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  • keeping motivated

    I seem to have a pattern with GTD. I keep everything in RTM and generally do a good job at entering tasks in that system as they come to my mind. If I do some reading on GTD, I feel motivated and am able to move through my next actions with minimal distress about whether the task is unpleasant or not. Over time, I start to want to avoid the reality of what is on my lists (i.e., avoiding things I don't "feel" like doing) and GTD starts to fall to the wayside. I'll then get burned by disorganization which will re-motivate me to get back to GTD, do some reading, and the cycle repeats.

    I am amazed at how effective I can be if my mindset is in a "mechanical" mode of working through my next actions, but I just find it hard to maintain that coldly effective perspective. Wondering if others could share tips on how you stick with GTD, even when your motivation wanes and the NAs get to be too much to face. How do you minimize avoidance?

  • #2
    I recently read about the "hedonic treadmill" which essentially says that people revert back to a basic level of happiness despite whatever is happening in their lives. This is something which I kind of intuitively realised since I was a kid (I used to call it the "zero law"- in the end the positives and negatives tend to balance out).

    I wonder if this could kind of explain motivation issues. You get an idea for a project, something which looks great and exciting and are highly motivated to start activity on it. Then, because of this hedonic treadmill thing, you get used to the idea of the project and thinking about it doesn't give you as much pleasure. This leads to less motivation for the completion of the project. Add to this the many inevitable setbacks which will be experienced (please don't forget though the serendipitous discoveries and new ideas on the way too- things you wouldn't have realised unless you actually did work on the project).

    The solution I propose is that we just accept this "hedonic treadmill". Accept the fact that the stuff on our NA lists will sometimes repel us, bore us and make us downright unhappy! But remember that (assuming you're doing your weekly reviews right) all items on that list are the best things you can possibly be doing with your time. Forget about rewarding yourself for completing an unpleasant task. The hedonic treadmill works the opposite way too. The more unpleasant the unpleasant tasks are, the more pleasant the pleasant ones are! And you don't need to motivate yourself to do the pleasant ones!

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    • #3
      Mark Forster, http://markforster.squarespace.com/ describes a method of selecting tasks in threes, the third task being the most repulsive one, and the first two being less repulsive, giving you some time to get adjusted to the thought of doing the repulsive one.

      I never got around to trying it myself, though. Perhaps worth a try.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Folke View Post
        Mark Forster, http://markforster.squarespace.com/ describes a method of selecting tasks in threes, the third task being the most repulsive one, and the first two being less repulsive, giving you some time to get adjusted to the thought of doing the repulsive one.

        I never got around to trying it myself, though. Perhaps worth a try.

        There is a book called "eat the frog" which says you should take your most repulsive thing to first thing you do. This is because after it everything else seems easy and nice. (please forgive me if I remember incorrectly)

        I have to make a confession. I'm somewhat familiar with Forsters ideas, and I actually got familiar with autofocus before I started learning GTD. Confession part: I haven't found any Forsters idea to work for me and my life. This doesn't mean I think they are generally worthless ideas. Didn't work for me but might work for you.

        GTD helps me to tackle big or repulsive projects because I stage my projects. Example:
        main project: Software X is published and widely used
        sub project: software is ready to launch
        subsub project: prototype is ready to be presented for potential financiers
        subsubsub project: I have a full feature list of software.
        next action: brainstorm potential features.

        One of the best things GTD has teached me is to name my projects to goals. Somehow that has made many projects less intimidating / repulsive because now I'm not reminded about project but desired outcome.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by kkuja View Post
          There is a book called "eat the frog" which says you should take your most repulsive thing to first thing you do. This is because after it everything else seems easy and nice. (please forgive me if I remember incorrectly)
          The problem I have with those kind of techniques is that it feels like I am trying to fool myself into doing something I don't want to do. Therefore I subconsciously develop other techniques to "rebel" against it. For example with "Eat that frog" I might chose something which I pretend to myself is the worst thing to do but actually it isn't. Similarly if I try and set targets e.g. complete such and such in a certain timescale, then I will sneakily move the targets to make them easier. And I don't believe I am alone with this; this is a failing of the human race. It's the reason we're blindly destroying our planet and printing money. People are looking for the easy way and not eating frogs!

          Originally posted by kkuja View Post
          One of the best things GTD has teached me is to name my projects to goals. Somehow that has made many projects less intimidating / repulsive because now I'm not reminded about project but desired outcome.
          That's interesting, I had a little try of this when doing my WR and could not link some of my projects to goals (even though they were obviously contributing to some kind of goal level). This might indicate goals that I have not discovered yet or projects that are not leading anywhere and should be scrapped.

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          • #6
            The hedonic treadmill is an interesting and well documented phenomenon.

            I guess for me, it's a case of finding the balance between "how much time and energy do I put into GTD" and "how much time and energy do I get back from the systems I set up".
            Not always easy to set up or to know in advance.

            I second that, as an interesting addition
            http://markforster.squarespace.com/

            The Path to Willpower book pretty much details my ethos/balance level and how to get through difficult to do things
            http://www.learningthesteel.com/books/

            And yeah! I remember that Eat the Frog quote!
            Wow...it's been awhile! Haha

            I imagine some people get bogged down motivation wise because they overdo the whole GTD thing or don't do it effeciently

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