Coding matters: Finding motivation

Finding motivation - photo of a dog under a blanket with just part of its face showing.

Disclaimer: there is nothing about tech or coding in this post.

I am not used to the cold weather that we've been experiencing in Gauteng the past few weeks. And I'm not enjoying it. I'm too cold to exercise. By the time 16:30 rolls around, all I want a book and an electric blanket.

In short, I've been feeling unmotivated.

Motivation is internal

I saw a photo of some people trying to pull a huge truck by tying a rope from it to a man on a bicycle. The caption was: "I really don't know what a motivational speaker told these guys."

There are lots of motivational-type posts on social media. They don't do anything for me. Motivation, in my opinion, is internal. The buzz from a motivational speaker (or video) only lasts until the next obstacle.

The role of a role model

I was once asked what public figure I find inspirational or use as a role model. That stumped me. I had no answer. The dictionary defines a role model as a person you want to imitate. I've learned different things from different people over the years. Someone might inspire me as a standard for something, but only that thing.

I'm an avid reader. I read dozens of fiction books a month, thanks to a Kindle Unlimited subscription. Recently I reread a sci-fi series by Nathan Lowell. (The first book in the series is "Quarter Share", if you're interested.)

The main character is a little unusual, because he's quite ordinary. But he tries to do what is right. He works hard and cares about people. Over time, that makes him successful. It sounds boring: no great battles, terrifying events or deep betrayals. And yet this character is very appealing.

I'm thinking he might be a good role model. Most of us lead ordinary lives. Work, chores, rinse, repeat. Looking for errors in code that doesn't compile. We need to find motivation in what is ordinary and routine.

The Peopleware answer

A few months ago I shared some thoughts on productivity. I mentioned a project management book called “Peopleware”, by Tom Demarco and Timothy Lister. One of their premises is the belief that people want to do good work.

I've struggled with that concept when I've been frustrated by other people's work. But today it struck me that it doesn't just apply to managing a team. It applies to managing my own work schedule. I enjoy my work, and I take pride in it. And when I do good work, that gives me a sense of satisfaction.

So what now, when I'm feeling unmotivated and cold? For me, the answer is my version of the Pomodora technique. I set the timer on my phone for 45 minutes and focus on getting something done. When I've done it, the satisfaction is enough to motivate me for the next round. And there's always the prospect of some time with my Kindle as a reward.

How do you stay motivated? Please share your thoughts.

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