the wrong side of the bed

Thursday, January 13, 2005

when you were little, you dreamed you were big

last night i was talking to a friend about my problems with motivation. i am trying to finish an incomplete from 2 semesters ago, and the only thing that is moving me forward on this is that i promised this friend that i would get it done this week. a promise like this might work for this paper, but how many more papers, projects, proposals, etc. must i face in this life? countless, i am sure. i can't enter into weird promises and contracts with my friends forever. eventually, i am going to have to stand on my own and just write! i know that there are people in my program who have some sort of internal drive. how else do they manage to get things done? i know that what is driving them isn't always pretty. in fact, i suspect that it is often fear of failure. don't i have this, too? can i cultivate it?

my friend sean worked at Popeye's (love that chicken from Popeye's!) when he was in high school. for many years he has maintained that this was the best job he ever held. everyday he knew exactly what to expect (with the exception of the man who threw chicken at him, but even that seems sort of predictable). every night at close he knew that he would finish tasks in a particular order, mop the floor, and leave. the store would be ready to open the next day the same as it was the day before. i understand the appeal of a job like this. have i ever had a job like that? i guess when i worked at the grocery store in high school things were pretty routine. i wish i had known to appreciate, but at the time i was struggling with some pretty bad agorophobia and cried every time i had to go to work.

my question for you, my dear readers: how can i make academic work seem more like fast food employment? if that isn't possible, can you think of some kind of motivation other than fear or ambition that might get me through my life?
8:38 AM


The key seems to be (from what I hear) enjoying the process of what you are doing, and allowing yourself to get lost in it. Clear criteria for achievement are helpful, too.
Blogger Hambone, at 2:51 PM  
I think even those people who look all motivated and seem super-productive struggle with motivation and productivity more than they let show.

I don't know about turning academic work into fast food work. I procrastinate terribly, and usually it is because I am freaking out to much about doing something instead of just sitting down and doing it. So, I allow myself plenty of time for procrastination- say the weekend before the deadline for a work-marathon. That's my work style and despite the incredible stress, it kind of works. Maybe in a structured fast food environment "just doing whatever needs to be done" is easier than when we are all sitting in front of our computers.
Blogger wendy, at 4:11 PM  
I don't think lack of motivation is always the cause of procrastination. I think sometimes procrastination has other causes, such as fear of success, fear of being "found out" as incompetent or stupid, or the size of the project is just overwhelming (e.g., a dissertation). If lack of motivation is not the cause, then increasing motivation won't be the solution.
Blogger tina, at 9:24 AM  
Sorry to double-comment, but here's a great book on how to turn academic work into fast food work. I strongly recommend it:

Eviatar Zerubavel. 1999. The Clockwork Muse. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

I would not have my Ph.D. without my pal Eviatar Zerubavel.
Blogger tina, at 9:29 AM  
Maybe this is a little too literal, but you could do a sociological version of Fast Food Nation.
Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:09 PM  
I've spent my whole life wanting to turn my academic life into fast food. Actually, just wanting to get a fast food job instead of doing what I'm doing now. Wish I could be more helpful.
Blogger claire, at 11:38 AM  
My boyfriend says that, if we all got up at 7:00 and were sitting in front of our computers by 8:00 and did not allow ourselves to leave (except for lunch) until 5:00 (like "real" working person), we'd all be surprised at how much we got done. First I get mad at him and want to punch him, then I kinda think he's got something there.
Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:15 PM  

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