In my last post, I talked about my motivations for keeping this blog, one of which was improving my writing and helping myself get better at thinking about things more clearly. I also said that I want to get better at using it to start conversations.
In aid of that, then, is there anyone who’d be interested in participating in a writing exchange of sorts? The idea is that we exchange pieces of writing from time to time, then critique them with one another either in person, via Skype, chat, or whatever. Ideally, I’m looking for someone who’s open-minded, honest, is genuinely trying to improve their own writing, has diverse interests, and thinks they can be both firm and thoughtful in their critique.
I always find it easier to get motivated about things when I’m working with someone else, and I sometimes wonder if the essentially solitary aspect of writing is one of the reasons I sometimes find it so hard!
I guess I’m looking for ways that blog-keeping and writing can become more social.
This week, I decided to make sure that Sunday was a day where I wouldn’t have to do any work so that I could actually relax.
Normally, I’m really bad at relaxing. I’ll spend most days stressing about work, and this saps my motivation such that I get less work done. In turn, I stress more, and my motivation lowers even further. And so on. This is neither pleasant nor productive, and is one of the central stupid things about the way in which I function. So, I’m trying to change it.
The plan is to take one day a week where I don’t stress about work. What’s important is not that I don’t work, but that I don’t feel I have to work. Nor is it even specific to work – I want it to be a day where I don’t feel I have to do anything – where “I just don’t feel like it” is a valid excuse.
The idea is that, by doing this, I’ll be less stressed through the rest of the week, have a little time for reflection, and generally be happier and more motivated. It’s really just the third (or fourth) commandment taken as practical advice – “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy”.
This morning, then, I woke up, had breakfast, listened to music for a while, and generally just chilled out. But then, something interesting happened – I thought to myself, “Y’know, maybe I might just read that paper I’ve been avoiding”, then ended up reading it through thoroughly, taking notes and everything. By way of contrast, during every previous attempt to read it, my mind was constantly looking for a way out, and no distraction was too small. Today, though, it didn’t even feel like work.
The conclusion I want draw, then, is that, for me at least, motivation has a lot to do with choice. If I choose to do something without coercion, then I feel better about it, do better at it, and generally get it done faster. I’ve heard this idea before and I vaguely recall seeing it mentioned in a paper on motivational theory I read a while back, but I’ve never seriously applied it to myself before.
So, for the next month or so, I’m going to try to treat Sunday as my own personal holy day, even though I’m not religious.
As an aside, I wonder if this is partly why I find task lists so useful for motivating myself. That is, I wonder if part of their value is the fact that they with choices of what task I should do, improving my sense of ownership over the decision to do them, and therefore my motivation.