Finding balance in a chaotic world

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Just Keep Swimming

swimmingFor me, keeping a basic routine helps keep me balanced. I know generally what to expect when and I can make appropriate adjustments when necessary to my schedule. But for long term projects, say losing weight or writing a book, I find that my motivation disappears after a while. I need to identify these times when my motivation is waning and take immediate steps to prevent it from interfering with my goals.

 

Well that all sounds good, but how can I do it? Like many issues in my life I have a disconnect between the rational knowledge that I need to do something and the irrational emotion of not wanting to. I know if I keep at it, I’ll reach my goal and be happier because of it, but I could always do a little more tomorrow, right?

 

And here is the crux of my problem. My inherent desire to put things off until tomorrow. The problem is that tomorrow never comes. The next day always brings a new tomorrow. This is one of the reasons why Amy and I instituted the People of Action I wrote about earlier. By reducing procrastination we help to set ourselves up for success.

 

Still some projects are just difficult and after a month or two getting up and continuing to work on them is very trying. For me the best way to keep going is to set a daily quota to meet. For instance, when I was writing my first novel, I set a daily quota of 1,000 words a day. I would get a word count before I started writing and jot down that number + 1,000 on a piece of paper. So I would start writing and do my best to keep going until I hit my quota. There were a few days when I reached a good stopping point shy of my goal but there were equally quite a few days that I exceeded it, especially near the end.

 

I also realized that I would not be able to write every single night, so I made a rule that I could skip no more than one day in a 6 day period. This gave me an out if I felt like I needed it one night without feeling guilty or that I had failed. It also helped me to write the day after I took a day off since that was what my schedule was. Knowing I did not have to write every single day worked well in keeping me motivated.

 

As a side benefit, the little piece of paper I scribbled my word counts on became motivating as well. Each time I reached my daily goal, I cross out the count. Soon the paper was covered in crossed-out numbers, each slowly moving up towards my goal. This way I could see quantitatively the progress I was making and it helped me to get over a few writing humps when I just did not feel like typing anything.

 

So the key for me is to find some kind of measurable item in the project you are working on and set a reasonable daily goal. Give yourself an occasional out when you need it and a way of tracking milestones that you have reached. This way instead of one large project, you are actually undertaking numerous small ones. Then if all of that fails and your motivation is running low when you start your daily tasks, think of Dory in Finding Nemo who say “Just keep swimming.”