This past week was the last week leading up to my winter break off from teaching. I finished up my last two school performances, turned in my last two papers and was finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel from this long and hectic semester! As much as I wanted to just shut down early, I knew that if I did I’d have an even bigger pile of work awaiting me when I came back in January. Even though my motivation was waning, I had a lot of meat tasks to get through like planning out my teaching time-line for the next quarter, designing worksheets for my students to help them with their new music and making further progress on an ongoing research project for grad school. Boy, I did not feel like doing any of this!
When we finally force ourselves to begin meat tasks we don’t want to do, we tend to start one, work on it until it gets difficult and then stop and move on to another task. Then we work on that one until it also gets to a difficult point and move on to another one. In the short term, we feel good about ourselves because we have mustered up the motivation to start all these tasks we really didn’t want to do, but in the long term we’ve made it much harder on ourselves. Now, all the easy parts of the meat tasks are done and we’ve got nothing but difficult parts left! If we thought it was difficult to motivate ourselves before, now it’s going to be doubly difficult because we know the easy parts are done and we’re left with the tough things to chew through.
It was very tempting to just do all the easy parts of my meat tasks before winter break and save the tough parts for January, but I knew that would just make me spend my two weeks off dreading going back to work. Instead, when I hit my first speed bump in a task, I forced myself to push past it and keep going. We all know what that’s like when we are beginning a big task and we hit that first major stumbling block. There is a pivotal moment where we can either stop, or push past it. When you catch yourself getting to that point, and you know you just want to stop and save the tough stuff for later remind yourself that it’s not going to be any easier to finish later. You don’t have to finish the whole task now, but if you don’t at least start on the tough part, it’s going to be so much harder to force yourself into “work mode” again. Spreading out your meat tasks over time is important, but deciding how to break up the chunks is even more vital to managing your motivation.