Some days suck. You don’t want to leave the warmth and coziness of your bed. You drag yourself into the shower. You find yourself checking Facebook or Twitter rather than getting ready for the day. All this due to the dread looming in your mind because of that big something you ought to work on. That something could be a school project. A proposal for work. A home repair. That novel you’ve aspired to write. Whatever it may be, it’s daunting and huge, and you haven’t the slightest idea how to begin. Scratching up the motivation to take on something so immense seems almost impossible.
If only there were a way to make it easier to embark on a monumental task. One solution is to take that massive something and break it down into manageable, bite-sized bits. Don’t look at it as one giant thing with no beginning and no end. Instead, view it as several small projects/goals that will lead you to your overall endgame.
This is standard practice in software development. Google doesn’t tell its engineers, “We need this Giant Thing. Ready? Go.” They find the natural breakdowns of said thing and convert each into a separate project or goal. Sometimes they break down those breakdowns. They’ll work on one small item at a time then move on to the next until the idea of the Giant Thing actually becomes a thing.
The key is to establish small, attainable goals and set each goal on a timeline. Suppose you want to write a manuscript and you set a goal of completing it in six months. It’s easy to say “Half a year is a long time, surely I’ll be able to finish it by then.” First of all, don’t call me Shirley. Secondly, this is a trap! Don’t let yourself fall for it.
You have a full-time job. And a family. And various other responsibilities and interests that deserve your time. For simplicity, let’s say your manuscript will be around 90,000 words—a typical length for commercial books today. Them’s a lotta words. It’s tough to sit down at your keyboard or notepad and start working when you look at it as the Giant Thing.
Let’s break it down into a natural point that fits on a timeline—say, one month. Now you’re looking at 15,000 words per month for your goal. You’ll still reach your goal of 90,000 in the end, but the smaller number is less intimidating.
But 15,000 is still a pretty significant number, so let’s break it down further. Sticking with a natural timeline, let’s cut it down into a week. Your goal is now roughly 3,750 words per week. Seems doable, right? But with life’s obligations, it’s tough to plan out an entire week ahead of time. Monday comes and is extra-Mondayish, so you skip writing. The mid-week blurs together. Before you know it, Sunday evening arrives and you’ve only written 1,000 words—if any at all. Argghh!
Let’s keep breaking down our word-count goal, shall we? If you parse 90,000 words over six months into a daily goal, you’re looking at just over 500 words per day. This post is longer than 500 words. Shirley, you can carve enough time in your day to write only 500 words. And this doesn’t apply to just Shirley—anyone can do it.
Yes, I double-dipped that joke.
Maybe it’s impossible for you to write every day. Mondays happen. The point is to look at the smallest workable chunk of the Giant Thing and make that your focus rather than the entirety of it. You can apply this to numerous things in life. If you find it overwhelming to take something on because of its enormity, think of ways to break it down into manageable bits.
This is just one solution for self-motivation. Please comment below and share how you make your own motivation.