I don’t know about you, but my motivation tends to ebb and flow. There are times when I’m crushing it and I feel like I’m the best version of myself, and times when I fall prey to distractions and find it hard to accomplish anything at all.
The times when I’m less motivated leave me feeling like a failure. I get bummed out because I think about all the progress I could have been making, instead choosing to watch that YouTube video, read that Reddit post, or play that game (my game of choice).
Unless you’re super-human, I bet you have those same down times. Maybe there are people who never have a problem staying focused and are always maximizing their time, but I’m not sure I’ve met one (and I’m certainly not one).
Instead of beating myself up, I decided to try an experiment.
When I wrote my book, The 5-Day Turnaround, I decided to try something new. It was the summer of 2018 and we were staying in Edinburgh for a month. It had always been a goal of mine to have our family spend significant time in foreign cities to expose my children to new cultures and different ways of life (my #1 goal for my kids is that they grow up into healthy, empathetic adults).
My plan had been to write my book while on that trip. I had my outline and overall thesis ready, now I just had to put pen to paper (er, fingers to keyboard) and write the first draft.
In a book about building habits, I read a concept suggesting to commit to at least a small amount of time to make progress every day. So I made the plan: I would sit down every single morning and write for at least 15 minutes. If, at the end of 15 minutes I wasn’t feeling it, I would stop. If I was in a groove, I’d keep going.
Sure enough, the first few mornings I just kinda felt bored writing and stopped after 15 minutes. But on the third morning I didn’t even look up to check the time until well over an hour had passed. I kept writing and didn’t stop until two hours had flown by.
I kept with that routine for the 30 days we were in Edinburgh. Some mornings it was 15 minutes and I was just done. The words wouldn’t come and I found myself thinking of other things. And then other days I would write for over three hours, only stopping because the kids were ready to head out into the town.
By the end of those 30 days I had my first draft complete. And that was when I realized that by embracing the flow, I could relieve myself of the ‘distraction guilt’ and lean into those times when I was really feeling it.
Embracing the flow
What that experience taught me was that it’s ok to not ‘feel it’ every day. Sure, there are days when you just have to accomplish a task or goal. On those days maybe find an accountability partner or post it publicly to give yourself more pressure (if you’re into that kind of thing).
But other times, it’s totally acceptable to have an off day or two. The trick is, when you’re in the zone, move everything else out of the way and allow yourself to go deep. Maybe give yourself two hours on the calendar for the work, and if you just can’t push past 15 minutes, then you have the rest of that time to accomplish other things. But I’m telling you, more and more you’ll find that those two hours will fly by and you’ll be pushing back against having to stop.
Once you learn to embrace the flow, to really lean into those deep work times, you’ll be on your way to accomplishing more of your goals. And if that doesn’t work, you can try this:
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