Do you sometimes really struggle to motivate yourself? I do. I’m a pretty high energy person but if I’m having a grumpy day, I need to employ a few sneaky tactics to get myself going.
Last weekend Mr Smaggle and I were booked solid from Friday night to Sunday night. Then randomly, miraculously, all of our plans fell through and we had NOTHING on the entire weekend. What fresh bliss even WAS this?
On Sunday we got up early and wandered down Brunswick Street, drinking coffee and passively looking in the gift shops for potential Christmas gifts. With a free weekend afternoon, we went home and started our playlist of Things We’ve Been Meaning to Watch, one of which was the South Park documentary called 6 Days To Air. The doco follows Matt Stone and Trey Parker through the first week of filming for a season of South Park. You might not know this but each episode is written, recorded, animated, produced AND AIRED in 6 days. It’s out of control. Sometimes the show file is handed over minutes before it’s supposed to go live.
There was one scene in particular that really resonated with me. Matt and Trey had spent the morning in the writer’s room having a ball coming up with concept ideas for the week’s episode. Bill Hader was there… it was awesome. Once the skeleton of the episode was in place it was Trey Parker’s job to take all the ideas and turn it into a succinct script that could then be turned into an episode.
It was so incredibly painful to watch him do this because he HATED it. He loved doing silly voices, recording, coming up with jokes, even tweaking the editing cuts to make them funnier but sitting at his desk writing made him so unhappy.
It was a timely reminder that no matter how glamorous someone’s life seems, there’s always really boring stuff they have to do. For example, I love doing theatre but I HATE learning lines. I hate it so much. It’s unbelievably necessary to do this and do it well but it doesn’t stop me wasting a whole day procrastinating about getting my script down. It’s the same with Crochet Coach. I love crocheting (obviously), I love design, I love teaching but I HATE writing patterns. It’s so technical and requires an incredible amount of concentration. I hate it but it’s a necessary part of a job I love so I have to do it.
Everyone has really boring shit they need to do. Here’s how to motivate yourself to do these horrible tasks.
1. Focus on minutes, not hours
Hours are scary. They seem so long, yet they disappear so fast. 20 minutes is a magic amount of time. You can do a speedy clean of your bathroom in 20 minutes. You can bash out a rough project plan in 20 minutes. 20 minutes is a fairly decent amount of time for a break and it’s also just enough time for a little nap. If you have a task that’s making you drag your feet, dedicate 20 minutes to just starting the task. Starting is usually the hardest part. If, after 20 minutes it’s just not happening, shelve it for later in the day. Focussing for 20 minutes is much easier than trying to focus for an infinite amount of time.
2. Use a calendar instead of a to-do list
If you find yourself constantly finishing each day with a half-finished to-do list, try scheduling instead. I’ve mention Long Day before but I find by giving myself a time and date to have a task completed, it reframes my thinking and keeps me motivated much more than an open-ended due date.
3. Get your procrastination out of the way quickly
We ALL procrastinate, even the most motivated people. I’m a procrasti-cleaner. I like to make sure my environment is super clean and tidy before I start my task. I know this about myself so instead of sitting down at my desk amidst my clutter, I spend 20 minutes cleaning. There’s no point in starting your task if you know you’re going to get distracted. Fail quickly, do the thing that distracts you straight off the bat and get it out of the way.
4. Anticipate your own slackness
If you know you’re going to reach for your phone 5 minutes into your task, turn your phone off and put it on the other side of the room. If you know you’re going to spontaneously decide you need a cup of tea, make it before you sit down to start working. If you gently monitor your own behaviour, you’ll get to know your weak points. Be honest with yourself. If the only time you care about the toilet being clean is when you have an assignment due, make sure the toilet is clean hours before you start your task.
5. Give yourself a cut off time
Some tasks can’t be done in a day and you need to give yourself permission to do what you can in a day. Give yourself a cut off and actually stop working at that point.
6. Avoid other people
I’m lucky in that I work for myself and from home and my only co-worker is Mr Smaggle who does NOT like a proverbial chat at the water cooler. Thank god, because I do and if he loved to natter neither of us would get anything done. We sit in silence, with headphones on for most of the day and it’s excellent. It can be difficult to do this in an office environment but you need to create a culture where you only chat with people at break times and you don’t encourage chatting at other times.
7. Set yourself a reward
Like 20 minutes reading your favourite book or making yourself a cup of tea. I’d avoid food-based rewards otherwise you’ll get into the habit of thinking you deserve a Tim Tam every time you complete a task. Also be strict with yourself, don’t give in and have your treat break early, that totally defeats the purpose of a reward.
8. Set yourself up for success
Give yourself realistic deadlines that still create a sense of urgency. If you have 5 essays due, you’re obviously not going to get them all done in one day. Set yourself the task of completely maybe 3 of the outlines in one day, which is much more achievable. Did you know you can Google time estimates for this? Try ‘How long does it take to write 3000 words’ or ‘How long does it take to edit 2000 words’ to give yourself a realistic idea of how much time it should take you to complete a task.
9. Realise you’re not unique
Everyone has to do boring stuff. I think boring stuff makes up the majority of most people’s days, to be honest. I love my life but my days consist of going to the gym, eating the same lunch, writing lots of words, crocheting in front of the TV for an hour or two and going to bed. Rinse and repeat. I often look at crime scene investigators and think their lives look amazing but all that paperwork would make me want to burn my eyeballs. All jobs have boring bits attached to them, you just have to figure out how to light your own fire and just get that shit done.
If you’re a bit shit in the motivation department at the moment, here are some articles that might give you the kick up the bum you need.
How do you motivate yourself to get shit done? And what’s the one super boring thing you really hate doing?