Keeping motivated when thrill of "new" is gone?
December 7, 2010 9:56 AM   Subscribe

I get bored and lose interest in things so easily. This particularly hurts me when it comes to time management and doing the things that will develop my business over time. I get a spark of motivation and excitement when I discover a new system (hey, scheduling and mapping out long term tasks in GCal - neat!) or a new website (hey, Remember the Milk, I can jot down tasks before I forget them - very cool!) or new software (hey, I can't think of any right now, but - wow!). At first, I want to learn it, set it up and find excuses to use it, but it seems like that gets me about two weeks before I stop -- even if it actually made me feel good to use it! So, what to do? There are only so many shiny new toys out there, and I already have some really good ones that I know work. Do I just have to brute force myself to use the tools I have, or are there some tricks to keeping it at least somewhat enticing and interesting?

Oh, one more thing: I have ADHD. I can't take the meds for various reasons so I'm on my own.
posted by The Dutchman to Work & Money (11 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Get an organizational tool like a large whiteboard. It will help remind you of your prioritized tasks so you wont wander off into lalaland. It also helps break down large things you need to do over time into small manageable chunks which you can bite at. It is a great way for procrastinators to get things accomplished.
posted by Hurst at 10:06 AM on December 7, 2010

Tangentially related:

1. Try taking Carlson Fish Oil. Expensive, seems to help, essentially flavorless and chock full of DHA and other brain candy.

2. I love the Iphone app "Annoyster" and "Futuregram."

Good luck, ADHD sucks.
posted by mecran01 at 10:08 AM on December 7, 2010

Everyone is different, so I don't know if this would work for you or not, but what if you just bought yourself a spiral notebook? Software is helpful for a lot of stuff, but it's really just a tool, not a solution. If you can't do it in a spiral notebook, you probably can't do it with the latest thingamajig either.
posted by Gilbert at 10:23 AM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

I find the same thing, I 'dry up' on organization systems when the buzz of learning them passes. Try putting the main emphasis of the system not on the day-to-day calendar stuff, but on the weekly review part. The most interesting part of organizing for me is going over the big picture and coming up with ideas and plans and new things to try etc. It sounds like that's the part you like too, so make it about that part-- a weekly meeting with yourself, with a little 'treat' (I take myself out for coffee and cake), where you go over your pile of stuff to do and break it back up into todos and slot them into whatever your software is. I can manage to slide back from a neat list of action items into an amorphous blob of stuff I'm behind on in about 5 days.. just in time for my next weekly re-reorganize.

I think this kind of personality needs to keep shifting angles-of-view to stay interested, so embrace that I guess! I don't think it's necessarily a weakness, either- a problem isn't necessarily a linear bunch of todos, and the continual need to see things for a new angle can make for more creative solutions.

I've also found doing the initial planning part with more free-associative methods, like mind-maps or even looser, keeps it 'fun'; while stricter daily list-making makes me annoyed and I 'forget' to do it. I second Gilbert that paper is maybe better for this than software-- I jot everything down on a mess of paper and then put it in a more 'due-date/priority etc' format in software so I don't lose it. For the day-to-day stuff that has to get done-- a system with 'push' is pretty essential, I use Toodledo and a calendar that sends me a daily email with hotlist items.
posted by Erasmouse at 10:38 AM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

I understand those problems. I have those problems.

At least w/r/t the daily "how to keep track of tasks/ideas" issue, there is one thing I have found WAAY more useful than any other method, including various software things.

I know, I know, you don't need another system.

But the most important part of this system and what actually helped me was telling myself "You may do NOTHING today until you first sit down and look at your planner." So the first, implied, task was to "review tasks for today."

I think it's a method that the Franklin planner company came up with, of ranking things by a priority matrix. The matrix is a 2x2 of important/unimportant and urgent/non-urgent. So (A) items are important and urgent (as in, DO IT TODAY!), (B) is important but non-urgent (could put it off until tomorrow, (C) is unimportant but urgent (I never put anything in this group), (D) is unimportant and non-urgent (I guess I never put anything here either). Then tasks are numbered numerically within those classifications, and marked with a check-mark for "completed," an arrow for "do this tomorrow," a dot for "in progress," and a circle for "delegated."

This actually worked for me. For at least two years. Then I fell behind on it. Then I got a smaller planner (downsized from the paperback book sized Moleskine to the pocket-sized one) and kept losing it.

I am back using it again. I do not let myself do ANYTHING at work or on a day off until I have first reviewed the book. I also use it for keeping track of what I do, even if I didn't plan to do it, which makes billing my time WAY easier.

So that might help you. By making a set task that you HAVE to do first thing in the morning, you avoid the "oh I couuuuuld pull out my planner, but I'm already doing stuff... oh well" trap.
posted by MonsieurBon at 11:07 AM on December 7, 2010

These systems can be great tools, but they can also be their own form of procrastination. After a few weeks, the system is set up, and then you have to do the actual work, which you'd been using the system to forestall.

One trick I've heard is to limit the amount of time you have to work on a project. Say, I'm only going to do this for 5 minutes and them I'm going to take a break. Apparently this can trick your brain into getting past procrastination blocks.

After a quick Google search, I don't think this procrastination busting hack is the one I read originally, but it sounds similar.
posted by willnot at 11:13 AM on December 7, 2010

I have a weekly planner, and a small notebook. I write things down as I encounter them, and I love crossing them off. Online and computer based organizers/calendars have never worked for me. Apparently I need to see myself crossing a task off. When I cross a task off, I think of a small explosion, because I just obliterated part of checklist.
posted by shinyshiny at 12:21 PM on December 7, 2010

I feel like a lot of the time we're too eager to create new obligations for ourselves under the guise of making our lives simpler. It's a kind of "spend money to save money" mentality, and it really doesn't work for me at all.

I'm trying to imagine using all of these time management tools, and all I can think of is how frustrated and distracted I'd be by them. Setting up, checking, updating — what a drain on my time and limited attention.

I would choose a single tool, the one I found the least frustrating, and resolve to use it and nothing else for the next several weeks or months.

This way, managing my time management tools would not become its own task.
posted by Nomyte at 2:20 PM on December 7, 2010

The only way I can get things done is to make 'fun' take a sideline to 'getting shit done.' Some of the things I do day-by-day are fun, but part of growing up for me was to do the things that have to be done simply because they have to be done. Procrastinate the things that won't leave you worse off if you don't do them. Do the things that will be leave you worse off if you don't do them. Find time for fun but don't make that the central focus of your life.
posted by Dmenet at 2:51 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have this problem too, and I solved it by no longer learning about new organizational methods. This sounds silly, but since the point of getting organized is to pursue actual tasks in a focused way, all the energy you spend on your organizational system beyond the bare minimum is basically wasteful.

With that, I'll say what works for me: I use my GMail inbox as my "to-do list" (that way, answering emails becomes just another "to-do"). I use GCal to get reminders for anything that needs to happen on a specific date.

But here's the clincher (similar to ideas above): at 9 AM every day I get an email reminding me to empty my inbox. Then I go down and either

(A) delete things that will never get done
(B) put reminders in my calendar for stuff I'll do later, and delete the email
(C) take care of it right now
(D) split it into multiple tasks (a new email for each) and do the first one

Once my inbox is empty... organization time for the day is OVER. Just start some work instead.
posted by zvs at 4:02 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Brute Force for me. I have to really force myself to do something for, say, a week or two and then it's just part of my life and I can go on with it.
posted by GilloD at 4:51 PM on December 7, 2010

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