Trigger

If you’re having trouble motivating yourself to write, to exercise, to go to class, or do much of anything that you need to do repeatedly over the long-term, here’s a practical tip for you: create an easy trigger that leads to the action. That way you don’t have to force yourself to start the hard thing, just pull your trigger. That’s much easier.

This works because we’re all like Pavlov’s dogs. Ring the bell and food comes, and soon the bell will make you salivate. We’re all animals on the inside, and there’s no shame in this. Use it to your advantage.

When I want to write and I’m just not feeling it, I make a cup of tea. I never drank tea before I needed a writing trigger, but it works wonderfully. The act of making the tea, waiting for the tea, and tasting the tea have all become triggers that signal to my brain “It’s writing time”. When motivation is lacking, I make a cup of tea. It usually does the trick.

Skeptics may ask why there’s an extra step, and why I don’t just stop whining and exercise a little willpower. The reason is that writing is hard, but making tea is easy. It’s hard to start writing, but it’s easy to make a cup of tea, and once the trigger is established, it makes it easier to start the hard task. In short, it works. There’s no more swimming an endorsement than that.

This is not something new. I’d tell you who I learned this trick from, but I can think of no less than five people who have suggested it, so it’s not uncommon. It’s not common either, though. If you haven’t heard of it, I suggest you give it a try. You might end up pleasantly surprised.