When cleverly used, annual leave can make a big difference to your time off over the winter break. A smattering of national holidays, short Fridays and long weekends can be linked together to get you away from the office for several days in a row without giving up much too much vacation time. But for those of us who work for ourselves or who are expected to take their job home with them, time off rarely means time off. Over the winter break, that means being surrounded by friends and family who are relaxing freely, opening bottles in the middle of the day, and eager to socialize – and even if you manage to shut yourself off from all this, it can be hard to get motivated. It’s dark, it’s cold, and your mind is on all the better things you could be doing. If only there were some tried and tested techniques for making yourself work!
As it happens, the boffins are one step ahead of you. There are a number of ways you can hack your body, mind or soul to get that burst of motivation just when you need it. Between your hormones, your neurons and your taste buds, you have a number of ‘on’-switches that you probably never noticed. Some folks will want to try different ones on different days to keep them fresh. Others will try to find the one that works for them and make it part of their routine over the so-called ‘holidays’.
Several such techniques work by exploiting the under-utilized connection between your body and your mental state. For example, there is a little noted connection between smiling and feeling positive, that reverses the usual cause-effect sequence that these elements usually share. Of course, if you’re happy you smile: but if you’re feeling stressed, forcing a smile can actually reduce your anxiety-levels, making it easier to jump into work.
Similarly, a more expansive use of your body language can change the way you feel. If a smile alone isn’t cutting it, check your posture: sitting up straight with your shoulders confidently pulled back can increase testosterone and decrease stress hormone levels. If you’re on your own, you can even stand up and go full-Superman by putting your hands on your hips and thrusting your chest out. Who’s having fun now, eh?
There are also more formal work techniques you can use to make that workload feel less intimidating. Instead of framing the task ahead of you as one massive hill to climb, take a few minutes to break it down into smaller bites. Once you’ve started work, it’s easier to find your flow – so find the smallest, most achievable task to start with, and you should soon get your rhythm. And don’t lose track of why you’re there. Working by yourself over the holidays can feel isolating and pointless. If you put aside some time to note down a list of reasons that your work is important, and people that it will affect, you can refer back to it every time you hit a lull.
Let’s not forget about rewards – it’s holiday season after all. Naturally, you’ll already have your eye firmly on the rewards of getting your work completed – it probably involves the festive sounds and smells coming from elsewhere in the building. But one little-known brain hack is to actually reward yourself before you get started. That doesn’t mean hitting the bar just yet – but open a gift or eat a piece of pie before you get started, and the dopamine levels you provoke could be what it takes to get you going.
For a full list of science-backed methods of getting your work started while working overtime this Christmas, check out NetCredit’s infographic. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can hit the couch, the park, or the bar – wherever the action’s happening.
About the author: John is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans. You’ll find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.