I'm not working." Then it will still trigger a
mindset-- just the wrong one. One way to help avoid that is to stop
the music, replace the book, etc. when you stop working.