The Importance of Self-Motivation

I spent the night at a friend’s and just got back home now. It’s a beautiful day. The sun is out. It’s hot out, but not too hot. The trees are green again, and flowers are blooming. I have iced coffee in my hands. Everyone outside is either very busy, or seems very relaxed. However, as far as I’m concerned, I’ve been wasting my weekend.

Yesterday I spent the entire, similarly-gorgeous day indoors browsing the web and reading email. My only claim to productivity is a draft for two presentations on tech stuff (keyboard shortcuts and advanced uses for Address Book), which took all of fifteen minutes to think up, outline, and pitch. I browsed the documentation for Google Maps’ API but didn’t even play with it myself.

The only thing I could think about last night was how much time I wasted, and how much I didn’t get done. I mean, if it takes me a mere fifteen minutes to come up with what I feel are two really good outlines for presentations, imagine what I could have created if I spent just 45 more minutes on that project. What if I spent 2 hours of the day actually working. What about 10?

Being alone, that is, now that Sara is visiting in Maine for a while, has one of two noticeable effects on me.

  1. My productivity increases because I have more time with fewer distractions (which is not to say Sara’s a bother, it’s just that when I have more space to myself there are, by the circumstance’s very nature, fewer distractions to keep my productivity down—and I’m extremely prone to be disrupted by distractions)
  2. My productivity decreases because I lose my ability to self-motivate, for one reason or another.

And that’s what started this blog post in my head. I came home, glanced at my blog comments (to get rid of the daily barrage of spam that I get hit with) and saw this entry, a draft I began more than a year ago (back in October of 2004, actually). Here’s how the original draft began:

The other day when Danica’s parents came to town they spoke with Danica about why she had decided to stop her schooling at NYU. Over and over again one recurring theme kept appearing in the conversation. It reminded me of the conversations I had had with my parents when I left school: I need to focus on being able to live a normal, functional life. That’s hard enough without having to deal with a rigid institution such as NYU.

Reading that made me think about my job. I like my job. I like my job a lot. In fact, I can honestly say it’s the best job I’ve ever had. It’s better, in many respects, than even my freelance time because I’m constantly surrounded by very intelligent, super-friendly, extremely personable people. In fact, it’s downright awesome because there’s a huge focus on my very favorite thing: learning more about technology. I constantly have to stay up-to-date with the latest goings on for both hardware and software developments to do my job well, and all of that self-development is not only encouraged, but mandated.

However, for me, mandates pose a problem. Long-time readers (aka, people who know me really well) will think they know where this is going: my problem with requirements, rigid rules and regulations, authority, and what not. Well, they might be right. But here’s how I’m approaching it this time.

I’ve struggled for years, and I’m still struggling, to get myself discipined enough to motivate my own personal goals without external pressure. At the very least, I want to find appropriate external force to instigate such motivation in myself. That’s not easy to do. The problem is, having a job, where my bosses tell me what to do and it’s clear, every minute of every day, exactly what needs to get done, completely destroys any sense for self-motivation I have outside the workplace. That is a disaster, and should not be the case. I’m hoping it’s not, that I’m just in a personal slump, or maybe I just had a lazy day. (There’s nothing wrong with taking a lazy day for oneself, is there?)

However, my personal projects continue to pile up. Things I’ve said I’d do for months now have still not even begun. I need to organize my finances. I need to inventory all my hardware. I need to (re-)organize my workpace to take advantage of all my new equipment (yay for flat-panel displays and the increased desk space they provide, not to mention KVM switches!). Plus, it’s summer, which means if I don’t get my hotspot in the park up and running soon I will literally beat myself for putting it off.

And that’s just naming a few. I also have four or five programming projects I want to do, I’m absolutely drooling to learn more about Xcode 2.3, and somewhere in the middle of all of that I want to continue my certification training courses (hopefully with some kind of discount/voucher because those are really putting a burning crater in my wallet).

Of course, my other bad habit is turning projects like these, overwhelming and huge as they are, into obstacles rather than opportunities. I look at all of this, all of the stuff I have not done, and I think, “Gee whiz, I can’t possibly do any of that. It would take me forever and a day to do it all!”

The sad part is that even if I’m right, I’d be happier doing it and never finishing any of it than I would not even starting. So why am I still writing this entry and not doing anything about it? Good question, Meitar. Let’s change that right now.

6 replies on “The Importance of Self-Motivation”

  1. I was sure that I will find something here about the virtues of machine washable flash drives. Maybe later. Love, Aba

  2. hello, i found u at the bipolar bloggers, like i am, too. and it’s funny read u “I want to find appropriate external force to instigate such motivation in myself” just the same thing i’m passing through.

    but my blog, well, a long time since the last entry, ’cause of this lack of motivation and a few other things.

    well, just wanted to share a little, maybe a way to say “we r not alone, here”.

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