Life and stuff

Staying Motivated

“The most successful people in life are the ones who are able to be honest and vulnerable with others.”
Bonita Norris


How do you stay motivated?  Or more urgently, how do you stop procrastinating and tackle the things you don’t want to do? I like to think of myself as a self-starter, but there are days when it is hard to find a passion for what I am doing, whether that be work, exercising or unloading the dishwasher (seriously, I have such a mental block about the dishwasher.  And unloading laundry.  And wiping down the bathroom sinks.  Anything that doesn’t involve Netflix, basically.)  There is a ton of stuff out there about staying motivated, and some of it has really resonated with me.  It seems like just when I am looking for motivation (you know, it’s 11:30 am, messy hair, cold coffee cup in hand, scrolling through Facebook for the umpteenth time, ignoring the blaring bullhorn in my ear telling me to move) these amazing ideas pop up on my feed.  So then I fix another coffee, put my feet up and read about motivation for another hour or so.

Just Do It

There’s a reason that this is a famous shoe company’s motto, right?  But it’s so true. Whilst I find I need some motivation in every nearly aspect of my life, this little motto has helped me most with running.  I am not an athlete.  I am not nearly an athlete.  I absolutely hated P.E. in school.  Like so much you wouldn’t believe it.  I was physically sick the night before P.E. lessons, and I dreaded seeing that old battle-axe of a Trunchbull teacher.  Those twice a week lessons put me off any form of exercise and I didn’t do any physical activity (other than half-heartedly doing that I’m-not-really-running-more-like-a-cool-trot/walk-for-the-bus-not-even-bothered-if-I-miss-it run) from the ages of 16 to 47.  Shocking.  P.E. in school made me believe that I just wasn’t capable of doing exercise.  So I didn’t.  Until one day I got the courage up to begin the Couch to 5k program.  If you are a total non-runner like me, then I truly recommend it.  Anyway, to cut a long story short, I read a ton of accounts from runners, many of whom had never run before either.  And the key thing I took from them was “If I am not doing it, someone else is”.  For whatever reason, I found that really motivating.  It was like telling myself, well if you can’t be bothered, other people are running laps around you (both literally and figuratively) and many of them are at the same level of fitness you are.  Here’s just one of the many forums I read the night before I run (sometimes I get choked up reading them – some of these people are amazing) and it always makes me think – no excuses.  Just do it.

The Power of 5

OK, so the Just Do It thing is fine, but just getting to the point of just doing it is the sticking point.  I hear ya.  That alarm goes off in the morning.  Waking up at 5 a.m. is for the birds, as my husband tells me.  I don’t want to get out of bed.  When I am out of bed and my husband is leaving to go to work, I don’t want to get off the couch.  When I am eating lunch and I have had a lunch break (and a half) I don’t want to go back to work.  I don’t want to take the mail to the mailbox.  I don’t want to finish a blog post about motivation.  I don’t want to stop watching re-runs of the Gilmore Girls to fix supper.  I’ll just wait until this episode finishes . . . wouldn’t you know there’s another episode coming on?  We don’t need to eat until 9pm anyway.

So this nifty trick is the easiest one, and possibly the most effective.  Countdown from 5 to 0.  When you get to 0 you have to move.  The countdown is quick enough that your brain cannot come up with reasons not to move, and once you are at 0 you have to stand up and go without thinking about it.  Once you are moving, your brain has changed focus and you can begin whatever you have to do.

A Minute of Brilliance

Another simple idea but also really helpful.  I don’t know where I heard about it, but I use it when I am running, working and doing boring things I don’t want to do.  All you have to tell yourself is that you are going to be your absolutely best self for just one minute.  The happiest, most driven person you have ever known – that is going to be you and you only have to do it for one minute.  I tell myself this when I am running – I only have to do this for one more minute, but this one minute is going to be the very best part of my day.  I make myself do whatever it is smiling.  A manic fixed grin plastered to my face. One minute gets me through the very last things I have to do, and you would be totally amazed in what you can achieve in just one minute.  You can find within yourself the wherewithal to continue to run even though you are pretty sure you left your lungs on the sidewalk about two blocks ago.  You can finish typing the sentence you were working on, file away papers, write that list, wipe down the counters and you can do it ALL knowing that you only have to do it for one minute.

The Final Countdown

And leapfrogging off from that idea is the countdown timer.  I have an issue with the dishwasher.  Don’t judge me.  It is a mental block.  I don’t mind loading it.  I hate unloading it.  I can’t tell you why, but it is like a drain on my energy.  When I walk in the kitchen and I see it needs to be unloaded (all the freaking time) I can feel the life just being sucked out of me.  I don’t know why I find this so hard – it is a machine that is meant to make life easier, and yet. . .

Without a timer it can take forever and a day to unload the dishwasher.  If I don’t set the timer, there’s a lot of checking my Facebook page to see people I don’t really care about doing absolutely nothing.  It’s an easy jump from Facebook to Instagram.  Then I think I will check out a podcast I had been meaning to listen to, because, you know, that will help the time go faster when I do unload the dishwasher.  Then I find that the bluetooth speaker needs charging, and I can’t find the charger.  Then I set up the bluetooth link and I notice there are 15 other things that can potentially be linked to my phone.  Obviously I need to check those out.  I spend about 30 minutes googling the two things that I have no idea what they connect to after convincing myself that internet lurkers wearing robber masks are trying to steal my online banking information only to find out that they are bluetooth settings for the cars and the reason the phone can’t connect is because I am not in either of the cars.  Then I am exhausted and stressed so I go back to Facebook to find out how Mr. Nobody is doing nothing that I care about.  After that I remember the podcast, only to find that my phone needs charging.  45 minutes later, I start slowly unloading the dishwasher.

But let me share my secret with you, dear procrastinator:

Behold {mystical plumes of smoke}. . . {drumroll}. . . {loud BANG!} . . . the kitchen timer!

(Rub your eyes. It only felt like I had transported you to the land of Arabian Nights.  You’re back home.  Wild.  It’s a gift).  I don’t have Alexa in the kitchen and don’t get me started on Siri, so I use the trusty old microwave timer.  I set it for 10 minutes.  And go!  I am like a whirling dervish – nothing can get in my way as I swing open cabinets and throw cutlery into drawers. I may not have liked any sports at school, but if there is one competition I am fiercely determined to win, it is the one against myself.  And here is the brilliant thing –  I can always unload the dishwasher, reload the dishwasher, wipe down the counter tops and wipe the sink in 10 minutes.  10 minutes people!

Once you have tried the 10 minute timer, your world is opened up to all sorts of possibilities.  When my husband is doing planning on a Sunday he heads down to the office and sets the timer for one hour.  Allowing himself only one hour to get EVERYTHING done for school is so motivating and empowering.  He starts work straight away, gets through the most important tasks first and then hits the minor annoying ones.  If the timer goes off before he is done, he either calls it a day or adds five minutes.

I use it when we are cleaning.  You can probably tell from the dishwasher comments, that cleaning isn’t my thaang.  But our house is presentably clean (although we might never do a deep spring clean if it wasn’t for overnight visitors), thanks to my 30 minute timer trick.  (Notice I am not up to an hour for cleaning.  No way.  Life is too short).  Set that timer, and go.  Twice a day – before I work and when I finish.  My rule (I am a big rule follower, that definitely helps) is that if I have finished before the 30 minutes are up (and I always finish before the 30 minutes are up, that’s how good I am at cleaning) I have to go on to clean somewhere else until the timer buzzes.  It works.

Hitting the Worst First

This is how I operate.  If I don’t want to do it, if it is hanging over me, then I have to do those jobs first.  For me I have to start my day in this order:

  1. Make the bed.  Again, this is a judgement free zone:  I didn’t make the bed on a daily basis until I got married.  (I was 34 when I got married). I made it here or there if I felt guilty enough.  It just seemed like such an effort to make the bed at 5:30 a.m.  I guess I thought my mum would make it.  Even though I had moved out when I was 18.  And then moved to another country.
  2. Unload and reload the dishwasher (see above).
  3. Exercise (running or yoga, don’t matter, don’t like ’em, just do ’em).
  4. Shower (another block because it can take me forever.  I just stand in the shower for too long mulling over the advice I would give the state department on a foreign affairs policy, whether butterflies know their lives are going to be very short, what I would name a baby panda, how I will react in a hostage situation or how I will spend the jackpot in this weeks lotto.  It’s exhausting.)  I think I am ready to implement the timer solution here.

Making a List

Checking it twice.  This doesn’t work for everyone.  I love lists.  Mr. B not so much.  But if this works for you, go for it.  I have lists on the reminders app, on the calendar and  Alexa is running four lists for me (Shopping, Costco, To Do, Work).  I am even considering buying an Amazon Alexa wand and wearing it around my neck at all times so I can add things to my lists wherever and whenever.  But my favorite list making technology is good ol’ paper and pencil.  I finish up each day by writing a list of things to do and then I put them on my planner in different colors and sit back and admire my work.  There’s something about getting it out of your head and onto paper that is so satisfying.  You either get it or you don’t for this one.

Walking with Death

“You realize that life goes fast,
It’s hard to make the good things last”
The Flaming Lips

This is my favorite.  I know it sounds morbid but it really is more about embracing the here and now.  Death is the final taboo, and I do think it is something we should talk more about.  It is the one thing that we can all be certain that we will experience.  We will lose people we love, and we will face our own mortality.  But we live our lives rarely talking about it.

‘Walking with death’ is just understanding that life is transient.  That our time is short.  That our time will come.  We don’t know if our ending is tomorrow or 50 years from now.  It is knowing that if we were to depart tonight we would be happy in the knowledge that we spent our last day doing something that made us happy, with people we love, that made us feel that we had a life well spent.  Did we let everyone important in our lives know they meant something to us?

Or did we worry about what that parent said, what the principal said, what went wrong in the classroom observation, and thought about it so much that we couldn’t sleep. Would we regret not taking that call from mom?  That we just spent the last 30 minutes trying to see what bluetooth connections hook up to what devices?  That we spent three hours scrolling through the nothing of Facebook?

The phrase ‘walking with death’ motivates me to do better, to spend time more wisely, to be kinder and to spend time with more intentionality (I don’t know if that is a word – it didn’t get an ugly red spell-check underline).  It motivates me to get the boring stuff done quickly so that I can spend time doing the important things.  Evenings outside on the deck, spending time with my husband, petting my cat and getting kitty kisses in return, laughing, crying and spending time with people who matter the most.

And talking of death, this is the song I want at my funeral.  You can listen to it here – I challenge you to listen without crying (although the intro is a bit out there in a cosmic brilliant way).  The lyrics are so jarringly true.  And in case you wondered, I had a lot of time to think about my funeral song because I planned it in the shower.

Tips to keep you motivated throughout the teaching year

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