I originally intended to talk about motivation in this post. I have a theory that if you have to do something, then you might as well make it into something you enjoy. I’m an incurable “Pollyanna” personality; I’m probably irritatingly optimistic. You can’t always control what you have to do, or where you find yourself; but I believe you can try to control how you feel about it.
Make it enjoyable
I used to find taking photographs of my spoons and posting on social media to be a bit of a drag: A hurdle that I had to cross before I could get on with something more important. I’ve recently managed to shift that in my mind. I take a little more time; I use my proper camera, rather than being less than satisfied with what the phone camera can achieve. Then I try to take photographs that will not only be useful on social media. The final images might also go into a catalogue – useful on a website or as marketing/publicity shots. Each post on social media gives me a record of the work I’m doing. It’s not just to tick the box of engaging with social media.
So now the photography and posting are an integral part of carving each spoon. Consequently, I find that I enjoy it as a part of the whole process.
Make it a game
Now, it’s not always possible to actually enjoy each task or process. In my time as an engineer, one of the more monotonous tasks was data checking. By that I mean checking the output of a program (often in drawing format) to make sure that everything has computed properly. Now this was fairly mind-numbing, but it still had to be done. I couldn’t stretch to making it enjoyable, so I’d try to tackle it by making it into a challenge. I’d streamline the process so that I had the least amount of flicking backwards and forwards between pieces of data. Next I’d time myself; I’d set targets of how many I could do in a certain time (or before a coffee, at least). I changed it around in my mind from being a tedious chore into being a bit of a game.
Harder challenges and self awareness
I woke up this morning to find out what Emmet’s new challenge was. I found it was about becoming a legitimate business; having a bank account, and (in the UK, at least) registering as self employed. I jumped these hurdles last year, so my first reaction was that this was an easy week for me (yay!). But then I gave myself a talking to! Although I’m registered and “legitimate”, I’m still not really up-to-date with my book-keeping. Last year I filed a tax-return for the first time, but I didn’t actually complete it until two weeks before the deadline. In all honesty, I planned to go to the wire with it this year too.
I decided that if the task was to get on top of book-keeping, then my personal challenge for the week should be to file my tax returns from last year. And then I had a bit of a crisis! My blog was going to be about how to get motivated to do the thankless tasks. Neither of my normal strategies was going to work for this. There is no way even I can make going through receipts, bank balances and spreadsheets enjoyable. And making it into a game wasn’t going to work either.
On the way back from the school run I was chatting about my plans to a friend. She was suitably impressed at my resolution to get the tax returns done: “Oh, you’ll feel so smug!”
And she’s right! Feeling smug is a massive motivator for me: I’ll face even the most unpleasant tasks for the reward of feeling smug. I’m not sure exactly what that reveals about me and my character. What I am sure about though is that it’s worth using any trick you can if it helps you to get the job done.