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How I hacked my dopamine to train and reward desired work behaviors and halt procrastination

MakeItHappen

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Bekit

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garyfritz

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I have skills, knowledge, and intelligence, but then I don't put them to use. I let myself pursue mindless distractions instead of work. I procrastinate. I get off track. I go into la-la-land. I engage in behaviors that are detrimental to my own best interest. Even while I'm seeing myself do it (and hating it), I don't find anything inside myself that gets me to actually change.
Have you been peeking inside my brain?? This is ME, right down the line.

It's consoling that I'm not the only one, but consolation is not what I need. Your reward system is brilliant. I never would have tried it because it feels so gimmicky and contrived. But if it works, it's gold.

So... you haven't really said yet, DOES it work? (You said "my results have been amazing" but you haven't given any specifics.) Have you consistently been more productive? Have you started to learn to be productive WITHOUT the clicker and treats every 5 minutes? Have you trained new dopamine reward systems so you can be self-rewarding and self-motivating like one of those "normal" people? Or is it like the wheelchair-ramp mentioned in the Barkley video that @ChrisV posted -- someone in a wheelchair needs the ramp, regardless of how many chocolate chips you train them with.

Barkley's point was brilliant: ADHD people need IMMEDIATE feedback. We don't "get" long-term consequences and rewards, not the way we are motivated by immediacy. Yeah I know this project is due next week, but my brain thinks it needs cat videos RIGHT NOW. And lots of RIGHT NOWs ends up sliding into next week, and then you're in trouble. So your system gives you some immediate small motivators to keep you working on the more-important tasks. That makes total sense.

Well, to start with, here's what I've tried that has NOT worked.
This is also valuable, if for no other reason than to explain to "normals" that the things that work for them don't work for us. There's a REASON you had to resort to dog training.

Thanks, @Bekit. ++++++rep if I could.
 
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ChrisV

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Barkley's point was brilliant: ADHD people need IMMEDIATE feedback. We don't "get" long-term consequences and rewards, not the way we are motivated by immediacy. Yeah I know this project is due next week, but my brain thinks it needs cat videos RIGHT NOW. And lots of RIGHT NOWs ends up sliding into next week, and then you're in trouble. So your system gives you some immediate small motivators to keep you working on the more-important tasks. That makes total sense.
Yea when not medicated / supplemented properly i'm pathologically retarded. I'll be working on a coding assignment and realize I just spent the last 4 hours perfecting my programming console theme.

I once spent an entire week making every coding symbol a perfect unicode one

27143
 
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Bekit

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I haven't forgotten about this. Just need a block of time to write out part 4.

@garyfritz when you described yourself in @ChrisV 's post on dopamine, I was thinking you were peeking into MY brain.

But yeah, you're right, it's not much consolation to realize that others have the same struggle, unless there are ways to address it effectively.

At the risk of stealing my thunder, the short answer to your questions is YES. I'll go into more detail when I write part 4. I guess the title of my thread is a giveaway, too.

The part of the brain that makes us uniquely human is the prefrontal cortex. In ADHD (or any self-control issue really,) this area isn't working nearly to the extent it should be. So the solution? Train yourself the same way you would any organism without a highly developed prefrontal cortex. Use the limbic system instead.
I think this is a big part of the reason why it works.

@Bertram, somewhere I seem to recall you saying that this kind of behavior is related to loneliness. I've pondered that frequently and have never heard anything about that connection before, but I'm intrigued to learn more. Can you elaborate? Have any articles to share on that?
 

Bertram

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I haven't forgotten about this. Just need a block of time to write out part 4.

@garyfritz when you described yourself in @ChrisV 's post on dopamine, I was thinking you were peeking into MY brain.

But yeah, you're right, it's not much consolation to realize that others have the same struggle, unless there are ways to address it effectively.

At the risk of stealing my thunder, the short answer to your questions is YES. I'll go into more detail when I write part 4. I guess the title of my thread is a giveaway, too.


I think this is a big part of the reason why it works.

@Bertram, somewhere I seem to recall you saying that this kind of behavior is related to loneliness. I've pondered that frequently and have never heard anything about that connection before, but I'm intrigued to learn more. Can you elaborate? Have any articles to share on that?
Hi, I mentioned the connection between perceived exhaustion at the workplace or entrpreneurial exhaustion and loneliness. The source is in the book, "Dare to Lead."

 

Vairavan

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Hi, I mentioned the connection between perceived exhaustion at the workplace or entrpreneurial exhaustion and loneliness. The source is in the book, "Dare to Lead."

Can that book help cure loneliness?
 

ChrisV

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Can that book help cure loneliness?
you have to dress it up like a person
 

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S.Y.

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Absolutely amazing @Bekit. Absolutely terrific!

Your approach reminded me of Atomic Habits. The idea of creating a system of actions that are attractive and rewarding.

A lot to value in the book and in a way, a similar approach to what you are doing right now.
 

KLL985

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This is great stuff, can't wait for the following posts.
 

Pat D. Rick

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Rabby

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I love this. Also waiting for part 4. Brilliant to think of training yourself as trainer and trainee.

You know, one thing this points out is that the company you're producing copy for is missing something.

Ahem.
27178
One thing I have learned to make an effort to do, is show people appreciation for each piece of work they do. Especially if they are disconnected from the customer and can not directly receive the sunshine from them. This is so important. If you automate your business and leave, you have to make sure that people in the business are still giving and getting this type of attention, the positive feedback!

D.S.

...because that bears repeating.

I think there's also a business building lesson in your thread. ANYONE can run into this kind of low motivation problem. It happens when we're plugged into screens as if we're machines. For some people, it's easier to find yourself here than others, but anyone will lose productivity without positive feedback.

The funny thing is, you've shown how easy it is to create this feeling of feedback. You add a scent to Febreez, mint to toothpaste, a like button to facebook, or a violin and chocolate chips to work (LOL). Having implemented this, I'm expecting motivation superpowers from you :hilarious:

Also, I'm stealing your chocolate chip idea, as I love chocolate chips.

A few books I can think of that have commented on this feedback loop in one way or another:
  • Unscripted (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  • Atomic Habits
  • The Power of Habit
  • The Motivation Myth
For me, Unscripted and The Motivation Myth helped fix this concept in mind, along with an observation of employee performance, and a comment from a business consultant. With the employee, I noticed everything was better for a few weeks, or months, if I found some way to show appreciation. Not just money, appreciation. Acknowledgement, credit. People want to feel like they're doing something that helps, and they become addicted to that feeling - it makes them feel like "part of us," a contributing member. Then I noticed the same thing with another employee. At some point I tried it with students, and lots more of them completed their classes on time, and referred their friends. Then one day the business consultant said something more or less like, "an employee's biggest motivation is feeling like they're contributing to something that's worth doing." The idea I got from it was, wow, people want that feeling that something good came out of their work.

Anyway, I mention that because an idea can take lots of different paths before we find a cool way to actually apply it. Brains are confusing.

D.S.

This is big. I love your silly method, don't worry about it being silly ;) Looking forward to the continuation!
 
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Bekit

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I love this. Also waiting for part 4. Brilliant to think of training yourself as trainer and trainee.

You know, one thing this points out is that the company you're producing copy for is missing something.

Ahem.
View attachment 27178
One thing I have learned to make an effort to do, is show people appreciation for each piece of work they do. Especially if they are disconnected from the customer and can not directly receive the sunshine from them. This is so important. If you automate your business and leave, you have to make sure that people in the business are still giving and getting this type of attention, the positive feedback!

D.S.

...because that bears repeating.

I think there's also a business building lesson in your thread. ANYONE can run into this kind of low motivation problem. It happens when we're plugged into screens as if we're machines. For some people, it's easier to find yourself here than others, but anyone will lose productivity without positive feedback.

The funny thing is, you've shown how easy it is to create this feeling of feedback. You add a scent to Febreez, mint to toothpaste, a like button to facebook, or a violin and chocolate chips to work (LOL). Having implemented this, I'm expecting motivation superpowers from you :hilarious:

Also, I'm stealing your chocolate chip idea, as I love chocolate chips.

A few books I can think of that have commented on this feedback loop in one way or another:
  • Unscripted (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  • Atomic Habits
  • The Power of Habit
  • The Motivation Myth
For me, Unscripted and The Motivation Myth helped fix this concept in mind, along with an observation of employee performance, and a comment from a business consultant. With the employee, I noticed everything was better for a few weeks, or months, if I found some way to show appreciation. Not just money, appreciation. Acknowledgement, credit. People want to feel like they're doing something that helps, and they become addicted to that feeling - it makes them feel like "part of us," a contributing member. Then I noticed the same thing with another employee. At some point I tried it with students, and lots more of them completed their classes on time, and referred their friends. Then one day the business consultant said something more or less like, "an employee's biggest motivation is feeling like they're contributing to something that's worth doing." The idea I got from it was, wow, people want that feeling that something good came out of their work.

Anyway, I mention that because an idea can take lots of different paths before we find a cool way to actually apply it. Brains are confusing.

D.S.

This is big. I love your silly method, don't worry about it being silly ;) Looking forward to the continuation!
You are SO right.

This was missing. NO ONE felt appreciated in that company. Everyone was driven to perform, push harder, and "just work some nights and weekends until we get caught up." No one's ideas were encouraged or accepted. And guess what? The company is falling apart.

It was helpful that you pointed this out, because I've been running into similar lack of motivation issues in my current job, and the same factor is present. My copy is dismissed, deleted, and altered until it the sales ability of the copy is gutted. No one understands or appreciates copy, even though they HIRED me to write their copy. So I've been running into similar turbulence and lack of motivation, and I've been wondering, "What's wrong with me? Why can't I get it together and just do stuff?" But I see now - this is why.

(I've also been privately saying to myself, "If this was a freelance relationship and this company was my client rather than my employer, I'd fire them just like that." I get WAY more love on the forum for my writing than I have gotten at this particular job.)

BUT - one of the owners does consistently thank me and shows appreciation. So I am more motivated to stick with it and not just bounce than I would be otherwise.
 

Roli

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I'll be working on a coding assignment and realize I just spent the last 4 hours perfecting my programming console theme.
I wish we lived in the same country so that I could meet you for a drink. We have so much in common :)
 

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Rabby

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Yea when not medicated / supplemented properly i'm pathologically retarded. I'll be working on a coding assignment and realize I just spent the last 4 hours perfecting my programming console theme.

I once spent an entire week making every coding symbol a perfect unicode one

View attachment 27143
Please go unmedicated on weekends and then share the amazing editor typography and configurations that you accidentally create with the rest of us. :hilarious:
 

ChrisV

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Please go unmedicated on weekends and then share the amazing editor typography and configurations that you accidentally create with the rest of us. :hilarious:
This was a Data Science IDE I started developing for a week while ADDing, until I realized I had like 742343 more important things I needed to be doing:

 

BellaPippin

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Yes this is 100% me.

I’ve made a post about it in the past because I wasn’t able to think of a reward that really felt rewarding to my brain so that I could sit down and practice art more often, or just plain work on MY projects. Food doesn’t work, working out (haha), TV/Videogames don’t work, I can’t find my equivalent of your chocolate chips. It may be relevant that I’m diagnosed with depression so maybe that’s why nothing seems interesting? How “happy” do the chocolate chips make you feel? Like, I can tell my brain is hooked when I’m browsing Reddit, you know what I’m saying? Do the chips make you feel the same? I feel it’s not strong enough!

The closest I could get was painting things with the purpose of gifting because I like doing stuff for others but it didn’t last.

For the sound I have the clicker I use with my cat :D

Your thoughts?
 
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André Casal

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Ok, just want to give my feedback on this.

Went to buy chocolate chips the day I read this. Tried it and it has been working for 4 days straight. Very happy with my productivity and, honestly, very happy in general. I’m off to buy the ingredients for a TAGulator now, so I can start chaining 10x25min work sessions for a bigger reward and break.

I’m not sure this would have worked without having a clear, consistent, path ahead and mostly rid of internal conflicts.

Routine and coffee help too.
 
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ChrisV

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@Bekit


He gets the science a little wrong and talks about dopamine like it's the pleasure chemical, but the overall concepts are cool.
 

Jakeeck

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I've been using peanut butter m&m's and its working great. However, it only works great when I have a list of tasks that have "come to me." I.E. people message me or I have a project come in. I have an established business where people come to me, so I've been on cruise control working 1-2 hrs a day for quite a few months now.

This reward system doesn't help me do things to "progress" my business. I get done what "came to me" that day and then I feel like my list is over and I do nothing the rest of the day. Can't bring myself to build out my business or start a new one, partly because I don't even know what the next step is.

That's it... when I know what the next step is, I can use this reward system. When I have no idea, this doesn't work anymore.

Any thoughts?
 

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