"sam is typing..."

(A Blog by Sam Marshall)

Motivating Myself

2018 05 06

I really enjoy the process of writing. It's nice to externalise my thoughts, it's slowly making me better at explaining things and it's fantastic for coming up with new ideas. The problem is that it's dead easy to get distracted by everything else. Unfortunately things like writing and drawing stop happening if I just let everything sort itself out. Letting my time 'just happen' does not work.

Having said that, this is the longest I've kept a blogging habit going, and I've been writing way more in general recently. I've found a system that works well for me, and I'm going to try and examine why it works.

Step one was starting small, and only moving forward in small steps. Starting too big is frequently in lists of common mistakes, but it's so easy to do. If you're "in the zone" while you're making up a goal, it's easy to think you can handle it.

I don't need to write a lot, I just need to write. If it's important that you write huge volumes, then it might not work - but then again, writing little and often will build up very quickly. I've talked about incremental improvement before, and this is more of the same.

I've been tracking all this using beeminder, and goals like this are spot on what beeminder is for. It's 'a tool for tracking and encouraging certain behaviours - and punishing not performing the behaviours'. If you don't do what you say you will, it will take your money, but it also has graphs and a list of the goals that need action. For me, the idea of it costing me money isn't the biggest motivation, but it kind of provides a baseline 'oh, go on then' push that actually helps loads. This is where it's important that I didn't start too big. If it was too hard to get started, I'd have given right up.

A hugely helpful thing that makes beeminder work for me is how it reminds me that my goal exists. Goals come from long-term thinking me, and are almost always forgotten by short-term me, who is around way more often. It's nice to get a reminder that a goal exists as it needs action. I think this is my favourite part, especially for longer-running or more infrequent goals. I'm a forgetful sort of person, so I have to work around my own forgetfulness.

So pretty much, I have a system. I always end up saying that rigid goals fail - but I think that's because it's true! You really do need something nice and flexible. I build up my writing bit by bit over time, and publish when I'm ready. It works for me, and I'm a big believer in whatever works.