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Tag Archives: motivation

I have been performing at a low level recently, and then I had a great session with my coach yesterday, and realized a few things.

I was procrastinating, but I wasn’t taking time to examine why I was procrastinating, because I was so busy trying to force myself to work!  I should have taken an hour to examine my thoughts towards the work that’s on my plate right now; which I did yesterday and today.
My coach let me know that she spends at least 30 minutes every morning examining her thoughts and getting psyched up, before she starts working.  And here’s the key point: it’s not the same thing every morning.  It’s not a routine or a static mantra.  It’s different every day.  She often starts with doing some writing, to get her thoughts down on paper, and aims to finish by creating an affirmation statement for the day: a battle cry, a declaration of what she intends to accomplish, and why it’s personally important to her.
Does 30 minutes seem like a long time to invest, every morning?  Her experience is that the investment more than pays for itself every day, in terms of increased productivity, and maintaining laser-like focus on what’s really important.  I’ve heard this from other productivity experts, too.  Time spent at the beginning of the day, on goals, on preparing one’s frame of mind, is more than repaid: you’ll work smarter and more efficiently.
I think this method makes a lot of sense.  Previously, I had developed some static statements that I was reviewing every morning, but they gradually lost their “power” to motivate me.  I think the key is that motivation is a fluid thing, and you have to re-discover your enthusiasm every day.  This approach also has the advantage that you can discover and root out whatever blocks may be driving you to procrastinate at the moment.  Do it in a notebook or blog or never-ending Word document.  Highlight your daily affirmations /battle cries, which will certainly make good reading in the future.
-Johnny 0.

Looking for a way to motivate myself to work out regularly.  Happened upon the theory that extrinsic rewards actually demotivate over time, but intrinsic rewards are motivators.  Example given: the reward for students to learn how to use a library catalog, is that they find the books or info they want – this is an intrinsic reward, as it is a natural consequence to the action.  An extrinsic reward would be “learn how to use the library catalog, and I’ll take you out for ice cream.”  The next time you want them to learn something, they will be demotivated unless you offer ice cream.  Even with the ice cream, they might feel demotivated; they don’t want to learn, they just want the ice cream.

This gave me an idea.  If I want to encourage myself to work out three times per week, then I could reward myself extrinsically, e.g. every week that I do 3 full work-outs, I give myself a reward, like a movie night or something.  That’s an extrinsic reward.  But what if I desired the effects of working out regularly?  Attach a reward to some outcome of working out, e.g. when I can do ten chin-ups and run 2.5km in 15 minutes, then I can take the whole family out to the movies.  Then, the rewards for working out three times per week are intrinsic: I get the fitness I need in order to achieve the extrinsic reward.  In the library example, it would be like rewarding students for answering a list of questions by finding the answers in the library; learning to use the catalog is a necessary (and rewarding) step to answering those questions.

So, remote the reward by one step, to achieve intrinsic motivation.  That’s my hypothesis.


Couple of good articles on the power of focus, the nature of motivation, and the importance of regular breaks:

Stop Being So Damn Productive

With mental tasks, productivity doesn’t increase linearly with time worked. Every hour spent working hard is a tax on the next hour you want to spend working hard. And so on until you can spend hours, even days, working without achieving.

Remember the quote “You speak a lot, but you don’t say much”? Same goes for working a lot.

The Trick to Accomplishing More by Doing Less

Multitasking all day is not as productive as working in 90 minute stretches with 15-20 minute breaks (or even a nap) and a real lunch break.

How Rewards Can Make You Hate Something You Love

“Many people—including us—have argued that doing what you love and getting paid for it is the holy grail of life achievements, but in reality we tend to get discouraged when presented with the possibility that we’re only doing something for the money.”

I would ascribe a different interpretation to the observed phenomenon: that, when getting paid to do something, you have to do it.  You have to do it to a schedule, and you have to do it to somebody else’s satisfaction.  When the task is no longer enjoyable, you have to keep doing it to completion.  Whereas, when you do something purely for enjoyment, you only do it for as long as it is enjoyable to you.

Applications to motivation and procrastination.

-Johnny 0.

Great little article on Lifehacker, I had a lightbulb moment when I read it.

Bring a Little Imagination to Your Work Planning for a Motivation Boost

It’s a summary of a longer article just published by Psychology Today, which you may also read (link in the Lifehacker article).

Briefly: it’s hard to motivate yourself when you are expecting boredom or other unpleasantness from the task before you.  Instead, imagine the good feelings that you will have when the task is complete.  Relief, pride, the joy of getting paid, a day off, whatever is your light at the end of the tunnel.  Take a moment, imagine it, feel it, associate it with the task at hand.  Feeling a little more motivated now?