Motivation Gimmicks

I just love to learn about all the systems people have to get out of their work doldrums, perk up, and plunge in to the day’s tasks as though they’ve just downed 3 quad ventis. These systems, or as I like to call them, gimmicks, involve white boards, cartoon drawing, markers, online and offline to-do lists, yoga at your desk, moving your work location, changing the lighting, talking to someone about the work you’re not doing, and so on.

I guess there are people out there who choose one or two of these things and actually have a routine of doing them every day. Kudos to them but I haven’t been routine-oriented since discovering that having routines with small children only makes your life more miserable when you realize that you almost will never be able to do them on a set schedule.

There are times when a motivational gimmick isn’t even necessary. Like the time a client called me on a Thursday wanting to convert his old backpack GPS unit to use with ArcPad. The work involved trips to specialty electronics stores in the city for hard to find parts, calls to my electrical engineer degree-holding brother, the purchase of an iPAQ handheld computer to run the ArcPad on (okay, this was MANY years ago), and about a million hours of work (plus or minus), to be finished and delivered by the following Tuesday morning before the client left for his annual 6 week salmon fishing excursion. (The GPS was for his company to record manhole locations, not the salmon fishing.) Those are times when the challenge, the potential monetary reward, and the tight deadline release enough adrenaline to achieve hyper-speed over the course of a short project like this one. And no gimmick is needed.

For those everyday tasks, however, these types of gimmicks can be great. I definitely like the to-do list, which I implement variously on yellow-pads, blank printer paper, and in Word, depending on my mood. I’ve never gotten so far as to keep a notebook with movable tabs and evolving task-lists like in Getting Things Done but I’ve seen it in action and I know that for some people (who are able to stick to routines), it can work really well.

Another great gimmick idea was given to me by a friend who is a CAD drafts-person. She digitizes house plans for a living. If she’s got a deadline and needs to work late, she’ll put on an audio book that keeps her absorbed while she works. That would have been great for me last year, when I spent a solid two weeks heads-up digitizing impervious surfaces off of 2006 NAIP imagery*. At the time I made-do with radio. By the way, I hear is pretty nice to work to. For most of my work, lots of focused thinking is required, so this wouldn’t be the best gimmick.

Sometimes when I just need a quick kick-in-the-pants, the gimmick of visualizing images of high-achieving people doing great things works. You can aid this gimmick with real pictures, too. I suggest starting with taking a look at what great lengths our colleague, Peter Batty, will go to make his projects achieve their highest impact:

So, perhaps this discussion helps you the next time you need some motivation to get cracking. If not, at least, its afforded you the opportunity to procrastinate a few minutes longer.

*NAIP imagery doesn’t have infrared bands. In forested regions, a supervised or unsupervised classification via image processing algorithms will not be able to detect roads that “disappear” under canopy. After classifying the imagery using GRASS I had to do this heads-up digitizing of roads, and even some roof-tops, in order to achieve an acceptable level of accuracy.

  1. #1 by JRigs on February 4, 2011 - 8:11 pm

    These days I get enough motivation merely from reflecting on the fact that I am not one of the unemployed, yet in fact enjoy a fun job with awesome working conditions. A few moments of this and I’m off to the races! Bring on the digitizing!

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