How I Motivate Myself: As Illustrated by Cats, a Kid and a Monkey

Okay here’s how I motivate myself– to write a book, do the dishes or go to Africa. It’s super simple. All goods things are simple. Complicated things can be good too, but not necessarily.  A rectangle is not a square but a square is a rectangle. Like the song, “Waves” by Mr. Probz or anything by the Black Keys. It’s. Fucking. Simple.

There’re two main ways.

Strategy #1. This approach is best for one-time tasks, not training for a marathon. It works for getting annoying things done.

This is also a more effective strategy if you are ADD, lazy, scatterbrained, or have feminine tendencies of thinking/doing multiple things at once. If you are focused, type A or a man, skip to strategy #2.

So. I am a child. How do you do get kids to do things? The old magical bribe. Why does it work? It’s motivation and it’s simple.

Here’s how it works. It’s my day off and the last thing I want to do are these things:

1.) clean the kitchen 2.) do laundry  3.) vacuum or 4.) make dinner. Sigh.

So I bribe myself.

But first I have to identify what I DO want to do.

I want to have a cocktail. I want to look at Instagram and I want read my book. Dammit. It’s my day off.

Alright, so if you clean the kitchen then you can have a drink, I tell myself. Work, reward.

And after my drink, I’m feeling a little happier! Starting the laundry is less of a big deal. Plus, when I’m done I get to lose myself in the glorious lives of other people who are not doing laundry. They’re diving cenotes in Oaxaca and flying helicopters over the Avatar-inspired hanging mountains of China. Okay. When I’m done traveling the world, I’ll fire up the vacuum. And then I’ll get to read my book! Yay. So you get the idea. The important thing is to start. Four annoying chores is debilitating if you’re exhausted. But just one? I could do just one. Reward with some dopamine. And bite off another chunk.

Here’s the other main way.

Strategy # 2

This is better for bigger projects. Longer term projects. Heroic feats of dedication! Or just de-cluttering the entire house.

This is also for people with more masuline, focused approaches to tasks. Type A’s, The Holy Organized Human with a detailed calendar on their phones and matching colorful folders for– never mind. I’m jealous. Sometimes my calendar leads me to “events” at dark houses on the wrong day. Let’s just say I’m not the most organized person. But even for an air sign scatterbrained feminine multi-tasker and thinker, this works for me.

It’s time.

REGULARLY scheduled time.

Schedule time that’s concrete and real and the expectations are clear. No hiding here.

Speaking of which, that’s my ass.

Yeah, committed time. A schedule for your project. Not an imaginary one, but one programmed into your phone. 10-11 am Mondays, repeat every week, this is my hour for painting. Finishing the back deck. Sorting through the towering pile of my grandmother’s things.

Give yourself the kind of commitment you give to your mechanic or yoga teacher or babysitter or girlfriend. You commit, you stick, you do it. But this time it’s for you. For your goals and aspirations. That’s certainly more worthy than any outside commitment, but it has been a challenge to give the gift of commitment to myself.

And when I do, glorious things happen.

I wrote a book with Ivy Kaller you can find on called Method Writing With the Collective Underground.

It has five star reviews and the sweet blessings of Rebecca Walker and Amy Pulitzer of the Pulitzer Prize. We wrote it by agreeing to work together every Monday from 3-5. That’s it. The motivation comes from the container. I know I have to do it and when, and I know it will soon be over.

Ivy and I didn’t miss a Monday. We chatted and gossiped for a few minutes and then we went to work. At 5 pm, we stopped. No guilt, no pressure. Just work. It’s only two hours. After a few months, we were astonishingly…done.

But the schedule has to be realistic. If we planned on meeting every week from 12-6pm, I would have died. This is my you have to be kidding face.

My brain would have started smoking. We would have fucked off. Instead, two hours once a week was enough to save up the energy and aim it like a bullet at our project.

And release.


So what are you doing to motivate yourself? Have either of these strategies worked for you? Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts.


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