Five ways to remain motivated

Writing fiction is a long and lonely road….There are patches when one encounters writer’s block and you only see the white computer screen staring back at you, with the cursor blinking in accusation because you haven’t typed a single word in the past half hour. This same feeling of reaching a brick wall with no way beyond or out can be translated into different situations in life. We often find ourselves at different crossroads, and one of the biggest laments i have heard from people all over the world is the difficulty of staying motivated. Whether it be looking for a new job, or beginning that new course of study we have been planning to undertake for the past two years…whether it is completing writing that novel we began with so much enthusiasm or finishing the quilting project we took on with huge excitement six months ago….whether it is finding the time to plan that holiday of a life time or simply finding the time to re-connect with long-lost childhood friends…whatever our individual aspirations might be, it is a well-established fact that pursuing our long-term goals requires not only hard work but a major part of overcoming our long term goals is motivation.

So how does one stay motivated and focussed on one’s goals in this ruthless modern-day life which leaves little room for inspiration or motivation? Here are a few steps to ensure we keep our eye on what matters:-

Never lose sight of the bigger picture !

If your long term goal is finishing a certain course of study, but you are unable to find the time or energy to commit to it right at this given moment, it is ok to push it forward to a point in the future when it will be more feasible. A lot of people push it to a vague point in the future but then forget all about it. How will we achieve our long term goals if we simply banish them out of sight and therefore out of mind? Keeping the bigger picture in sight, as in reminding ourselves at periodic intervals, what it is that we wish to achieve, helps us stay focussed. It also helps us steer away from frustration because we know that it is simply a matter of time before we can take up the course of action we have been working towards.

~ A Journey of a thousand miles begins with…..

Often people get demotivated because they tend to look at their goal in its entirety which makes it appear huge and unsurmountable. Break down your goal into small, manageable portions…it will seem less daunting. For instance, ask yourself ‘What is the one thing i want to achieve?’. Once you have that answer, ask yourself what are the tiny steps you can take to lead you to your final destination? If your goal is to finish painting all the rooms in your house (all by your lonesome self), then thinking about how huge this endeavour is going to be will be enough to put you off even beginning. Think of it one room at a time…perhaps even one wall at a time. Surely painting one wall of one room by the end of the day is a manageable goal? Don’t worry about the rest of the house. Tomorrow is another day. As the chinese philosopher Lao-tzu said: ‘A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

~ Handling negative criticism

Rest assured, whenever you choose to take up something new (be it a new project or simply a new way of life), there will be those that cheer you on and those that do the very opposite. Learn to accept negative criticism in the right spirit. While our personal cheerleaders lift our spirits when we are feeling low in confidence, the critics and their brickbats make us stronger and help us strive to better ourselves. Life would be no fun if we only had positive feedback all the time. It is the negative feedback that makes us pause in our tracks, take a good long look at what we are doing or working towards, and then helps us make concrete and conscious decisions about how to move forward from that point in time. Accept the brickbats with the same grace as you would accept the bouquets.They are both essential to your personal growth.

~ Take regular breaks !

When i was a child i used to often hear people say that they studied for their exams well past midnight, sometimes not getting to bed until two am…It used to fascinate me, because i was always one of those who could  not study beyond seven pm each day, no matter how close the exams were. After a lot of soul-searching i figured out that even if i did study until midnight, most of what i read after seven pm would not sink in. And i would have to re-read it the next morning when i was feeling refreshed. This discovery taught me a life-long lesson, one which i continue to follow till this given day. This lesson was that one must take regular breaks at the right time to be able to function at optimal level. Working endlessly round the clock will not necessarily bring you closer to your goal. It may instead burn you out with fatigue.

~ Give yourself a pat on the back

We should become our own best cheerleaders…Whenever you have accomplished any task, however small, that takes you one step closer to your long-term goal, stop and give yourself a pat on the back. Give yourself a treat. I often tell myself that i will read the next chapter of that absolutely delicious novel that i am currently reading and which i just cannot put down once i start reading only AFTER i have finished this, that or the other. It gives me something to look forward to while i go through the drudgery of doing a seemingly boring task.

Staying motivated is easy when one knows how to side-step the pot holes. Like in the game of tennis, you can only serve an ace when you have your eye on the ball. It is the same with Life. You can only reach the finish line when you have your eye on the goal at all times. Marking the goal posts and then moving towards them strategically is indeed the name of the game!

10 Biggest Time Wasters

How often has it been said that Time is Money? And yet, most of us amble through life, not spending this precious commodity “Time” wisely. I have often heard it said that something could not be done because ‘i just did not have the time to do it’. And yet, it has also been said, that each us us has the same amount of time in any given day. Twenty four hours. In spite of this, those who wish to accomplish a given set of tasks within a single day, somehow manage to find or make time. It is amazing how much time can be freed up if you only look long and intently at the many time wasters that pop up in our day to day lives. Once these time wasters have been successfully banished, you will find that you will significantly decrease the number of occasions when you will use the same old refrain: “I just don’t have the time”. Below is a list of some of the biggest culprits in the time wasting game. I have learned these from all the wise people i have met and all the wise books i have read. Very little can be attributed to personal wisdom. As they say, one must keep learning 😉

~ Inability to say “No”

Are you one of those who just cannot say “no” to people? Be it putting up your hand for helping out at the school canteen or baby sitting others’ children on an on-going basis or  always being the one to organise social gatherings, this attitude of taking everything upon your own shoulders is actually not helping you in the long run.  Not only do you end up fatigued, but you also set up a high level of expectation from others. People come to expect you to oblige on every occasion, and a spiralling effect is that as time moves on, it becomes progressively more and more difficult to say ‘No’. By all means, do it if you enjoy it, if it still leaves you enough time for your own loved ones. But to accept responsibility merely because of an inability to refuse is not really doing justice to yourself. Next time you are tempted to take on something you are not entirely happy about, pause a moment, and then say “Not this time”. Those who are genuinely concerned about your well-being, will take your refusal in good spirit.

~ Phonecalls

I cannot write enough about this particular ‘time waster’. How often do we answer the phone to find that it is a ‘sales call’, particularly selling something we are not in the least interested in buying? The time i spend arguing with telemarketers, who seem intent on keeping me on the line for as long as humanly possible, could have been valuably utilised elsewhere. Equip your phone with a ‘caller id’ or let your answering machine switch on. In this manner, if it is indeed a friend calling, rather than a sales person, you can either interrupt the machine to answer or call back at a more convenient time.

~ Being disorganised

The golden rule is for every single item to have its designated dwelling place in the house. I have had those manic mornings when i am running around the house like a headless chook trying to find the right sport uniform for the kids, or peering under the beds for a lost library book. Having a specific space for specific things will lessen this last -minute running around. You could try having a tiny corner of your cabinet reserved exclusively for library books. The kids wardrobe could have one shelf only for uniforms. This way, you will know exactly where to look when it’s time to find it.

~ Perfectionism

If every single task has to be absolutely ‘perfectly’ executed, we would have no time left to do more than one task each day. Settle for a little less than perfect, if the alternative is having a substantial amount of tasks accomplished. If there is any free time that spills over at the end of the day, you can always re-visit the task to give it that ‘perfect finish’.

~ Negative thinking

If you stop to wonder why a certain task ‘cannot’ be accomplished, you will find a million reasons not to do it. Each negative reason feeds on the next, until you find yourself overwhelmed by an impending sense of doom and gloom. If something is worth doing, DO it. Of course a healthy amount of weighing the pros and cons is a natural part of decision making. Once the pros and cons have been sorted out, take that first leap of faith and simply do it.

~ Inability to delegate

I had once read somewhere (probably in one of the million ‘self-help’ books i have devoured) that almost any job can be done in record time if you don’t worry about who gets the credit for doing it. I absolutely loved that piece of advice. If we learn to delegate, share around a bunch of tasks, and not be concerned about who gets the praise for doing it, we will lessen our own burdens.

~ Fatigue

One of the biggest time wasters is exhaustion. Being tired slows you down, and productivity suffers. We are unable to give any task our complete attention because we are not functioning at our peak level of performance. Eating well, sleeping well and thinking well are the key factors towards reducing fatigue.

~ Too much preparation

Being in a constant state of preparation, without actually following it up with meaningful action is again a huge waste of time. In some of the writing workshops i have attended, we are taught to not just ‘dream’ about writing, but to actually sit down and write. In the same manner, preparing and planning a task (be it your next project at work, or the gourmet dinner for tonight’s guests or the perfect spring-cleaning list) should not be the ‘end’ in itself, but rather the ‘means’ to an ‘end’.

~ Internet browsing

Ok, now this is one time waster i can relate to immensely. The internet can be hugely alluring, swallowing up precious chunks of time, when you could have been doing other more productive things. Try and set a time limit for internet browsing that is not specifically related to a certain task. Working ‘off-line’ is often a trick that helps in keeping at bay any distractions while you are focussing on achieving a set objective.

~ Daily trips to the supermarket

Again, a big time waster that i have often been guilty of. Running to the supermarket because you have run out of bread or milk is a colossal waste of precious time. If doing a weekly shop is not your cup of tea, try and reduce the number of times you need to just ‘drop by’ the supermarket. Estimate how much of the staple food items you will require in a given week and try and stock up on those.

Whenever i meet super-organised people (sadly, i am not one of them), i love to hear about their many tricks of saving time. I would love to hear back from you about any tricks you might have learned along the way 🙂



Lessons from the Greats

I have always believed that there is something to be learned, however small and seemingly insignificant, from every single person we meet as we go through this journey on earth. The people we learn from do not HAVE to be older than us…, neither do they have to be more educated or more experienced or more anything. I have learned lots of interesting points of view from many who are in fact younger than me. My point remains….there is a lesson hidden within each encounter..Some teach us how to be, and some how not to be.

I have met many who have repeatedly taught me how to constantly improve and try and reach my full potential. And while “reaching one’s potential” is an endless journey, it is nice to remember these lessons picked up along the way whenever we face road blocks.

Irrespective of the ages of these life gurus, i call them ‘the Greats’, because before i met them, and before i learned what they had to share, i did not possess the knowledge or the perspective that i did after meeting them. So, let me share what i learned….

~ Never be afraid to hold out the olive branch. Your dignity or pride is not diminished by being the first to say “Let’s forget the past, and be friends again”.

~ Try and reduce the number of times you say to your child : “Later”. Ever sat down to think how many times us parents use that word “later” when dealing with our kids? They ask us “Mum, come and play with me”, we reply “later”; they say “mum can i sing for you”, we say “later”…and the list goes on. I learned that the dishes can wait a little bit, the beds can be made a bit later, the  clothes won’t dry any slower if hung out half an hour later than planned….cherish that moment when your child asks you to share a slice of his or her childhood. It is gone in the blink of an eye. The dishes/laundry/untidy beds will always be there waiting for you.

~ Worries about tomorrow rob today of it’s unique joy. It is a classic case of ‘double trouble’. Tomorrow will bring its share of worries whether you worry about it today or not. So why double up the worry, when you need worry only once? ( I love this one..worrier that i am 😉 )

~ Sometimes it is not worth waiting for permission. Do what you believe in. If it turns out to be wrong, apologise. It is much easier than asking permission and having the door closed in your face.

~ A marriage is seldom equal. There is a bit of lop-sidedness, however subtle. In any argument, both cannot win, which means one must apologise and the other must forgive. A healthy marriage is one in which each partner learns to  say his/her  fair share of “I am sorry” or “It was my fault”. If you find yourself always being the one saying “I am sorry” it is easy to get into a rut. Remember, the world comes to expect of you what you have trained it to receive.

~ Many a golden opportunity has been lost for want of trying. If it is worth doing, DO IT. If you don’t succeed, you can look back and say “well at least i tried”. There is nothing worse than going down memory lane years later and thinking “If only….”

~ There will be many to tell you why “this will not work”. If there are a thousand people out there who think it won’t work and only you who thinks it will, DO IT ANYWAY. Just because a thousand people think something, doesn’t make it automatically correct.

~ You will make a million great acquaintances, but only a handful of true friends. Friendship, like a plant, needs to be nurtured and cherished. Recognise who your true friends are and then nurture that friendship into a lifelong bond. They are the only ones who will be standing on your door step in the middle of the night should you call them and say you need their support.

~ Do not be afraid to argue in front of your children. Learn instead to also resolve the fight in front of them. Children who grow up watching their parents both arguing AND making up, learn that fighting and arguing does not mean the end of the world. They learn that it is a normal part of life.

Although in the daily hustle and bustle of simply living, i often forget what all these wonderful people have taught me, i try and remember as much as i can. Of course there are days when not a single lesson will be retrieved by my memory…I am either too annoyed or too worried or too busy….But when night falls, and i look out at the stars, i promise myself , “Next time, i will try and remember”. As they say, you can remember some of the stuff all of the time, or all of the stuff some of the time. But seldom can we remember all of the stuff all of the time.

The trick is to keep trying 😉

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