A brief topic of conversation came up recently; that of when we do work for others.
I considered how I am often far more motivated when doing work for others compared with doing something for my own benefit.
Take my day-to-day work as an example: I cycle to a client’s house and sort out various issues with their computer.
This person could live upwards of 20 miles away and the work could take an hour or two.
Sure, I get paid for the work, but I’d like to think the money isn’t the primary motivator. Of course if I wasn’t being paid then I wouldn’t do such work for a stranger for nothing but there is the satisfaction of having accomplished the task and everyone being left happy.
Then take a day where I have no work scheduled and I plan to instead do things that I want to do; this could also involve going out on my bike for a ride, and then getting on with a project at home, such as some DIY, some work on my model railway, or some intellectual pursuit such as writing up notes on a book I’ve been reading.
Why is it that no matter how much I might intend to have an equally productive day for my own benefit that when that day comes around I have little motivation?
Of all my years of mulling over mediocre motivation (I read a book on the topic during my college years almost 20 years ago) it wasn’t until recently that I heard it said that there is a myth involved with motivation and as I looked inward I knew it was likely true since I notice how I procrastinate a lot prior to starting a task proper. Motivation and procrastination, after all, are tightly linked.
It goes something like this: when I have time to think about an upcoming task then I consider how I feel, and then there is the possibility of not feeling like starting a task. When it comes to doing work for others I don’t have the “luxury” of having time to procrastinate, because time is money, and as much as I do like to be paid for my time I can’t be charging people for time spent not actually doing the work required!
I have come to notice that I tend to make plans during the evening before, such as when I get into bed. Obviously by this point it’s too late to make a start on anything and instead all I can do is make plans for the next day, but when the morning comes end up considering how I feel, and for my own tasks I realise that I need to avoid considering how I feel. Instead I need to develop and maintain productive routines. In doing so I can avoid the possibility of not feeling like doing a task (unless of course I really am under the weather.
Another way around the self motivation issue is to tell other people of your plans, therefore being urged on through the desire not underachieve in the face of others. I’ve found this to be helpful through a variety of things, from planning cycling trips and ensuring they come into fruition, working on my model railway where I document my progress here on my blog and on Youtube, and sharing in other people’s plans such as I recently felt spurred on by Sarada Gray’s Project Fast.