#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.


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