Alex Kondov

Finding Long Term Motivation

April 30, 2019

In the past to be successful and accomplished you needed to have access to information. At first you needed it to understand your surronding and survive. In modern times finding access to quality resources is what gives us a competitive advantage.

Nowadays finding information is the easy part. You can buy most books in 5 to 10 minutes online. Experienced professionals share their knowledge in blogs. Top universities are openly publishing their lectures and materials.

The question is how to utilise the knowledge that we have access to? Everything is one Google search away and that makes it hard to keep focused on a single topic for long.

Finding information is no longer a problem. Finding the will power to use it properly is.

This is a situation in which I find myself too often. I'd consider myself a starter. I get inspired about a project but once I've put down the fundamentals I get distracted and jump to something else.

Sometimes I find the problem that I'm trying to solve to be too challenging. Other times I may not find it challenging enough to bother working on it.

When I actually start working on something with a passion there is still no guarantee that it'll keep my interest for long. Time goes and priorities change.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's felt this way when trying to find inner motivation. Some people call it creative block, others say they lack inspiration. In this post I'll share two methods that I'm using to fight this state.

No zero days

It's hard for me to get excited about a project or an idea that I've forsaken once. With time my interests towards certain technologies change. I'd like to try out a new tool and working on a half-finished personal project doesn't look that entising.

I reach the conclusion that a rewrite would probably be best. Yet this in no way guarantees that the outcome will be different this time.

To stay excited and passionate about a project I started using the No Zero Days rule. This means that I will commit to put at least a small amount of effort every single day until I complete a project.

This means that I need to put a concrete, measurable target in front of me. Then I need to keep that promise and put consistent work every day until I reach that milestone.

No Zero Days doesn't mean that I need to smash every single day and build a new feature. It means that each day I should be doing some activity that would help me finish the project.

On days with more free time and energy I can build a feature or some other more laborous task. On others it means at least reading an article on the topic, writing, refactoring or scribbling mockups.

Marking a day in which you've put in some work on a calendar makes it easier to track progress. It also makes it harder to stop once you've accumulated a long working streak.

Training Camps

The lessons I've learned from the world of sports have had a tremendous influence on my life. The first article I ever wrote in my blog was about my experience with martial arts and how it has helped my career.

One of the practices I've adopted is the concept of Training Camps.

The previous technique I use for larger stretches of time. It's for commitments like improving your writing or knowledge about distributed systems.

Sometimes I don't want to go on a self-improvement journey but rather finish a side-project. Another way to break my passion for always starting new things is to do Training Camps.

In sports, when you are preparing for a competition you would do a camp. This means training hard and pushing yourself for 6 to 10 weeks to get in shape and improve your skills.

Each training camp takes a toll on the body and the mind. So it's important to stop when you are at the peak or you will slowly start declining.

If I get a cool idea for something that I want to create, a story that I want to write or improve my squats I'd do a Training Camp. For 6 weeks I commit to put a goal on the top of my priorities list and see what results I get.

That's a short enough time span that I can be sure I can finish. Focusing on one thing helps you dig deeper into the subject. At the same time you know that it's only for 6 weeks so it won't get boring or repetitive.

I tell myself that during that time I need to work extra hard on what I'm trying to achieve. In the end I draw the line and measure the results no matter if they are good or bad.

Sometimes I'm happy with what I've done, sometimes I'm not. The important thing is that I've done what I can and can now enjoy some rest or pursue other activities.

Sometimes You Don't Need to Commit

I've found that the techniques above are working for me when I'm chasing results. However, sometimes you may just not feel a project after a certain point. If this is the case then do yourself a favor and let it go.

It may be something temporary because of a setback or a problem that you've encountered. But if the feeling persists - go puruse something else. Spending your free time on a side project should bring you joy. It shouldn't become a burden.

Summary

  • Finding information and knowledge was important in the past, nowadays everything is one Google search away.
  • The fight is not about finding resources, but finding motivation and inspiration to work on our projects.
  • No Zero Days - a practice to put at least a minimal amount of effort every day until reaching a milestone.
  • Training Camps - specifying a 6 week block of time in which to focus on one thing only.

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Alex Kondov

Alex Kondov

Blog of Alex Kondov - I write code during the day. Play Dungeons & Dragons by night. Lift weights in between.