Having gotten off to a slower start than I'd hoped this year in just about every category (writing, wedding planning, cutting back on dairy), I've been turning to every kind of external motivation I can think of. I've been clicking through on every email I get or blog post I see promising a round-up of good motivational apps, despite knowing that I'm very unlikely to see something I don't already have on my phone.
For the last week or so, I've been trying out my own cockeyed version of all the mindfulness advice I've ever heard, which involves setting no concrete goals, but trying to mentally luxuriate in the outer reaches of my time-preference rate when I make decisions. If I'm being kind, I'll call that a failed attempt rather than backsliding.
But to-day, I fell back on the one technique that I know always works for me: bribery. I scrolled through a private amazon wishlist I set up ages ago called "incentives." No doubt I created it with some incipient notion of this scheme in mind, but it hasn't done much for me so far. I realized to-day that it never helped with anything because I never tied it to any specific goals. So I picked a few items that popped out at me (when I was done, it turned out they were mostly cookbooks) and wrote a little comment on each one, describing what I'll have to do to be allowed to buy myself that item.
On one, a clever mug, I wrote "Finish two of these," listing five books I'm reading for my research (it helps that the mug itself urges me to the next thing that I'll need to be doing after finishing the reading). The first book I listed was Truth and Method, so that might have been more of a joke with myself than anything else, but the others are more manageable, and really do need to be finished. I'm hopeful.
On another, a cookbook I've been wanting forever, I required myself to get three steps down the wedding planning road and sort the invitations. (The two steps leading up to that promise a slightly less-desired reward - see how I'm already playing on my own emotions!)
As for paying for these little milestones, I have a fund set up, and a little bit of money is transferred into it automatically each month from my checking. I'm not looking to check off all of these tasks at the price of upending my budget. Of course, if I were to accomplish everything at once, that might be a problem! But knowing me, I'm not worried.
And who knows - maybe this post will be one step along the way to a certain little NYRB volume whose comment box reads: "blog once a week for a month." Eee!