Coding with Jesse

Motivation is a Trap

Over on Success Begins Today, John Richardson put up some great Quotations by John Maxwell:

"The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation. Just do it. Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or whatever. Do it without motivation. And then, guess what? After you start doing the thing, that’s when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it."

"As you begin changing your thinking, start immediately to change your behavior. Begin to act the part of the person you would like to become. Take action on your behavior. Too many people want to feel, then take action. This never works."

This reminds me a lot of the time I was going to university. I'd spend hours searching and reading articles on the Internet about beating procrastination. I was spending so much time trying to figure out how to get the motivation to do the things I wanted to do.

Eventually, I realised the only way to Get Things Done was to just do them! I don't know what other solution I thought I would find.

Nowadays, I love reading all the tips and tricks for Getting Things Done. It seems like everyone is obsessed with productivity and anti-procrastination. But I also worry that people are spending all their time configuring their Hipster PDA or organising emails in Outlook instead of just working on the things that need to get done.

Now, before you cry "Blasphemy!", I think the principals of Getting Things Done are really great. More or less, I've been applying them for many years. Basically, I keep a file, todo.txt, with everything I need to get done. I have one at home and one at work. I separate it into sections like so:

Main Project

sub project
- thing to do
    - detail on that thing
        - sub detail
    - another detail
- another thing to do

And if I ever forget what my Next Action is, I just take a look in the file. But I don't feel I need to do a lot of the other things, like reviewing, or some kind of inbox. I guess I'm just not as busy as some people, I usually have a good idea of all the things I have to do without it causing me stress.

Anyway, these quotes make a great point: finding ways to motivate yourself is a waste of time. If you're going to do anything, go do the thing you need to do.

Published on November 28th, 2005. © Jesse Skinner

About the author

Jesse Skinner Hi, I'm Jesse Skinner. I'm a web development coach focused on reducing developer burnout. I work with web development teams to reduce stress through automated testing and deployment, scalable infrastructure, and the modernization of painful legacy systems.

Through customized training and coaching, I empower teams to adopt new technologies to improve their workflows and make work more enjoyable. Feel free to email me. I'm eager to hear about your challenges and see how I can make your life easier.