On days when it’s difficult to get motivated to do my work (days like today, where the air is warm and the sun is out and the sky is blue), I usually don’t end up getting any work done. No, it isn’t that I go outside and carpe diem; on the contrary, I sit dutifully in front of my computer fully intending to get work done, but my frequent wistful glances out the window and my desire to not do work only seems to exacerbate my preexisting procrastination problem. So what’s the solution?
What I’ve found works for me is a reward system. On days when I don’t feel motivated, I acknowledge that I’m not motivated, and I set myself a reasonable goal. It might be time-based (work for 3 hours total) or it might be production based (write 10 pages, read 75 pages), but it gives me an endpoint. When I reach my objective, I quit. I head out into the world and reward myself. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting a coffee from Tim Horton’s and taking a drive around town, while other times it might be meeting up with friends to go out to dinner. I try to make my rewards something that will get me out of the house so it actually feels like a reward. Anything that involves me sitting on the computer (Facebooking, watching Netflix, etc.) doesn’t feel like a break. In fact, it feels like more work. My favorite rewards involve doing things with other people. Academia is often an incredibly isolating experience, and so the opportunity to let your hair down and hang out with other people is a great opportunity to realize that life isn’t all about books and computer screens.
So today, even though I’m getting a slow start, I’m going to set my goal of writing five pages and when that’s done, I’m going to reward myself. What are some of your favorite rewards for getting work done?