Archive for January, 2011

January 11, 2011

#3) Gray Area and Motivation

I’ll admit it, I haven’t always been the world’s biggest self-starter.

Like most people, I am more motivated to accomplish a task when I enjoy it, or perhaps even if I don’t necessarily enjoy it but see the results (the gym, for example).  I’ve recently come to see that every task in front of me can, generally speaking, be placed into three categories: things I genuinely want to do and don’t have to fight myself about, things that I don’t always enjoy starting but take pleasure in once they’re completed, and things that I simply hate.

Out of these three categories, the first and the last are moot points.  Life’s just too short, in my opinion, to spend your time on activities which you hate, no matter what the benefits may be.  That’s why, in almost two years of being a member of 24-hour fitness, I have only swam once and lifted weights twice.   Too many people have had long, happy lives without ever touching a free weight to make me think that I need to.  And, of course, if you love something and don’t need to force yourself to do it, it’s a non-issue.

But what about the middle category, or the gray area?  There are two strategies I’ve tried over the years which I will share here.  The first is the “15-minute rule”, and the second is the “productivity wheel.”

The “15-minute rule” can be adjusted or interpreted as the user sees fit, but the basic gist of it is: if there’s a task you don’t really want to do but know that you should, work on it for 15 minutes, and if you’re truly, positively miserable doing it, then bail.  I use this most often at the gym.  Often times, just making the push to get out there and do it is all I need to work out for half an hour or more.  On those few times when I have thrown in the towel after 15 minutes, I’ve still gotten at least something of a workout in; I’ve burned more calories than I would have from sitting at home on my tuchus.

The “Productivity wheel” is a technique that is useful when you have several undesirable tasks and are not sure where to start.  Basically, you list a series of chores and pick one at random, as if you were spinning a wheel at the carnival.  For example, you can use a single die, throw it and designate a specific task depending on which side it lands on:

1) Clean bathroom

2) Get oil change taken care of

3) Catch up on e-mail

4) Call the electric company and ask about that overcharge

5) Call the phone company and ask about that overcharge

6) Call the cable company and ask why I was billed for “Naughty Night School Teachers Part 3: Conference Period”

And so forth.  As with the 15-minute rule, sometimes just getting started is the challenge, and the rest is easier once you commit.

Anyhow, those are two motivational tips which I hope you find helpful.  Just being able to identify which category a task falls into is important, too.  Now I’m going to head to the gym.  See you in 15 minutes.

January 3, 2011

#2) Learning From Idiots, Part 2: Craigslist and New Year’s Eve

Like many people, I have had a love-hate relationship with Craigslist over the last few years.  I am almost embarrassed to say it, but I have used the site for many purposes, including but not limited to: finding music students, finding band members, finding living situations, getting attention for my blogs (such as http://www.nobodyhikesinla.com), selling things and, during my last stint as a single man, ill-fated attempts at dating.

Users of Craigslist – and I am sure there are more of you reading this than would like to admit it – are familiar with the site’s policy on “flagging” posts.  If a user finds a certain post offensive, they can flag it, and if enough people do so the site will take down the post.  I have had a few of mine taken down over the years, for one reason or another.

Now, I’m not going where you may think with this.  I understand why Craigslist has the policy: They want to prevent internet scams, offensive posts and the like.  I also understand that as a small company, CL does not have the resources to look deeply into each case of flagging and see which are justified and which aren’t.  And lastly, I know that any site that provides a free service will attract individuals who abuse it–for themselves, or others.

What I do find interesting is not that a certain individual found two of my posts promoting http://www.nobodyhikesinla.com to be upsetting enough to flag, but the timing of said flagging: shortly after midnight on Saturday, January 1st, 2011.  Both of the posts had been originally placed on the 30th, so the flagger had to dig pretty deep to find them.

I’m not here to editorialize about what kind of person spends New Years’ Eve going through Craigslist and flagging posts (although the title of this post might be considered to be editorializing).  However, as near as I can calculate it, at the time the flagger was saving Craigslist from http://www.nobodyhikesinla.com, I was having really good sex with my girlfriend (leather boots were involved).  Somehow, that sort of thing makes flagging other peoples’ posts less exciting.

Then again, I should add that I’m a little bit envious of my flagger.  I wish that my biggest problem was what people posted on Craigslist.  I also should give him props – after all, he (or she) inspired me to write a 400-word-plus blog post about it.  And since you just read the post, you too, faithful readers, have been influenced by this nameless soul somewhere in cyberspace.

January 2, 2011

#1) Learning From Idiots, Part One

I was listening to “Coast to Coast”, a night-time AM radio program which frequently discusses subject matter such as alien abductions, government conspiracies, chemical trails in the sky and more.  The host read an email he had received from a listener who wanted the program to sponsor his building a time machine.  In exchange, he promised to give the show a shout-out when he arrived in the future.

I have to say, as funny as that letter may have been, it did get me thinking.  What if we could all go through life like that?  What if we all believed that everything was possible, and had no fear of rejection?  What if we just asked for what we wanted?

There’s more to this idea than just hippie, heads-in-the-clouds idealism.  In Tim Ferriss’s “The 4-Hour Work Week”, he puts forth the theory that goals that seem unachievable can actually be easier: you are more likely to work harder for something that truly excites you, and you will probably have less competition, because many people are prone to settling.

So does this mean that I will sponsor the time-machine builder?  Probably not. But I do wish him the best of luck on his endeavor, and I tip my cap to him for refusing to let the world stop him from asking for what he wants.