Two-Week Slowing of Motivation

Two-Week Slowing of Motivation

I’m noticing a recurring pattern: after about two weeks of intense personal project work, my self-driven momentum and subsequent motivation drops off, and I need to recharge.

But what exactly is being depleted? My desire is still there; it’s just that I find it much more difficult to stay focused and put longer periods of time into the personal project work.

Some observations:

  • The lack of energy manifests as increased sleeping time, and sudden bouts of sleepiness in the middle of the day. These are signs of the onset of depressions, the first pattern I noticed recently.

  • There is also a corresponding drop in “work velocity”…the speed and focus I had in the beginning of August was great, but now I feel like I’m moving very slowly.

  • There is the desire to have more noise or mindlessly watch TV shows while I’m ostensibly working on a dull project. Sometimes this works, but this past week it did not. It turns into binge television watching. Watching TV to make another task more tolerable works only when I’m on the elliptical or the treadmill. It doesn’t work when I’m writing code or designing very well. I suppose the one thing it does is keep my butt in the chair, but the level of productivity is fairly low. Podcasts are the same. Some types of music work, though.

Some theories:

  • The past two weeks were largely spent in hermit mode, which is when I am not really hanging out with people locally. Perhaps two weeks is the mental limit that I can take. I did notice in the past week, I felt more like going and seeing people.

  • Those past two weeks did not have a lot of affirming feedback from people. The kind of things I’m building right now are behind-the-scenes in an unfinished state. For example, I’ve spent quite a bit of time on the XNABS project, my refactoring of some older code into a newer interactive game engine. XNABS will bring me several new benefits, but realistically it’s probably 4 weeks away from doing anything even moderately interesting that laypeople can appreciation.

  • On a related note, I may have too many in-progress projects. It’s been a while since I’ve shipped something finished and cool.

  • I may be working on too narrow a project focus, and not doing the replenishing kind of projects that broaden (and perhaps expand) my mind. Working with wood or mechanical stuff.

  • I may not have enough social community responsibilities to keep me grounded. I’m thinking that maybe I should have a dinner party and have some people over and share some of the excitement of what I’m doing and making.

  • There are a lot of preconditions to moving projects forward. One of them I just noticed was that the house is quite messy, and I have the general emotional reaction that I need to get rid of junk and find places to put the rest. The environment itself is in the way. My computer and workflow setup is, for once, not bothering me. Perhaps this makes the physical environment itself more noticeable.

  • The feeling that my house and mind are cluttered with physical junk and incomplete projects is contributing to the desire to escape. However, the mental burden is still there because I’m spending a lot of time at home.

Dealing with It


p>Step 1 is complete: I wrote about it. That helps me clarify the situation objectively in the process of acknowledging how I feel. I am being my own sounding board.

Step 2 is to reflect on my assessment. I think the last two observation about “clutter” are important: they seem to limit my options and get in the way. I also am feeling the lack of social activity, but the type of social activity is of the kind in “explore – learn – build – share”. I’m not interested in seeing movies or spending the day on the beach unless it somehow ties into one of those four activities. This is a more powerful realization than I thought it was. I need comrades!

Step 3 is to come to convert the conclusions of Step 2 into some actions. “Clean the House” and “Find People who are Working” are the two major conclusions that I think will unstuckify myself. While these actions have been on my overall to-do list for years, this step gives them immediate context and priority over the general “would be niceness” they had before. Perhaps this is a secret to focus.

Step 4 is to commit and do it, to the exclusion of everything else. Nothing is more important. And it’s this sense of mission that seems to unlock my action potential.

Let’s see how it goes! It’s Sunday 3:29PM.


  1. Margaret 8 years ago

    Hi David,

    Here’s a suggestion. Ever heard of Kiran Bedi, an Indian female prison inspector general? Check her out!!! You have three options: Watch CNN “Talk Asia” Kiran Bedi Fights for Reform in New Delhi or find somewhere online to watch “Yes Madam, Sir” or “In Gandhi’s footsteps”.

    This should lift your spirits.

  2. Shelley Ashfield 8 years ago

    I looked at what you are doing physically to take care of yourself, and from this post, all I see is using the elliptical and the treadmill. Neither of these activities sufficiently engage mind and body together, nor do they undo some of the physical stresses that build up in the body from muscle tension. I find that I NEED dance, yoga, and/or weightlifting (NOT with machines, but with kettlebells, dumbbells, and/or Indian clubs). What we experience as “fatigue” is often muscle tension, which you are not resolving…also myofascial release is particularly helpful. Remember, you’re at a desk – an unnatural act for the human body as it has evolved. Study 3rd-world physical movement patterns and incorporate them into your daily life. YouTube is a good tool; Alexander Method teachers, belly dance teachers are also very good resources. Tell me how things work out for you.

  3. Author
    Dave Seah 7 years ago

    Margaret Thanks for the recommendation! I’m curious how this ties in to this post, which I wrote back in August 2012 and am finding eerily accurate of how I am feeling right now.

    Shelley: Hm, you have a good point. I am physically quite inactive, and have backburned exercise because it seems to take too much out of my day. It feels like a chore, but I think you’re right…thanks for the encouraging perspective and for sharing your experience.