Not too long ago I was completing my certification as a gym instructor. It was a distance-learning course that I was doing around a full-time job, and I had 18 months to complete it, with exam dates set a few months apart. Heaps of time, right? I started right around Christmas, got everything together and planned it all out: If I do X modules a week, I can be ready for my exam by the later date, and if I do more, I can sit the exam at the earlier date. Massively overestimating my productivity skills, I decided to aim for the earlier exam date.
I’m sure you can imagine what happened next. You’ve probably done it yourself – created grand plans, worked hard on the shiny new project for a week or two, and then let it fall by the wayside when life gets busy. Like the new toy a kid gets for Christmas: once the excitement wears off, it just sits in a corner of your mind waiting to be picked up again.
Anyway, I got slack. Work was busy, coaching was busy, life just got in the way. Then, a few months out, I got a wake-up call: “Hey Annika, just calling to confirm that you’ll be ready to sit the early exam this year?” Me: “Uh… sure, no problem. I’ll be there.” *hangs up* “crap, when is this exam? In 10 weeks?! ****!!”
And so the frantic scrambling began. I stayed up late filling in the workbooks, getting home every night at 10pm because I was doing work experience at the gym. The weird thing was, I still had exactly the same workload I had before. I still had a 40+ hour job, my German students, my coaching clients – all those things I was using as excuses before were suddenly manageable.
So what was different? Why could I suddenly do all the things that I had been telling myself I couldn’t? What’s the one thing that you can use to suddenly create time and energy to get stuff done?
Motivation. I was well and truly motivated to get this coursework done. Not only did I want to finish the course for myself, but I had spent the past 6 months asking intelligent-sounding questions to the the course coordinators and making them think I was a real smart-arse. I couldn’t just back out now and tell them I wasn’t ready – my reputation was on the line!
There’s two different types of motivation, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll find the external one works best. That’s the one where you have to meet someone else’s expectations. How come you can meet every deadline your boss gives you, yet struggle to write an article every week? The best way to use this to your advantage, is to make your expectation into somebody else’s. Tell your client you’ll have be sending them an article next week specific to their situation – you’ll have it written in time. Tell your colleagues you’re allergic to gluten – you won’t be going anywhere near that birthday cake, no matter how amazing it looks!
Do you see where I’m going with this?
You’re a crap teacher for yourself. Give the responsibility for checking you’ve done your homework to someone else. Someone you can’t let down. To up the stakes, put money on it. Your friends will love helping you with this if you owe them $50 every time you don’t complete the task you agreed on!
What responsibility can you outsource today to make sure you do something productive towards your dream lifestyle this week?
There’s heaps more productivity and energy tips coming out to you soon, including one on the other type of motivation: the internal one. Some of these things I only share by email so if you found this useful, get on the list now!