I just finished a draft recording for a new program I’m working on and I have a ton of tasks related to wrapping things up that I should be working on.
I planned on working on them this past Sunday, but there was one problem…
It was around noon. I was watching a little T.V. It was one of my favorite shows — How to Get Away With Murder.
I told myself I was just going to watch one episode then get to work.
Of course, the episode I watched ended on a major plot twist — the kind that goads you into watching the next episode.
“Okay okay okay. I have to watch the next episode, but that’s it!” I told myself.
I watched the next episode. At the end of the episode, they revealed a potential suspect in the murder I would never have thought of!
They had me.
Long story short, I binge watched the rest of the season and got nothing done!
It ended up being one of those inescapably lazy days, and that’s okay.
I woke up this morning and got back to work.
I could’ve beat myself up about not following through with yesterday’s tasks, but it wouldn’t rewrite the past.
Instead, I use the same trick I always use to get things done over the long haul….
Instead of always being motivated, I ride waves of motivation as they come.
The trick in getting and staying motivated isn’t to force it. The odds of you jumping off the couch and starting a new workout program when you’re feeling lazy are slim to none, right?
But we all have those moments where we get excited and want to improve our lives.
Every once and a while, we feel a wave of motivation coming. We’re inspired.
Unfortunately, the waves come and go, and most of us fail to ride the waves long enough to get anything done.
What’s the difference between those who turn their waves into long-term productivity and those who don’t?
The ones who get and stay motivated use their waves of motivation and turn them into systems.
At the beginning of the year, I was super motivated to get back in shape again. I knew it was a wave I could take advantage of if I built the right system around it.
I started a new 8-week program, but I didn’t stop there….
I downloaded the program calendar and stuck it on my fridge. Each day I finished my workout I marked an x on the calendar. After a week or two, the x’s had formed a chain of completed workouts. Once the chain got long enough, I didn’t want to break it.
I created a health routine to match my workout program. I made all of my meals in a slow cooker before I left work. When I got home and finished my workout, there was no decision to be made about what to eat, because the food was already done.
I also rid my home of all junk food when the program started.
I left the program DVD in the player and the minute I got home I simply hit play.
Many people would’ve started the workout program and failed because they wouldn’t have added those small tweaks to help turn motivation into a habit guided by a system.
The next time you’re feeling motivated, think about how you can build a system around it.
I was a bit lazy on Sunday, but I play zero games with my writing once the week starts because I’ve wired the habit of writing during weekdays into my system so deeply I truly do not have to make a decision to get up early and work.
That weekday system started with a wave of motivation I had about taking my writing career seriously.
The next time you feel a wave of motivation, think about how you can turn it into a system that helps you form habits.
If you’re motivated to wake up earlier you can put your alarm clock in another room so you have to stand up to turn it off, set your coffee maker to pour at the same time as your alarm clock, and jump directly into a cold shower when you wake up.
Maybe that example is extreme, but anything you can do to nudge your behavior in the right direction when motivation hits goes a long way
What’s the lesson here?
You’re not strong enough to will yourself into becoming the world’s most productive and motivated person — not even close.
You’re also not so weak that it’s impossible for you to get anything done.
Like any normal human being, you have a yin an yang — a positive and negative side.
I haven’t become better by eliminating negatives altogether, rather I amplify the positive and protect my downside with systems.
I’m not perfect, but I’m ten times more productive and motivated on the whole than I was years ago.
You can experience the same jumps too.
Are you feeling the wave today?
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Originally published at medium.com