The Dopamine Crossroads

A Guide to Hacking Motivation

Motivation is the first line of defense against laziness.

But what do you do when a deadline is approaching, every tick of the clock amplifies your anxiety, and your motivation is nowhere to be found?

Procrastination isn't just about laziness; it's deeply rooted in our psychology and the chemicals sloshing around in our brains. 🧪

But what if you could control that chemical concoction to enable unlimited motivation? Turns out, you can. Here’s how:


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The Dopamine Dilemma

When doing mentally or physically strenuous tasks, (traditionally the ones that need the most “motivation” to get started) the first 5–10 minutes are almost always unpleasant.

Facing an unwelcome project with a looming deadline can make the simple act of picking up a pencil feel 10x more difficult than usual.

This is the resistance.

This resistance is linked to dopamine - a neurotransmitter in our brain. Your body regularly produces dopamine, but when you embark on challenging tasks, there's a slight dip below the usual baseline levels. This means:

  • Fun tasks → More dopamine 🍻🤪

  • Difficult tasks → Less dopamine 📚😞

Seems simple, but with this knowledge comes great (motivational) power…

The Flow State Crossroad

Ever noticed that after pushing through with the initial resistance of a task, things start to feel... easier?

This happens because after around 7 minutes, your body starts to relax and the stress hormones that cause you to feel that “resistance” start to fade away.

So after 7 minutes into strenuous work, 2 potential scenarios emerge:

Scenario #1: Flow State 🌊

Flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

Sounds nice, huh?

While it's a desirable state, it's not always attainable. But there are a few ways we can increase our odds of getting in the zone:

  • Craft a Deep Work Environment: Minimize disruptions. Flow State allows you to feel motivated and fully immersed because you are focusing on one thing only. Switching context — even checking your phone — can pull you out of a state of deep focus.

  • Start Specific: It is much easier to overcome the initial resistance of a difficult activity if you have clear and achievable objectives. Replace “write essay” with “draft a 5 point outline”—start small and focus on what’s in front of you.

  • Fuel Up: Dopamine and adrenaline are 2 of the core components of entering flow and getting in the zone. Caffeine has been shown to increase levels of dopamine and loud music increases adrenaline. Use them both in moderation.

Option #2: Motivation Exploits (Hack Your Brain) 🔓

If you didn’t manage to get into a flow state, there is still one more option.

You still need to get work done, even if you’re not motivated.

Luckily there are ways of tricking your brain into doing just that. These productivity techniques are designed to psychologically reduce the ‘resistance’ you feel when doing a difficult activity.

  • Track, Don't Plan: Replace daunting to-do lists with activity tracking. Logging even minor activities, like a 30-minute Twitter scroll, shifts your mindset from future-oriented to present-focused, easing anxiety.

  • Embrace Lo-Fi: The technical flaws in Lo-Fi music can subtly engage our brain, making it an excellent ally for focus. Why do you think Lo-Fi Girl is always studying?

  • Pomodoro Technique: Work in 25-minute sprints with 5-minute breaks. This strategy fosters urgency, helping maintain momentum.

  • More: Check out this video for more tips and tricks on getting into flow state and beating procrastination.


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Thanks so much for reading another issue of The Jailbreak!

Til next time, Nomads. ✌️
- Jack Ross

Jack Ross (Data Engineer, Writer, Nomad)

Chat with me directly by replying to this email, follow me on Twitter for regular updates, and subscribe to my YouTube channel for travel vlogs, tips, and insights on unlocking freedom in the digital age. ❤️

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