For weeks I had been considering reading a particular classic book that I had heard a friend reference. I plotted my time out and started forming an idea of when I would read it, and how i might acquire a copy, and then I walked into class and realized this very same book was assigned to me. Great, you might think, right? NO! Not great. How is it that the very same moment I am required to read something, I can think of nothing worse, even if I had been planning to read that thing for some time?
This got me thinking a lot about how I always seem to be most productive at the most inopportune times. After doing some of my own psycho-analysis, I’ve slowly begun to put together an effective list of what activities I should go do to get my brain in the right place, and what things I should avoid. Here we go!
1) When I have a lot of other more important things to do.
For some reason, whenever I have a pile of work to do, that’s when I can’t shake the desire to write songs or books or poems or paint stick-figure murals on the walls. It never fails. Worse yet, it seems like i write the BEST songs/poems/books/stick-figure paintings when I have a whole load of better things to be doing! Next time I have a deadline to meet, I’m going to work against my better judgement and destroy my room, dump paint on my dirty laundry pile, and maybe even slash one of my own tires to really put myself in a pickle!
2) When it’s early in the morning.
I have to think that when God or the universe or natural selection or whatever you believe created me, it thought to itself “Wouldn’t it be funny if we made this guy really productive in the morning, but made him hate mornings with a burning passion?” Thanks a lot for that. When I do seem to drag myself out of bed early, it seems like I work at a pace that defies the laws of physics. I get like 100x as much done in 100x less time. Next time I have a deadline to meet, I’m going to fasten my alarm clock to my cat and see if I can sleep through that madness.
3) When I’ve had just enough coffee to kill a water buffalo.
Somewhere between using the restroom seven times an hour and falling asleep while standing, there is a perfect balance of exactly the right amount of coffee. When I’ve consumed this exact amount, I turn into robocop. I could literally stop crime, paint a house, and put out a wildfire at the same time. I think the best way to find this magical spot is to brew a pot of coffee, drink two cups fast, then slowly teaspoon my way to coffee heaven so that my laser focus returns to me.
4) When I’m on a roll.
It seems like my whole life is a game of dominoes sometimes. If I fill my head with positive things, somehow more positive things come to me. All of you readers of “The Secret” out there will be screaming “Law of Attraction” at me, and even quantum physics has its own similar implications, but even if all of that stuff is a pile of garbage, (and I tend to think not on most days) focusing on positive things has a tendency to keep your mind in an uplifted state. Similarly, when you finish little tasks and start to see them fall like dominoes, it somehow makes the bigger tasks seem that much easier. Next time I’m dreading my giant pile of work, i’m going to start crossing off a bunch of little things to get rolling.
5) When others are rooting for me.
Too often I feel like we have an inclination towards sharing our “work-grief” with others. I feel like this leads to a bunch of people complaining about a bunch of minor things. What really gets me to a place where I am productive and happy, more than anything else, is knowing people are rooting for me. I think the method to getting this encouragement always starts with giving it out. I want to find more ways in my life to encourage people who I see putting in the hard work and effort to achieve greateness instead of complaining about how things are hard for me. I think this attitude can be contagious and lead to a lot of good. The next time I am struggling to get something done, I’m going to look at those in the world around me, notice what good work is being done, and lift those people up. Even if I don’t receive an immediate compliment back, it will still make me feel better and keep me motivated.
A smart guy once told me “Make art because you like it. What happens after isn’t important.”
We shouldn’t make art for other people. We shouldn’t do work for other people either. We should do our work and do it well because we take pride in ourselves, in who we are and what type of person we want to be. When we ignore our hurdles, it doesn’t make them go away, but maybe it shrinks them down to size. When we act as if we only have one hurdle to leap over, and once we’ve lept, we act as if there is only one more, that’s when life gets put into perpsective. Things become easier because we’ve convinced ourselves that life is just a progressive movement that is handled one small problem at a time. Our work becomes easier because that’s the nature of work. The more of it you do, the less of it there is. And yes, more will someday pile up, but you can’t spend all your time focusing on that. It doesn’t make it easier to worry about every future hurdle you might have to face. Just see what’s in front of you, not what lies behind it.
I’ll leave you with this. Chess is a board game of exceeding difficulty, and few people in the world have mastered it. Most who play and play well are considered highly intelligent, but when you read about the strategy involved in chess, you will find something interesting. The best chess players in the world do not think 15 moves ahead, or 20 moves ahead, or 25 moves ahead. They think two moves ahead: what they will do now and what they might do next. That’s it. Arguably the hardest game in the world, a game that pits two intellectuals against one another, requires only thinking two moves ahead.
Life is a game of chess. So the next time you’re trying to find a way to get motivated, maybe the best method of motivation is to slow down, to let all the stress and the problems and the fear and anxiety you’re facing go for just a moment. Take a breath, and think about how when you finish all the little details, what you’re left with is a completed project. Plot your course, figure out what things to do when, but then do them one at a time as if the rest of them don’t exist.
Before you know it, you’ll find your motivation has been there with you all along.
My debut novel “Shades” is currently up for pre-order at the following address – www.BrianRSchwarz.Pubslush.com Thank you for reading!