Hacking My Motivation

Well, it’s time to get into some nitty-gritty motivation hacking, because if I don’t, I’m very much afraid I’ll be finishing this last 10,000 words of my 2014 novella #1 sometime in, say, 2015.

Not what I want!

So … last night I spent a lot of time reading about motivation and procrastination and I found some good, actionable advice I plan to make use of.

What I Read

I’ve read a lot of stuff over the years about procrastination, but I’ve got to say, these particular posts and books really gave me some new stuff to think about. I loved being able to diagnose the reasons I procrastinate instead of having to slog through trite advice that I’ve heard so many times that I’ve just started ignoring it. There’s only so many times someone can say, “Just sit down and do it,” before I realize they really have no clue what I’m facing when I start down the path of procrastination. No clue whatsoever. If they did, they’d know I’D ALREADY BE DOING IT IF I COULD JUST MAKE MYSELF SIT DOWN AND DO IT.

Ah. Sorry about that. ;) This subject hits a nerve.

Anyway, I’ve come up with some small things that I think might just help me and I’m so excited to say that I’ve already had my first success!

I decided, after a conversation with a pal on a forum, that today was going to get off to a good start, with something small and completely doable that wouldn’t tax my brain or send me fleeing in fear of having to actually work this morning.

I implemented impulse pairing, where I added something I enjoy to the thing I keep procrastinating on. I enjoy my morning tea, a lot. I enjoy relaxing with it and drinking it slowly.

So … I got up and started a new routine: I had tea at my desk and did 1 Pomodoro’s worth of writing. 25 minutes, no pressure, just a way to enjoy my morning tea before breakfast. Since I have tea every morning, this isn’t a drastic change in my habits.

It felt fantastic! And even though I barely made it to 163 words in that 25 minutes, there was no expectation of a particular word count that I needed, so I didn’t mind. It just felt really good to get going with a minimum of fuss. I didn’t have to do anything before I got that first session in: no cooking breakfast, no reading forums, blogs, books, or email—nothing.

I’m very much planning to turn this little ritual into a firm habit by tracking this and turning it into a streak. :D

The only other thing I plan to attempt at the moment is a small change in how I think of my goals. Instead of thinking of my goals as daily, I’m going to go even smaller. For some people, saying they need to write 3,000 words a day might not be a big deal. But to me, knowing that I can write that many words in a day doesn’t negate the low expectancy of reaching that goal because I know I often don’t write that many words in a day, even when I set out to do just that. In a sense, I have a lot of learned helplessness associated with my writing that I’ve let creep in over the years and it’s hurting me.

I made notes as I read, and here’s what I came up with for myself when I got to the part about setting goals.

Set smaller goals. My daily word count goal is good, and so is my daily time writing goal. But I can break it down further. I could use my schedule and have goals for each session. Or I could have a simple goal of finishing 1,800 words before lunch, and finishing 1,800 words after lunch. The goal looks smaller (but isn’t) and that’s plenty of words for what I want.

1,800 seems so small in comparison to 3,000. And yet, 1,800 + 1,800 is actually 600 more words than the 3,000. Perception of the size of my goals is an important factor here. I have very few doubts that I can write 1,800 words before lunch, because I have a spreadsheet that shows I did just that for an entire month last February, with very few missed days. But 3,000? 3,000 is a big number, and I don’t often get 3,000 words in a day, so it just feels harder to reach.

This could also easily shift to fit time goals instead of word goals, but I’ve had to accept that time goals and writing don’t mix for me. Saying I need to get in 3 hours of writing before lunch still feels more difficult, and there’s no reward for being more efficient and getting done sooner, because the goal is a fixed time goal.

Finally, after thinking about it some more last night, I decided it might be even better to start out with a goal of getting in two 900 word writing sessions before lunch and two before supper. This way my goal appears even smaller and can be split up easily if I need to make time for something besides writing in my day. :D Or I can do it all at once if I’m on a roll.

And that’s it. I’ve rambled to the point that I don’t even remember half of what I’ve written here, so I’ll go.** I’ve really put off getting started with my 1,800 before lunch way too long! Might have to skip that one today. I got up quite late after staying up late last night and I’m already hungry for lunch and ready for a nap. Wet hair, cold weather, and too little sleep… Not my most productive combination. But hey, I’ve already done some writing today! Yay! :D

*My time was limited and I didn’t want to still be in the middle of reading these books instead of doing something, so I stuck to the samples. I’m very likely to purchase these and finish reading them, but not today!

**Plus it’s kind of depressing to see I’ve written over 1,000 words on a blog post but could barely eek out 163 words on my book. Someone save me from myself…

2 thoughts on “Hacking My Motivation”

  1. It turns out to be important for me to do the Pomodoro stuff before breakfast, email, conversation, etc. Who knew? (Answer: probably everybody, but that doesn’t make it easier.)

    Thanks for giving me a list of stuff to read that I can tell myself is job-related! {8′>

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