Like me and everyone else who’s tried to be more productive, you’ve started some good habits, but then you lost your motivation. You were waking up at 5 AM everyday to do pushups, write, meditate, and run before the sun rises. But then one day you didn’t. “It’s just one day.” And then one day you didn’t. “I’ll get back on the wagon soon, I’ve just got a lot going on right now.” And then one day you didn’t. (Losing also your motivation to rationalize your lack of motivation to be productive.)
Truth is, you never lost your motivation.
You simply replaced it with a motivation to stay under the covers.
Is there any shame in that? Shame in being motivated to stay under the covers? It’s a motivation, right? That’s what we want, to be motivated, right? We’re all human, which means we all have motivations. Some are explicit (Be More Productive). Some are implicit (Digiest My Food). Though being motivated to stay under the covers would be seen as motivation in the wrong direction – the direction of comfort. Get out of bed? No way. I’m staying here where it’s warm and comfortable.
What lifts us back on the habit wagon? Is it more motivation? Motivation to replace the motivation to stay under the covers with a motivation to get up at 5 AM? It can be, but motivation to replace motivation doesn’t liberate us from this loop.
I think the way out of this ‘on again off again’ loop is to focus on your intent. Instead of focusing on the habits (really, items on your mental to-do list), every morning you set the intention for the day. Instead of laying down habits like a drunk driver steering a concrete mixer, slide the picture of your days through the frame of your intent.
Setting your intent for the day looks like this. All you do is consider: What is this day for? Is this day for hiding from the important work? Is this a day for spreading joy? For connection? Is this a day off? A vacation? Busyness? Play? Doing something hard? Learning something new? Feeling like an idiot? Starting something you’ve been meaning to start for years?
Your intent for the day flavors your day. Intent spices your days up with whatever salts and seasonings fancy your ever-changing tastes and moods. Habit is baking. Intent is cooking.
By asking, What is this day for, you narrow your imagination to a 24-hour window. Because 24 hours is all we can handle. Sure, we can set 10-year plans, but if it’s the year 2021 and we still can’t predict the weather on this planet we’ve inhabited for centuries, what makes you think you can predict what your life will be like 10 years from today?
So, set your intent for the day. Not just what you want to do before 9 am. I mean the entire day. And if you’re one of those hypercompetitive folks concerned with ‘winning the day’, fear not. Setting your intent for the day will give you the means for winning it. And if you’re one of those regular people who’re mortified by hustle porn, fear not. You don’t need to win the day before 9 am. You have all day. That’s 24 hours. That’s more than enough time to get it right.