Like all of my family, and most people I know, I get easily addicted to computer games (currently it’s various word games on facebook, but it changes). I can also get very into TV shows, a few video games, and all sorts of books. All of this combines, at times, to make me incredibly unproductive. And then I have to think of creative ways to get myself to do something other than play stupid computer games. I’m kind of like a little kid that way. Here are some of the things I do (or have done):

    There’s a particular computer game I was playing a lot last week. So I decided I had to write 200 words on my current writing project before I could download it, and 100 words for each level I played (before I played it). It actually worked pretty well. I wrote 900 words in 2 days, which is more than I’ve done in quite a while.

    Sometimes when there’s a book I want to read I set writing/reading limits (like write 100 words for each chapter I read). This almost never works for the whole book, but it does generally get me to write 500 or 600 words I might not have written otherwise.

    When I’m watching a TV show I try to pause every commercial break and clean for 5 minutes. Because cleaning is much easier 5 minutes at a time.

    I’ve made up chore charts, complete with stickers to put on when I’d finished the various tasks. I always tried to break down the tasks as much as possible, so I could do a little bit and still put up a sticker. For instance, I’d put rinse dishes, load dishwasher, empty dishwasher, wipe counters, wipe table, and sweep kitchen floor rather than clean kitchen. I like more stickers.

Does anyone else have to do things like this in order to get things done? Or rather, does anyone else choose to do things like this to help get more things done? If so, share your ideas. I can always use more self-motivation.


  1. Those are all good questions, Vada.

    Sadly, I cannot help you with suggestions for how to get things done, since I have decided to give up the fight completely. In the past two weeks, I turned down two invitations from friends to go fishing with them. Then this morning I read this line:

    “If your business interferes with fishing, close your business. The trout do not rise at Greenwood cemetery.”

    I think whoever said that was a happy man.

  2. i need all the help i can get with this one. i am horrible at housekeeping. i like your idea of stickers and being very detailed rather than just a general chore. going to try that and see if it works for me!!!

  3. My solution is to have lots of kids and make them do the housekeeping (and the weeding and the mowing).

    Otherwise, I have to do things in little chunks of time, telling myself, “I will work on this for ten minutes, then I can stop and do what I want to do,” kind of like Vada’s first and third ideas combined.

    I used to be pretty driven and self-disciplined, but six kids have just beat it right outta me. I wish I had some great ideas for you, but I’m looking forward to what other people have to say!

  4. See you are much better than I am–I just clean while the commercial break is on–if it only lasts 2.5 minutes, that is all the cleaning I do!

  5. I use stickers too! I make charts of things I’m supposed to be working on and put stickers on them for what I get done. Sometimes this works better than others.

    When I was studying for general exams I bought a bunch of CDs and gave myself one for every 50 hours of work or something like that. This is nice, but it can get a little expensive!

  6. Hmmm…maybe I need a sticker chart! I’m always making plans and schedules about when I’ll get things accomplished, and then readjusting the schedules and moving the lists from one day to the next when I fail all my own good intentions (the road to hell, and all that). I think I’m lacking that crucial component on which every good motivator relies: bribery.

    I really like Vada’s idea of breaking chores down into the smallest possible components in order to give oneself more stickers. 😉 Got out of bed: sticker. Blathered at indignant length on the Bloggernacle: sticker. Made chocolate-chip cookies: sticker sticker sticker, one for each ingredient added to the bowl….

    Then, I’m going to put all my stickers on a girl-scout type over-the-shoulder sash and wear to church to show everyone all my wonderful good works for the week. I’ll probably neglect to mention that most of them were for things like adding the chocolate chips and stirring.

  7. Good questions, Vada. I try to combine as much work as possible with immediate rewards. For example, I can fold laundry or do dishes while watching a movie. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to get the movie to follow me from room to room as I do more motion-intensive chores. That and I have to watch something I’ve already seen or I’ll get too involved and forget my chores. But on the bright side, with stuff I’ve already seen, I don’t even have to see the screen to know what’s going on. I just have to hear the dialog.

    For tasks that require more mental engagement, like you mentioned writing, I have to resort to bribing myself just like it sounds like you do. I’ll tell myself that if I can read or write something unpleasant, I can play five turns of Civilization (my greatest vice). But then five turns can so easily become ten, and my time all vanishes.

  8. Some people need to let go of something in order to stay sane and not beat themselves up over unrealistic expectations. I’m fine with the tornado effect that is my house, since keeping it “tidy” with all the traffic that parades through it is nigh unto impossible.

    Cleanliness might be next to godliness, but spotlessness can be next to manslaughter. I’ll take clutter and general disarray over the alternative.

    Having said that, to get to the actual point of your post, I simply have chosen those things that I really, really want to do – what I consider to be the most important use of my time – and focused on making sure those things get done. Everything else is garnish – and I really don’t like garnish all that much.

  9. Good question. Lately I’ve been experimenting with setting a timer on myself–I’ll set it to fifty minutes (if the 50-minute hour is good enough for therapists, I figure, it’s good enough for me!), and make myself work on my dissertation until it goes off. Before I did that, I noticed that every time I got stuck in my writing I would check my email, get online, etc. And I think it’s been helpful to try to stay focused for discrete chunks of time, though I’m still way too easily distracted.

    I’m a total list person, so I always have lists of things to do. (Sometimes I’ll even put things on after I’ve done them, simply for the joy of crossing them off.) And having stuff there on my list kind of nags at me to do it, even if often I just move the list to the next day.

    Another suggestion I’ve heard is to plan to do your most disagreeable/hardest task first–then if you get through that, even if you do nothing else, you feel like you’ve accomplished something that day. I’ve sometimes tried that with things I really don’t like (for example, calling people).


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