December 31, 2019

Motivation, Part 1

3:58 PM

Once again I am writing one of these to prolong the time before I have to actually work, because today is a free day and the prospect of 10+ hours that can be used for productivity is quite frightening. I’d rather just play it safe, playing video games and browsing social media for most of the time because working on my own projects would involve the possibility of potentially wasting all of the hours if no progress is made. At least doing fun stuff will usually be fun. No risk, some reward.

Yet the other part of me knows that we should probably be getting some work done, and that even if some of the hours are wasted, any work that is done will be far more useful than any of the same instant gratification stuff I get from my purely leisure hobbies. Because of that, I’m stuck in this weird mental dilemma where I don’t want to work but I also don’t feel comfortable just playing the day away, so I am quite literally doing nothing, flipping between tabs and watching the occasional video because I am unable to pick a side to actually devote my time to.

So not much is new.

By now, I’ve had my fair share of experience with so-called effective time management methods, a lot of them which don’t really apply to me currently (like “check your email first thing in the morning and organize them so you don’t waste time later”, sorry guys but I’m pretty sure checking my email is not the source of my time management issues). A lot of them deal specifically with the idea of separating time into more manageable chunks, which makes sense on paper. A 10 hour work session like this becomes a lot less daunting when you split it into 25-minute work periods and 5-minute breaks, with a longer break every 2 hours (the Pomodoro technique, which is actually a pretty good method if you need to get something done).

Unfortunately, these time-splitting things don’t really work for me, and that’s because a lot of my work is self-designated and assigned, and thus does not have a time limit. If I’m given a long paper or project as part of a GE or statistics class, I’ll have no problem using something like the Pomodoro technique because I’m working on a large task that has a very specific due date. But for my own projects, especially ones where I have to do a good amount of learning or practicing in order to be capable of them, I don’t really know how to get a good estimate of how much time I should give myself.

For example, right after I wrote that previous paragraph, I went on YouTube and watched about 20 minutes worth of cooking videos, because the thing that’s first up on my to-do list (learn After Effects) is not a very concrete or measurable task. And while I can dedicate a few hours to writing a paper or finishing a design without too much distraction, it’s hard for me to really get motivated when I’m trying to improve myself or do things that I know are still a bit beyond my current capabilities.

It’s easy to motivate yourself with the prospect of getting something done (and the relief afterwards), but when it comes to something like “I should learn this or improve at this”, there really is no foreseeable end to it. Once you begin dedicating yourself to a specific skill, you’re stuck with it for life. There’s no “final project” or some kind of ultimate test: you just keep learning, you keep doing, and you keep getting better. I don’t think there’s a single master of anything who does not continually pour hours and hours into his craft in the hopes of improving even more.

I guess it’s just hard to get motivated when all you have is a little light at the end of the tunnel. I hope I can learn to appreciate the little steps I take when I assign myself daunting tasks like this, and just be content with my efforts, even if some time is wasted. If I honestly regretted every second of every hour that was not dedicated towards progress, I probably would not have found much meaning in life.

This is a Part 1 because I hope to write about my journey with self-motivation and driving forces again, hopefully with something new and happy to report. But it looks like I've finished writing, so I'm yet again faced with the same dilemma.


- Sam