I’ve gotten really good at milking every last day of the break between semesters, not jolting myself out of vacation mode until it’s absolutely necessary. This isn’t entirely awful because I always have plenty of legitimate tasks to keep me busy between semesters and I consistently check things off my lists, but still, I feel lazy. I get into the habit of ending my days much too late and therefore starting the days that follow too late as well. Then, I end up beating myself up for not being more disciplined.
Why do we do that? (I’m assuming I’m not alone.) Spending all that time being riddled with guilt (okay, half-riddled with guilt), wastes the time and energy we could be using to accomplish things. Here are three habits worth breaking because they chip away at our motivation by draining our time and energy.
Shoulding ourselves. Whether it’s a gentle reminder, accompanied by a groan or a full-blown lecture delivered to our inert selves, telling ourselves what we should do is rarely helpful. Think about it. How do you feel when someone says, “You know what you should do?” If you’re a Jersey girl like me, you might resist the ensuing suggestion for all you’re worth (depending on the source and the circumstances). Shoulding ourselves uses up time and energy we could be spending doing the things that matter. If you really should be doing the thing you’re shoulding yourself about, do it now, write it down or make a plan to make it happen. Otherwise, let it go.
Not writing it down. Carrying our to-do lists and goals and shopping lists around in our heads is exhausting. Making lists frees us from having to actively remember the things we put on them. In fact, the act of writing things down helps us to remember what we have to do, while simultaneously freeing us from doing the hard work of keeping those tasks front and center in our minds. This frees both physical and emotional energy that we can use to actually do the things on the lists.
Writing it all down. I don’t know about you, but for me, too long to-do lists have a tendency to backfire. Master lists are wonderful (see item #2 above), but they need to be broken down into bite-sized pieces. At the start of the day (or the night before, if you prefer), choose the things you most want to accomplish. I choose my big three (I’d suggest no more than five) and write them down, remembering to be realistic about whether or not I can actually accomplish all of those things in one 24-hour period. When I select my big three, I often do so by asking myself what I need to do that day (any deadlines?) and/or which three things would leave me feeling most satisfied if I accomplished them. By listing selectively, most days, I get them all in and some days, I actually do a few extra things as well.
It’s hard to get motivated to tackle our lists — or anything else — when we’re tired and pressed for time. Breaking non-productive habits can buy us back the time and energy we need to do not just the things on our lists, but maybe some fun things, too.
And, hey — if you want to put the fun things on the list, that sounds like a pretty good idea to me.
Stop back next week for a few more things to keep in mind when it comes to finding the motivation that seems to have gone AWOL.
Copyright 2019 Lisa Hess