I am here to make you feel better about yourself. You're welcome. I know everyone has this problem to some degree. And I also know that although this is a really frustrating problem for me, I still get lots of cool stuff finished. But son of a biscuit I'm tired of untangling UFOs!!!
I am a big believer in identifying the source of the problem before I start sticking band aids on broken bones. And yes, this is my excuse for having not tackled this issue yet. I truly can't figure out why I start projects without regard to how many are already on the needles (we can talk about my needle collection another day). That's not entirely true - part of the problem was identified in The Joy of Finishing. Except Not Really. But I'm pretty sure I have even more of a problem than that suggests.
So since AI is supposed to be a panacea for our times, I went to Chat GPT and asked it "why is it so hard to stay motivated with anything?" What follows is AI's pithy answer and my sarcastic replies.
It can be difficult to stay motivated to do things that you don't want to do for several reasons. Here are some possible explanations:
Lack of interest: When we don't have a strong interest or passion for something, it can be challenging to find the motivation to work on it.
OK, Einstein, nobody thinks scrubbing the toilet is fascinating, but we generally manage to get from start to finish without a hitch. What else ya got?
Lack of intrinsic motivation: Intrinsic motivation is the drive to do something because we find it inherently rewarding or enjoyable. If we don't have a sense of intrinsic motivation for a task, it can be difficult to stay motivated.
Different strokes for different folks, but I personally don't know anyone who finds picking kids' toys up off the floor either inherently rewarding or enjoyable. We pick up Legos so we don't step on them - choosing the lesser evil doesn't qualify as intrinsic motivation.
Lack of perceived relevance: If we don't see the relevance or importance of a task, it can be hard to stay motivated to work on it.
If I don't find it relevant or important I'm not starting it, let alone staying motivated to work on it!
Fear of failure: Sometimes, we avoid tasks because we fear that we won't do them well, which can lead to feelings of anxiety or self-doubt.
Um, ok, you got me on this one. I have been there, done that. However, I still need an explanation for the multitude of unfinished projects that I am quite confident I can accomplish.
Overwhelming nature of the task: If a task feels too difficult or overwhelming, it can be challenging to find the motivation to tackle it.
Well, this is more appropriate for those projects I really, really want to make, but look complicated enough to require massive focus, which honestly I never have. So I don't start.
Distractions: In today's world, there are countless distractions that can pull us away from the task at hand, making it difficult to stay motivated.
BOOM! Schooled. Having a to-do list with 39 things on it and a want-to-do list with 432 items on it can be counter-productive. I guess...
And then ChatGPT offered up a couple little nuggets that I think I can actually take to heart:
To stay motivated on tasks, it can be helpful to break them down into smaller, more manageable steps, find ways to make them more relevant or enjoyable, set achievable goals, and eliminate distractions as much as possible. It may also be useful to remind ourselves of the long-term benefits of completing the task, even if it doesn't feel immediately rewarding.
It occurred to me that projects for the classes I teach are divided up into "smaller, more manageable steps" and students are asked not to think too much about what's next. We will cross that bridge when we come to it. I think that gives a student the confidence to move forward - "ok, I managed this, I can do the next thing too".
And in a similar vein, I remember the first pair of socks I made - I read through the entire pattern trying (and failing miserably) to understand what I was supposed to do. I finally resolved to just put one foot in front of the other, do what the pattern said, then move on to the next thing, then the next. And voila! I had a pair of socks.
Now if anyone has a suggestion for how to deal with that distraction demon, I'm all ears.