Dec. 3rd, 2018

I’ve come to the determination that I will no longer attempt to accomplish tasks that have no more motivation attached to them then “this needs to get done”. The mere fact that some benefit would be gained or some detriment avoided by taking action is no longer enough for me, and I’m pretty sure it never was enough.

I have ADHD, which comes with troubles with reward and motivation. This isn’t as widely known as some other symptoms, and as a result of this, so many people are struggling, failing, and punishing themselves for “laziness”. Am I lazy because having the dishes done isn’t enough motivation to do them? Maybe I am, but regardless, I find “undermotivated” more useful language. The only cure I’ve ever heard anyone talk about for laziness is a good beating. Pass. On the other hand, there are tons of ways to combat a lack of motivation.

I came to the determination about tasks recently when I went on my most recent hunt for a new task management app. I do this regularly, despite having many apps that serve me well. And every time my brain decides that “what we need is a new app” it’s usually a sign that my motivation for productivity is lagging. Which is unfortunate because, with a few exceptions, no app or system can, by itself, provide the motivation we need to get things done.

No matter how beautifully laid out, well designed, multi-use, or readily available a paper or software mechanism is, it will never do the work for us or give us the get-up-and-go that we need to do it, in the absence of other motivation. Any number of factors about a system can prevent work from getting done, and it is vitally important to be aware of and eliminate as many as possible, but Trello does not have a Motivation+ add-on and Asana cannot make the boring suddenly seem exciting. (I mean, when we switch to it for the first time it can appear that way, but this is the newness of the system activating our brains, not the system or tasks themselves.)

This is what it really comes down to: activation. Since I cannot rely on my apps to motivate me, I need to find other ways to make my brain wake up and be ready to work. The method I use most frequently is habit and routine. I don’t give myself a choice for some things and as long as I’m careful about what I add to the routine, it sticks. However, this mostly applies to things I do every day and I have yet to establish a work habit.

The second most frequent method of motivation I use is accountability. This can take many forms but it boils down to someone else being aware of and/or involved in what I’m trying to accomplish. My absolute choice is meeting someone in person to work on different tasks together. My next choice is to do the same thing, with phone calls or messages at the beginning and end. It’s sometimes difficult to find people who would also benefit from this arrangement. Additionally, I am a big fan of just moving locations, to a coffee shop or library.

Accountability is also in the form of literally asking someone to ask me about something, a specific number of days from now. In some ways, I wish I had a boss because a lot of people find motivation in reporting to someone. In almost every other way, though, I prefer the DIY insta-boss method. Whenever I assign accountability to a task, I add an item into my task management system, tagged with the date I’ve asked the person about. This gives me a timeline in the app of what I have committed to, and thus, an order of priority for my tasks and work.

Writing all of this out has made me wonder: if I have this marvelous system at my disposal, how has it taken me so long to decide to use it, all the time? Whenever I have something I need to do, just ask a friend for accountability, and use the system. Because of that constant, low-level judgment that surrounds me.

For some reason, there’s this concept that we “shouldn’t” need anything more. The dishes need to get done, so just get on with it. Why do you need more motivation, when the need is so obvious? Well, I just do. And the only reason my dishes get done is the habit I’ve established of doing them every evening, right after I finish dinner. Even this habit fails me regularly, but less often than if I hadn’t worked to establish it.

So I’m going to make a commitment to my blog readers. I am going to try my absolute hardest to make sure that no task I have on my plate goes without accountability. Even if something seems like I’m ok to do it “by myself”, there’s no reason not to make things even easier.

What boosts your motivation?