How can I get motivated to sit down to write my April column when I feel both the stress of Pesach cleaning and shopping, along with putting the finishing touches on my tax return? This time of year, I need to choose a topic that will entertain and distract me so I can maintain my sanity. Although well-meaning friends have suggested I write a primer on getting organized for Pesach, this issue of The Jewish Link comes out by Erev Pesach. A clear case of bad timing! Yet even If the timing was right, any of you reading this now would likely run for the hills, or in this case, turn the page. Why do any of you need to read another treatise on prepping for Pesach? I realize each issue of The Jewish Link offers a wide variety of topics. So much to read yet not enough time to read. Maybe you scan two sentences of my column and move on to the next.
Therefore, one of my prime motivators each month is thinking of ways to keep your interest. At the same time, I need to choose a topic I am curious about or I must be creative in giving over knowledge that relates to organizing without writing a how-to manual. I am thinking back to some of my past articles that got a positive response: meal planning, setting up a house for a new puppy and a conversation with myself in my closet. These were topics that motivated some people to reach out and share their meal prep stories, request the name of a good dog trainer or hire me to organize their clothes closet.
Let’s talk about the word “motivate.” The Oxford dictionary says it is a verb meaning “to stimulate (someone’s) interest in or enthusiasm for doing something.” “Motivation” is a noun and is defined as “the power that activates the engine of success and moves you toward accomplishments.” (I apologize that I can’t supply the source of the second definition other than the internet.) When you or I get motivated, we take on an incentive or a strong desire to do well or succeed in some pursuit.
While Googling “motivation,” I found that NBC-TV’s website had an article called “Three Types of Motivation That Will Inspire You to Do Anything.” I learned the three types of motivations are known as: extrinsic, intrinsic, and the desire to support your family unit.
Extrinsic motivation is defined as when you do something for an external reward. For example, working out every day can make us look and feel healthier and fit into our clothes better. My extrinsic motivation for cleaning my entire refrigerator for Pesach could be how much more ready for Pesach I will feel than before I started to clean it.
Intrinsic motivation is when you do something because it feels good. When we do work that feels purposeful—whether it’s our careers or DIY projects, we feel our reward emanates from the inside. When I am working with a client, I am all about intrinsic motivation.
I am attributing my lack of extrinsic or intrinsic motivation this month to the fact that I haven’t chosen a topic for my column. What has motivated me in the past to write my monthly column? What will motivate me today to sit down at my computer and write solidly, instead of popping up to Pesach clean or order a Pesach-related product online?
There is such a thing as “master classes” for talented writers of both fiction and nonfiction. Successful writers who attend these classes have put together a long list of recommendations to help others become more disciplined writers. Making a set time to write each day, and choosing a location to write that is comfortable, well lit and free from distractions are two suggestions that resonate with me. They also said if a writer feels a continuous block, she or he could move to a coffee shop or a library for a fresh perspective. They warn that putting off your writing for another day is procrastinating and a bad practice. On the other hand, these master writers say to take a five-minute break to refresh your mind if you are feeling tired or blocked. I guess we must be super-disciplined to make sure the break doesn’t last until tomorrow.
Not only writers put a value on being motivated, but also our society seems to put great emphasis on getting and staying motivated. A search on the internet for TED Talks on “motivate” will result in your screen filling up with a series of videos, each with a play button, luring you to watch them. Amazon wants to sell us an endless array of books written on motivation. We so much need to be motivated, we are willing to pay to learn from experts.
During the most intense part of the COVID quarantine many organizers had to pivot to virtual organizing. I really missed working and it made sense to sharpen my virtual organizing skills. You could say I was intrinsically motivated to ask a friend if I could practice on her. I guided her via Google Meet to clean out and reorganize her coat closet. It turned out to be a fun, rewarding session. Even more, it motivated my friend to tackle and conquer her bedroom walk-in closet, other bedroom closets, her pantry, her laundry room, and more. In short, my friend went on to organize most of her entire home. This, in turn, led her to retire some of her furniture and choose new pieces that reflect her current tastes. Other than the coat closet, my friend did all the work on her own. Impressive!
As I have been writing this in my usual, comfortable, well-lit writing nook, I have been getting more passionate about motivating myself. As suggested by the writing mavens, I have tried to get my ideas out and save the editing for later. I have even planned the reward I will give myself when I finish.
So now my column is completed. Can you guess my topic? I hope my readers chose to read the entire piece before they turned the page.
With deep gratitude to Hashem, The Jewish Link and to my readers for almost three years of writing this column, I wish you all a chag kasher v’sameach.
Ellen Smith is Central Jersey’s Kosher Organizer and tzniut wardrobe stylist. For over 14 years, Ellen has helped people restore order and create calm in their homes and souls. Ellen believes “Clutter Clogs, but Harmony Heals.” See her work on Instagram @ideclutterbyEllen. Contact Ellen for a complimentary phone consultation at [email protected]