Correct me if I’m wrong, but one of the most amazing feelings out there is that when we have finished doing something that we really didn’t want to do. I should know – I’ve just finished marking four 12,000 word dissertations that every fiber of my being didn’t want to experience.
Okay there was a tiny part of me, like a small spot from a key-ring flashlight way down on the back wall of my stomach, a small spot which was open to the suggestion that it may be okay, interesting even.
I focused on that part.
“Hey you can just read one and see how it goes. You don’t even have to mark it,” it said.
That was it. That’s how I got in. And the hardest part was over.
In order to start anything we’re feeling too lazy, unmotivated or (fill in the blank) to do, we need to open ourselves up to the tiny voice saying it may be okay, that we could just do 10 minutes or an hour or just glance or dip our toe in or stand at the edge or take a walk, not a run.
I realise my mum tried to teach me this lesson between the ages of 6 and 19 – but I refused to take heed. Kids can be stubborn like that.
Now, on with my lessons in life.
Another way we can get our backside into action is by focusing on the feeling that we will have after we finish the activity, not on our current state of demotivation or inertia.
If we think about how energised and on top of the world we’ll feel after the yoga or dance, boxercise or French class, we’ll be more likely to actually get out the door to get there. Getting out the door is half the work.
We could think about how relieved, grateful and free we’ll feel after the hard work that we really can’t be bothered doing has been done and rationalise that it won’t take that long. I’m sure my mum tried to teach me this too.
To the social psychologists, this is called ‘delayed gratification’. They did an experiment on four-year-olds (or so), gave them a sweet/lolly/candy and said that if they didn’t eat it straightaway, they would be given another one in an hour. Those who could delay their gratification were seen as having more chance at succeeding in life. Because how often is it that we have to do something we don’t want now, to get the bigger rewards later?
Anyway, it doesn’t matter if you were the stuff the chocolate eggs down till you got sick on Easter Sunday itself kind of kid (there are other variables such as ‘siblings’ to be taken into account), it’s never too late to learn some delayed gratification.
Just knowing about this experiment is motivation enough some days.
And all this reminds me of a great joke Jerry Seinfeld told about Night Guy and Morning Guy. Night Guy was always messing things up for Morning Guy. We’ve got to think of Morning Guy – we must have that much foresight.
Another way to cope is to think about how we could get more pleasure out of a situation. Would I have fun doing the ironing if I was listening to music? (I’m not convinced either) Would it be more enjoyable if I did my marking at a cafe? Although I probably wouldn’t take it to my favourite cafe, feeling like I would be dirtying my pleasant memories of place.
I have tried to apply this to various situations (i.e. work) and find the best way to get more pleasure is just to have more fun with people; to laugh more and listen harder.
A more monastic option in the face of dirty dishes and crumpled cloth is to try to have total presence as we carry out our chores ; to really feel the dishes and warm water against your skin, rather than letting your mind wander….
Let me know how that works out for you.
Lastly, I have to give a special mention to that mutinuous part of myself that really wants me to skip class, wag work, eat the whole block of chocolate, watch one more episode of A Place in the Sun (woah, I know. CRAZY) and just be like, a little naughty and bad. We have to know when to listen to that guy and when she’s just being a pain in the arse and trying to sabotage our journey to a higher place and to a smaller pile of washing.
If all this doesn’t work, get a cleaner and outsource your marking to India (yes, Ms Mutiny thought it was a brilliant idea). Good luck with that!
Questions : What are your tips for getting shit done?