Getting stuff done produces dopamine, and brains love dopamine. It’s the chemical that gives you pleasure – and there’s lots if things in life that have the same effect be they naughty and/or nice. Turns out, setting a goal, however small, and reaching it, gives us a big happy dopamine hit. This can be pretty motivating during a busy a working day (or one of those working days when you just can’t get busy).
Dopamine is also the happy drug that make us enjoy new challenges and learning new skills. (It also makes us sometimes prefer new challenges and learning stuff instead of doing the mundane things we’re supposed to be doing).
Let’s face it, goals provide focus, they prevent drifting, and they afford us a measuring stick for progress. In summary, they enhance productivity. They also bolster self-esteem and increase commitment to any project in hand. We love ‘em, and the dopamine rush that comes with them.
Procrastination happens to the best of us. But it rarely leads to happiness or to any kind of ‘self-actualisation’ as Maslow’s pyramid would have it. Goal setting – especially the smaller incremental goals – is the only cure for procrastination, and our brains, especially ‘the happy zone’ love it. So, instead of getting your dopamine hit from doing the cool stuff that’s stopping you from working, start to break your work down into little ‘goalettes’, each of which will give you the same kind of rush.
As all the wacko get-rich-quick-self-help websites proclaim ‘a thousand mile journey starts with the first small step’ and often, in internet land, the first small step is $25 down for our ‘easy guide’ etc etc. Yet, all those guides say the same thing. Make a list of what you want to achieve in terms of measurable goals: stuff where you can say without doubt ‘that’s done’. Break it down into small and feasible steps, and on each step of the way, kick back, enjoy the dopamine rush and offer yourself a little reward – a coffee, a couple of Stumbleupons or other stuff that you usually do instead of the thing you’re supposed to be doing.