Monday, January 3, 2011

Finding your motivation

Once upon a time I was working at a theatre that was in a super time crunch. We had three giant musicals (All Shook Up, Joseph...Dreamcoat and Thoroughly Modern Millie) back to back to back. Everyone was stressed and overworked, but the schedule was particularly hitting the costume shop hard.

One day discussion in the costume shop turned to motivation. "I am motivated by fear" the costume designer said, "the more scared I am, the faster and harder I work."
"I am motivated by praise," the shop manager replied, "I like feeling like my hard work is recognized and appreciated, it keeps me moving forward."
"I am motivated by rewards" said the sticher, "I like the trade off of 'do this and you will get that.'"

The next day I walked into the costume shop and, after days of seeing these three women tired and cranky and hopeless, they were having a great time. And more importantly for all of them, they were all three working at a ridiculous speed. As they were working they were motivating each other.

To the designer they would call out, "Hurry, this show is never going to get done. The actors and the director will hate the costumes and you will never be hired back again."
"You're doing a great job," they would tell the shop manager, "I can't believe you finished those fitting notes so quickly, we are so lucky to have someone like you."
And for the stitcher, "Did you finish those hems? Good job. Here's a piece of candy."

The whole scene was hysterical, the costume shop took it all in a very joking manner, but I think that in the middle of their stress-induced joking, they hit on something very important. It is very useful to know what motivates you and take advantage of that.

Over time I have discovered that I am motivated by progress. I like to be able to see exactly how much I have accomplished. One way I have found to use this motivation is by making lists, and making them very detailed. I find it very satisfying to cross something off my list, so I have started to break tasks down into small manageable chunks.

There is nothing worse than working all day on something and still not being able to cross something off my list. I get discouraged and tend to feel as if "I got nothing done today." If I break down the job though, I can cross off, "buy supplies," and "measure and mark lumber" even if I don't get to cross "build table" from my list. The visible progress helps me feel motivated to keep pressing forward.

(blog post, check)

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