Harnessing Unexpected Motivation

Sometimes work just seems to take longer than it should. We may have eliminated all distractions and given ourselves ample time, but we just aren’t being as productive at a task as we know we could be. Why is this? It may be because we just aren’t motivated. Focused work is twice as efficient as unfocused work, but focused work that you are actually motivated to complete is the even more ideal scenario.

I’m not saying you will always be 100% motivated and excited to complete a task or that you should wait around for inspiration to strike before beginning anything. However, when you do feel particularly motivated to do something, it’s often best to just go ahead and do it, even if you had originally planned to complete something with a slightly more pressing deadline.

Adjusting Your Schedule

This past week was my spring break from both teaching and my grad program. I had a detailed plan sketched out of what tasks I needed to complete and when I planned to complete them. On Monday, I had planned to knock out some easy and tedious tasks first that were due right after break was over. However, when I woke up on Monday, I felt ambitious. I wanted to tackle the literature review for my research class. A literature review is the part of a research study in which you read as many published studies as you can that have already been written about your topic and then summarize them into one concise section that will eventually serve as the lead-in to your own research paper. I had really not been looking forward to doing this, and since my paper isn’t due until May, I was planning on breaking up this task into tiny little parts and spreading it out over the month of April to make it more manageable. Usually, this would be a great plan, however, here I was on a Monday morning actually feeling motivated to tackle this challenge.

Even though I had tasks on my choose-to list with more pressing deadlines, I took advantage of this surprising motivation and spent all of Monday and most of Tuesday finishing this literature review. I took frequent breaks to complete chores around my house and make sure I didn’t burn out on this heavy “Meat” task, but overall, I was on a roll for two days straight. By late Tuesday afternoon, my motivation was gone, but I had almost finished my task.

In our Time Diets, we work so hard to motivate ourselves to complete tasks we don’t want to do. We post our goals in our workplace so we remember what we’re working for. We break up big tasks into more manageable chunks and we remove all distractions so we are free to focus on our work. We are so good at manufacturing inspiration that we can’t forget to ignore when inspiration strikes on its own. I ended up finishing those easy tasks I had originally planned to do on Monday a little closer to their due date than I would have hoped, but I was still able to finish everything I needed to do without the risk of missing a deadline. Taking advantage of my surprising motivating to finish my lit review was the most productive decision I could have possibly made over my spring break.

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