Just Desserts


In my College Skills classes, I teach students about important life skills like Self Motivation and Time Management.  I also (occasionally) like to practice what I preach.

A really good trick tip I share with students and also utilize myself is to divide large projects into smaller projects–long-term goals into short-term goals.

Just this weekend, I had to finish grading a ton of essays.  I was not at all looking forward to this particular chore. I was really overwhelmed just looking at the towering stack of student essays. It taunted me: “It’s SO much! You’ll never make it!” So I cut that tower into 4 smaller towers to space out between Friday and Sunday.  But even making smaller towers wasn’t enough to motivate me to start tackling said towers.  It was still a daunting task. So I set some small goals: grade 10 papers before noon. And I attached rewards to each one: 10 papers before noon = one hour of pleasure reading time. 10 more papers = another hour with a good book.  10 more papers = night at friend’s house. 10 more = a dip in the hot tub.

So here I am at the end of the weekend, and all my papers are graded. I finished reading Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. And I got to relax in the hot tub for a while. Although I’d rather not have to work at all on the weekend, this “break it down and give yourself rewards” plan certainly made it much easier and kept me from procrastinating until the last minute (which is why I’m not grading papers tonight and can instead enjoy the latest episode of The Walking Dead).

What rewards do you use to motivate yourself?

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Filed under Teaching & Learning

3 responses to “Just Desserts

  1. Steve Bumgarner

    My project this weekend was to change the passenger side front axle in my Acura. Since it rained/snowed yesterday, I went into work and got a head start on next week’s printing. I drank a beer when I got home (my reward). Today, not a cloud in the sky, so it was Axle Day. I’ve been watching and re-watching an Eric the Car Guy video on changing the front axle on a Honda over the previous weeks, so I had a fair idea of what I was in for. Actually, the removal and installation was pretty much like the video and though it took longer than it should have, I was able to wrap everything up, including a test drive, with a couple of hours of daylight left. I came in, drank a beer (my reward), took a shower and a nap and all is right with the world again. Tell Trent “thanks” for the encouragement.

  2. I recently read a productivity book (my nerd is showing), and the author suggested writing down the project you that have, and then listing the next step you have to take. Just one tiny thing! Like with this project, you could have put something as simple as: find red pen or grade one essay. There’s something powerful about making a task small enough to be conquerable. The tiny method has been working so well for me that last weekend I almost gasped when I realized how many things on my “projects” list were now complete. Hooray for baby steps!

    Also, I totally reward myself when I’m dieting–“If I can eat well all week, I’m pigging out with Mexican on Friday.”

  3. Tricia Hulehan

    My reward sometimes is sitting down and playing the piano for a few minutes!

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