Lately, I've been in a months-long motivation slump. This has given me the opportunity to gain a few insights about how to get more done with less motivation:
- If I have an idea for something I could do (like I had the idea to write this post), strongly consider doing it right away. Otherwise I'll put it on my to do list, where it will never get done. Doing something seems a lot easier and more fun if it's a recent, brilliant idea I'm still proud of.
- If I feel generally energetic and motivated, think of the most important, intimidating task I could possibly do and work on that.
- Frequently, I'll work on some kind of longer-term intervention to increase productivity, like learning about and implementing some new productivity system. Of course I'll eventually abandon the system, but it will provide benefits until then.
- The opportunity cost of doing just anything in these "moments of inspiration" is quite high. I still remember wasting one of the most inspired moments of my early teenage life trying to figure out if it was a bad idea to learn Morse code because my brain could only remember a finite number of facts. My natural instinct when I feel a burst of motivation is to clear my (virtual and physical) workspace before working, but I'm beginning to think that even this uses up valuable "inspired time".
- Use Autofocus. You could see the system as a systematized version of structured procrastination. It's the least stressful way to work on stuff I've come across so far.
- I'm not using the system right now, but it seems to work reasonably well when I get it going; maybe next time I feel generally energetic and motivated I'll try to get started with it again.
- The major downside is the system's complete obliviousness to deadlines, but the author describes some variants on his blog which might solve this problem.
- Some day, if I revert to my past, highly motivated self, I hope to use Autofocus as a "lower gear" in combination with some other system, like the Pomodoro technique, which requires more focus and motivation. On my Pomodoro off-hours, I could either use Autofocus or relax completely depending on my energy level.
In general, I've noticed that my self-improvement efforts seemed to go better if I see my own behavior as inherently chaotic and try to work around that.
I've come to realize that aiming for a grand unified system for how I do everything doesn't seem to work very well, and even if such a system actually is a good goal, it would be better to design and implement it piece by piece so I could gradually test my ideas against reality. Embracing scrappiness doesn't fit very well with my perfectionist personality, but fortunately I have another part of my personality that thinks it's silly to avoid doing what works well in practice.
Please share your productivity tips for those low on motivation in the comments.