Motivation – quantitative vs. qualitative goals

I’ve always been motivated by numbers – keeping a 4.0 GPA, hitting a 70 mile week, staying under my splits during a race/workout, or practicing for band a certain number of hours per week.  I can get a little compulsive about the numbers, which can be good (I get stuff done!) but can also result in some painful blow-ups (a stress reaction from not listening when my body said 60 miles was enough, extra stress when I lost that perfect GPA and had to figure out how to motivate myself with a non-round number).

Lately, I’ve been using numbers to motivate me to keep up with the schoolwork/research/teaching/grading grind.  I have a lovely little app on my phone (Time Recording) that lets me keep track of time-on-task, as well as which task I am currently working on.  It’s great (and would be an awesome help for people who actually have to keep track of multiple work tasks for PAR effort percentage reporting).  Having to check out each time I want to look at Facebook (or write a blog post ;P) keeps me honest about how much I’m actually working and lets me go back at the end of the week and see where my time has gone.  

For a few weeks, the must-hit-my-hours-goal plan worked really well – I managed several 65+ hour weeks (including class, research, coursework, and teaching duties) in a row and was able to stay motivated merely by watching the hours add up and enjoying the satisfaction of hitting a goal.  However, the last couple weeks have been rough.  With an hour and a half of commuting each day, the 65 hours of ‘working’ time quickly becomes all-consuming (seriously, I DO NOT understand how people work consecutive 80 hours weeks…that is complete lunacy!)  Consequently, I start losing focus, and the quality of my work suffers.  Sure, I may be ‘working’ 9 – 10 hours a day, but at a much slower pace and with ample ‘zone out’ breaks.  

I’m looking for a way to get my motivation back on track.  I’m on Fall break right now, which means I’ve banned any time-worked goals from my mind and am just focusing on getting a few specific tasks done and getting out for some fresh air.  Hopefully this will help me to recover and dive back in for the remainder of the semester…although I’m sensing that I may need to turn to a few more convincing reward strategies soon in order to have the mental incentive to keep up this uncomfortable pace.  New running clothes, hot cocoa, and new work clothes are a great substitute for the less-accessible reward of actual free time, right?  



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