Putting Both Tools In Your Motivational Toolbox
I love to have goals. I make yearly resolutions, monthly project plans, and daily checklists. I love the satisfaction of the checkmark or the filled-in box on my habit tracker. I was a gold star gunner in elementary school and that hasn’t ever left me. But the minute-by-minute motivation — WHEW — that’s hard.
I break it down even further, using the Pomodoro method. If I write for 20 minutes, I get a 5-minute break to check social media or play a little video game on my phone. Sometimes I use the Forest app, which plants a tree, and if I can stay off my phone for the duration of my goal, the tree gets added to my forest. Yay! They’ve gamified motivation, and I’m here for it!
Sometimes (alright, often), my little breaks stretch on and on. Before I know it, I’m checking social media before I start writing and then switch to a quick Candy Crush game or ten. After that, social media again. Suddenly, my mini-motivation has swamped the work itself and nothing is getting done. Let me take that out of the passive voice: I am not getting anything done.
I realized the other day that positive motivation wasn’t enough. It was time for some punishment.
In other words, I’m tired of carrots, so it’s time for the stick.
I was on vacation, so I didn’t feel compelled to punish myself right away, but when we got home, I deleted the games from my phone and my tablet. This morning, after I had checked my social media sites one last time, I deleted them too. I can’t load them back on until I finish making edits to my book that have to get done. If I work on it today (notice I’m not working on it right now), then they can come back today. Otherwise, they’re gone until I finish.
Clearly, I’m avoiding the One Big Thing I need to do. I’m not going to psychoanalyze why (I know why: It’s hard), I’m just going to acknowledge it and keep denying myself things I enjoy until I get it done. Since there aren’t that many other distractions left (laundry is done, groceries are bought), all that I can do is the work, which in this case is editing my book. When this post is finished, I won’t be allowed to write another post until I finish my editing.
The stick has to hurt a bit. Not crippling, but just enough to sting. Until the One Big Thing is finished, I will be shedding enjoyable distractions. Let’s see if this tool works!
UPDATE: Dear Reader, it worked. Forty minutes after I finally buckled down, I was making the final changes my editor recommended. I’ve been sitting on this for more than two months and in my mind, this was going to take 8 hours to complete. I downloaded Twitter again after dinner, but I can definitely see myself dumping it again tomorrow in pursuit of another goal.