I've noticed something about my motivation structure. This might be contingent on my level of stimulation, not universal. But, positive reinforcement doesn't function well for me as a reward. Negative reinforcement is awesome. I don't like it when some system does "nice" things that attract my attention for doing the thing, except on fairly short focused timespans. I love it if I can make something annoying go away by doing the thing.
I've tried habit-building apps like Epic Win and Fitocracy (HabitRPG seems to be the new popular one), which give you points each time you log progress, let you "level up" after a certain number of points, and sometimes have cute sounds or animations to make it feel more like a reward. But I hate logging things, and the apps make me hate it even more because they cost time and attention. Fitocracy made me hate taking the stairs for a while. Trying to reward myself for doing to-dos, checking email, and so on, has the same problem - so far, I've ended up more annoyed by the attentional cost of any reward system than pleased by the reward.
By contrast, I find Inbox 0 to be intrinsically motivating. I took a few hours to slog through my email. It was easy to stay motivated once I got into the mindset of, "Email, you shall trouble me no longer. I will end you. AVADA KEDAVRA!" Now it's easy to get motivated to bring my inbox back to zero. I’m a little worried that many of my high-motivation moments feel like casting the Killing Curse on tedious things, but the worry relies on fictional evidence. Continue reading →