Lessons From Life: When I was working in an office, I learned an important lesson about motivation from a man I would see from time to time on the bus. He used to say if you have a lot of tasks to do, always begin with the easiest one. It does not require a lot of effort and can be done comparatively quickly. This came to me shortly after my discharge from the Army when it seemed difficult to give full attention to the tasks at hand. Getting to know this man also showed me the value of friends. They share what they have learned and we do the same with them.
This led me to the idea of making a list of things to do and prioritize it. Setting priorities was a great way to keep from feeling overwhelmed. Before I learned that, my mind would just stack each project in my brain where they swirled around . From what this man said, I learned that certain tasks have different time and energy requirements. If I sat down and addressed the largest task, I froze. If, on the other hand, I made a list, I could see there was a limit to what I had to do and if I ranked them in order of importance, I could do some quickly and feel I was getting things done.
An interesting thought came to me as I was doing a task. It was my idea and so I had no objection to it. If, however, someone had told me I had to do it, I would be resenting it. This seemed rather queer to me. Why would I be ok with it on the one hand and resent it on the other. So it came to me that the lack of motivation sometimes came from my attitude and not the task.
The final step in my maturing about tasks was to realize that I could actually enjoy doing them. Taking a cue again from the James Taylor lyric “the secret to life is enjoying the passage of time,” I began looking for some enjoyment in the task at hand. This idea reached its zenith in washing dishes. In my senior years my hands get cold. When I wash dishes, I get to immerse my cold hands into water that sends a lovely warmth through every cell. It actually creates a feeling of pleasure.
To get momentum, do the easy tasks first. Realize the difference between wanting to do a task and being told is in one’s attitude. Look for the enjoyment that comes while doing the task even if it’s just knowing you will be able to check it off your to-do list.