Motivation Hack

Last week I decided to discuss motivation issues with my therapist again, which had previously gone poorly after he said that nobody does anything they don’t want to do, which confused and irritated me. Then I figured out he was re-framing things and also telling the truth.

Even when I have mixed feelings on something and would RATHER rot in bed, I’m doing it because there is some reason I WANT to do it.

For example, I do dishes because I WANT to help out the other people in my house. I go to work because I WANT to live independently.

This re-framing helped me hugely. Whenever I felt that internal resistance that says “lay in bed forever and starve,” I would say to myself “I WANT to take a shower because I want to be clean. I would even include fun stuff like “I WANT to make tea because it’s warm.”

I was really happy with this for like three days, but unfortunately the magic has started to wear off, so I have now switched to “I’m CHOOSING to do … because …” and it feels almost as good and is maybe a little more validating of my ambivalence.

I hope this helps someone else!

The Points System for Motivation

I am always trying to hack my own brain and figure out how to motivate myself to accomplish tasks when I would rather be decomposing in bed, so I recently instated a points system. Each “productive” activity (which is, admittedly, kind of a subjective category) gets a value of 1-5 points based on how many spoons/how much effort they take. For example, laundry is 3 points, a doctor’s visit is 4 points, and brushing my teeth is 1 point. My current goal is 5 points per day, but I plan on gradually increasing that goal as I build mastery. So far, it’s going really well!

I also instated a reward, which is kind of a contentious subject for me. (I think many rewards are stuff like food/treats/rest/relaxation, which we should be giving to ourselves anyway.) My reward for hitting 5 points is being able to open a particular mobile game that is my current special interest. If I don’t hit 5 points, or haven’t yet, I am still allowed to play other video games or watch TV or lay in bed if I need to chill, but playing this game is only for after I hit 5 points. This reward is motivating enough to make me want to accomplish things, without preventing me from doing the things that help me recharge over the course of the day.

This system has the advantage of being flexible. For example, yesterday I started out with a plan to do laundry, but I really didn’t feel like it, so I did other activities that equaled the same amount of points. Instead of feeling guilty that I didn’t do what I planned to do, I just accepted that I earned my 5 points and moved on to playing Hearthstone.

Not only is it helping me get things done in a flexible way, the points system is helping me REST. Once I hit the relatively achievable/slightly challenging 5 points goal, I can do whatever I want without feeling guilty. It’s absolutely amazing to not sit around just thinking of all the productive stuff I could be doing and hating myself for not being able to do it.

In the words of Marsha Linehan, “I am doing my best and I can do better!”

If you would like to formulate your own similar points system, all you really need is a notes app or a piece of paper for keeping track of how many points an activity is worth, and then a way of keeping track of your tasks.