I started a sort of “game” when I was a teenager that I've always gone back to whenever I find myself adrift in slothfulness—if I need extra motivation.
I have always been a sports fan, for as long as I can remember. One of my first memories was of a baseball, though it was just a random object then. I was at one time (though not anymore) a statistics junkie. I wasn't satisfied reading the stats in the paper. I watched the games and kept track of the stats for my then favorite player, Andruw Jones.
I was also an avid goal setter and it did not take much thought to connect the two together—goals and stats. I devised a points system. I would get so many points for doing something, and lose so many points for not doing something, and at the end of each day I would write down whether or not I “won” the day according to the difference in points. This is probably not an original idea, as ideas go, but for me it was groundbreaking.
What this did for me, other than to please my perfectionist tendencies, was to give myself an idea of what I was getting done. I could judge whether a certain week was good or bad based on my record. 7-0 was a great week. 0-7 wasn't.
It's been a few years since I've used this method, but I'm now putting it back into service. I've been in a funk lately, ever since I published “Rising”. That was over a month ago, but in the last week since I've begun my method, I've noticed very positive improvements. I've only had one day, and really only a single night, in which I wasn't directing my attention toward one of the goals on my list, motivated by having a positive score.
This is arbitrary, and I don't win anything other than personal pride. I'm not even promising myself incentives (I'll buy myself X if I complete Y for a month). But using this method has a positive effect on my mood. Not only does it keep me motivated, but it gives me a record by which I can remind myself how well I've been doing.
An example of what I'm talking about:
If my goals are “Play guitar. Write. Read.” I will give myself a point for accomplishing each for the day, and if I fail to spend any time on these activities I'll write down a -3.
So it's +1 or -3. If there are 10 things on my list, and if I do most of them, I can get away with not doing two of them, and still let myself write down that I won. My score will have been 8-6. I write down a W and turn my focus to tomorrow.
This is really nothing more than a game I play with myself, pinning motivation against sloth. Sometimes sloth wins, tallying more points than motivation did, but usually I'm eager enough to win that motivation will go the extra mile. I don't cheat, but I don't enjoy giving myself a Loss, and so I will often do whatever is necessary to put myself over the top.
The biggest advantage I gain is in consistency. I've been trying to learn Spanish for years, and though I can read it okay (so long as I have a dictionary ready), I cannot understand or speak it. My main problem is consistency, as it is with most of the things I try to accomplish. I'll study one day, then I won't study again for two weeks.
By breaking things down into statistics, I'm now sufficiently motivated to study every day. This goes for writing, reading, playing guitar, working out, meditating, etc.
You may ask “if you enjoy doing these things, why do you give yourself points?” Or even “if you're a Taoist and your ideal is to live spontaneously, why do you give yourself points?” The simple answer to both questions is that I enjoy watching TV as much as I enjoy doing anything else, let's say writing stories. Sometimes writing stories becomes a bit like a chore, and I need some way to sit down and do it anyway. This is a method that works.
It may not in and of itself be spontaneous, but I find the direction it gives me to be spontaneous. I'm not glued to schedules and I “flow” through my day knowing that I can do what I want, when I want to do it, so long as I am more motivated than I am lazy.
It's a bit of pressure off my shoulders.
And it's fun kicking sloth around!