Guest Pep Talk (Alison Kranz): Motivational techniques for the non-motivationally inclined.

I’ve been trolling the NoExNo spreadsheet and looking at everyone’s fabulously lofty, yet achievable, goals. Mine, by comparison is slightly less lofty: to watch only one hour of non-productive TV per day. So, you may be thinking to yourself, “Who is this poser that’s offering me motivational advice?” But, I assure you, I am (at times) capable of motivation and–most importantly for the case of this email–it doesn’t have to be much. For example, I’m running a marathon this December because I think it’s funny.

Believe me now? Without further adieu, I give you five surefire motivation techniques for when you’re feeling down-and-out. Or, hell, why not even when you’re feeling great and want to feel even better?

1. Obtain unsolicited flattery

Sometimes all you need for a pick-me-up is for someone to say something nice. Wondering how you can obtain those feel-good words without fishing them out of your friends and loved ones? Well, if the Internet is great for anything, it’s great for being praised when you want to be. Feeling down? Grab an emergency compliment. If you don’t like the one you get, take another. Wondering who’s the cutest? This site knows. Unsure if you’re awesome? Here’s the answer.

2. Take a break

Believe it or not, this motivational technique was born from my college drinking days (I promise there weren’t too many of them). My friends and I, traversing back home from wherever the latest shenanigans took place, would get tired of walking and yell out “break time!”, upon which we’d plop down on the sidewalk until we’d regain the strength to move again.

While this may not be the intention the proverbial inventors-of-break-time were going for, the concept is worthwhile to apply to more wholesome activities. As for me, I don’t think I would’ve gotten to the point I am in my marathon training if I didn’t let myself stop for five seconds every-now-and-then to take a picture on a run (for future blog use).

If you find yourself attached to your computer 24/7, try out an app that forces you to pull away. I bet your computer will be relieved. There’s Time Out for Mac and EyeLeo for PC. (I can’t attest to the veracity of either, but if you give them a try let me know what you think. Both are free.)

3. Make an “I forget but it’s awesome” playlist

I have a vast collection of music in my iTunes and a tendency to listen to one song endlessly on repeat. Eventually the song will fall by the wayside, left for a different tune or a different mood. What I started doing, however, is putting all these songs into a not-very-creatively-named “I forget but it’s awesome” playlist, which is now chock full of all the songs I at one time loved and never grow tired of hearing, but don’t always stumble across on my own volition. Now, anytime I need a little musical motivation, I turn to the tunes in this playlist. Start one of your own and get the beat going. Not enough time? You can feel free to take a listen to mine.

4. Tempt yourself

This idea was brought to me by the gods of the Internet eight years too late, but it’s a genius one nonetheless:

And can be applied to non-studying situations as well, although mine would look something more like this:

5. Resort to physical violence

It’s been reported that a fellow NoExNo-er is using fear as a motivational tool this month. If they don’t complete their daily goal, their friend gets to slap them straight across the face. No holds barred. Now if that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is.

Showing Up.

It is scary to have 1000 words ahead of you and no idea where they’re going to come from. Especially at 11:34 p.m., which is exactly when I am writing my first (productive) words of the day.

Even if you don’t share the same writing goal as me, I’m sure you can relate, in some way, to finding absolutely nothing inside of you when you need to put the pedal to the metal (for example, I first wrote that as “petal to the medal,” which makes no sense at all).

I’m not supposed to be writing this. I’m supposed to be working on the very project I set out to work on this month. And yet, I just want to make my word count tonight so I can go to bed.

These are the things I’ve been doing for the last two hours: Check Facebook. Post to Facebook. Check Twitter. Post to Twitter. Think about how tired I am. Check Facebook again (no notifications). Start to write. Stop. Make snack. Conduct a short debate on which will be my nightcap: coffee or tea? Come to the conclusion that such a debate is moot because coffee always wins. Start writing a NoExNo email. Become suddenly and inexplicably fascinated with what that one girl from high school is up to. Realize I am nowhere near where I need to be before I can go to sleep, and I start writing this.

Somewhere closer to 12 a.m., I wish I was stronger. That after a busy day, I could just sit down and create masterful and poignant work every single night.

So I check Twitter again. This time, I see that my friend Dan has tweeted the following quote:

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” – Pablo Picasso

And then I get it. Tonight I was just going through the motions.  I was only writing so I could check my 1000 words off my check-list and be done with it already, quality be damned.

I was phoning it in. And yet, I was still doing the work.

Have you ever had your best workout when you least wanted to go to the gym? Have you ever wanted to stay in but then went out and had the night of your life? Have you ever found inspiration from something you did by mistake?

You have to show up to reap your reward.

The point is: unless you do the work, you’ll never know what will come of it. For better or worse, you owe yourself a shot at doing something great.

It starts with showing up.

Now do the work.

The Value of Short-Term Goals

Let’s face it. It’s easy to let life get in the way of the things we want to do. We may want to go on a vacation, we may have an idea for a play, we may want to lose those extra pounds, we may want to start a business, we may want to make healthier choices for our lifestyles.

But we don’t follow through. Instead, we let day after day go by without making steps toward who we want to be.

Sometimes, thinking about the forever-ness of a goal can be daunting.  What if I never get to eat a pastry again? What if I find out the premise of my screenplay sucks? What if removing alcohol from my diet makes me realize I’m better off without it?

The truth is, making a commitment to self-improvement is scary.

I think that’s why the concept of making short-term goals is so appealing. In a sense, you are biting off just a small chunk of the giant Life Bagel you’ve been too afraid to endeavor to finish (apologies for this metaphor for those of you trying to lose weight).

This month (via No Excuses November), you are testing your own limitations in a safe and non-committal way.

As they say in What About Bob: “Baby steps.”

It’s also easy to lose sight of the value of a short-term goal. Just because you are only committing to do (or not do) something for a month doesn’t diminish its value to you in the long-term. The most important thing you are doing this month is proving to yourself that you are stronger than you think– if even for 30 days.

It is entirely possible that on December 1, we’ll all go back to our excuse-heavy lifestyles. It’s also entirely possible that we’ll go back even sooner than that. But from the stories I’ve heard from you and the progress I’ve seen, I am confident that if we work hard, NoExNo doesn’t just have to be a blip on our radars.

You don’t need me to stop yourselves from making excuses (as much as I’d like to take all the credit). All you need is to STOP making excuses and START taking action.

Yes, it will be hard. Sometimes, it will suck. Most of the time, you will be happy you did it. I said MOST of the time!

I challenge you to think of ways to extend your short-term goals into long-term ones. I’m not sure what that looks like yet, but I suppose we have 30 days to decide that.

Baby steps.

When the WORST Time is the BEST Time.

For a lot of you, November is a busy month. I had a conversation with a friend yesterday discussing all the reasons No Excuses November happened to have occurred in the worst time ever for me.

This month my hours increased at work. This month I’m running 35+ miles per week for marathon training. This month my parents move out of my childhood home. This month I have various “social obligations” to attend to (e.g. day drinking, night drinking, day into night drinking). So things are pretty busy even without my NoExNo goal looming.

Hearing this, my friend told me, “You don’t have to do this. Don’t kill yourself because you know people are watching. It’s okay if one night you don’t write 4 pages. No one needs to know.”

But that’s not the point of this at all. I’m not doing this because people are watching (hello, people!), I’m doing this because I NEED to. I need to learn that it’s possible to write and make progress even when it feels like I can never catch a break. Even when I can’t keep my eyes open. Even when all I want to do is watch every episode of “Arrested Develpment.” Twice. Even when I think that every word I type is rubbish.

What is the main obstacle you are facing this month? Are you overwhelmed? Or are you inspired by the challenge?

There is never going to be a month better than this one because this is the month you’ve chosen to start something. In fact, I think it is the best month for that very reason. If you can accomplish something when things are crazy, you have NO excuse not to do it any other time.

Now is probably the worst time to start something. But it’s also the BEST time.

You’ve started something this month. Now finish it.

A NoExNo Community Update

I am excited to say that our numbers are continuing to grow and I appreciate the kind words and enthusiasm you have shared with me about this project. NoExNo is officially worldwide! We are joined by Laura and Hannah from England and Evalina from Canada– how cool is that?

You also may have noticed that I have added you to the NoExNo Facebook group. If I haven’t, please add yourself (if you want). My friend Devora suggested it as a way to encourage each other and post our goals publicly (gulp). If you have come up with a goal, I encourage you to post it there– it can be helpful to articulate it in writing. And everyone knows that once something is on the Internet, it’s pretty much set in stone;)

I know I told you that you didn’t have to tell me what your goals are, but I am interested to know what everyone is hoping to accomplish. Again, you don’t have to tell me (or the Internet), but knowing what your goals are will also help me know how to better motivate you. And because I’m pretty nosy.

This month is going to be full of ups and downs (and much less vertical directions), but I can’t think of a better group of people to share it with. In addition to the Facebook group, I have a few things up my sleeve for this month. Over the month, you will be getting a series of pep talks (modeled after NaNoWriMo‘s Pep Talks) to further motivate you. NaNoWriMo usually has pep talks written by famous writers, but since J.K Rowling and I aren’t exactly besties (she still won’t accept my friend request), I just asked some of my friends to do it. But believe me, my friends are pretty amazing. You should know.

If you are interested in writing a NoExNo Pep Talk, email me and I can give you some guidelines (it can also be a drawing, a photo, graphic, video, etc.). I say, the more motivation, the better. And even better if the motivation isn’t always coming from me. For your sake, anyway.

For those of you I’ve heard from, it sounds like things are going great! Keep it up!

P.S. Here’s a video for a little more “motivation.”

A Month Without Excuses

I am BLOWN AWAY by the response No Excuses November has elicited. This email is going out to 38 people. Yesterday morning, I hadn’t even written the introduction email I sent out yesterday. I didn’t think that so many people, just like me, were tired of making excuses. You are getting this email because you want to make a change in your life. And if you’re my mom, you are getting this email because I shamed you into participating because your 80 year old mother was doing it (hi Mimi!).

No matter the reason you decided to reach out and ask to be added to this list of NoExNos (that’s a working abbrev), you have decided to make November a month without excuses.

Have you thought of what you want to commit to do (or not do) this month? While some of the people I talked to were still undecided about what they wanted to accomplish this month, a LOT of you knew exactly what you needed to do. Like you had been sitting on that ONE thing you keep letting slip away into Excuse Land (the place where dreams go to die). So if you haven’t chosen your goal yet, let your gut decide. Try not to over-think it. Make it simple. Make it tangible. Make it count.

Today someone asked me what the point of this was. Wouldn’t we have the same excuses now that we did two days ago and will have in December?

Yes. We will always have excuses. November isn’t this special, magical month. Unless we make it that way. This month, we are testing what we can do in a month without excuses.

What if you went to the gym even when you were tired? What if you edited your essay until 2 in the morning on a work night? What if you stuck to your running goals even when it was raining? What if you wrote 4 pages of a screenplay with pen and paper because your computer doesn’t have enough memory?

You will always have excuses. But let’s see what happens when we think about why we’re REALLY making them. Are we afraid to fail? Are we afraid to succeed? Are we just lazy? Let this month teach you about WHAT YOU WANT and WHAT YOU ARE CAPABLE OF.

In The War of Art, screenwriter Steven Pressfield wrote:

“The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed. Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.”

What are you waiting for?

It’s time to give up on giving up.

No Excuses November: An Introduction

Welcome to No Excuses November. Today is the day. You have committed to a goal, whether big or small, and you are excited and possibly scared as all heck that you won’t accomplish that goal. Just me? Cool. Remember this excitement and resolve you have today because it will most certainly not be with you this entire month. Just kidding. But seriously.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is No Excuses November?

No Excuses November is a month-long (30 days, to be exact) project wherein a group of ambitious and excellent individuals (that’s us) pick a goal for ourselves to accomplish during the month of November.

Why No Excuses November?

As many of you know, I did NaNoWriMo last year and wrote a novel in 30 days. Many people asked me why I was doing it. Why would I write a novel in 30 days? Did I expect it to be any good? But they were missing the point. I didn’t set out to write a novel in a month because I thought it would be the Great American Novel (though you can’t prove it isn’t). I did it because I had always wanted to write a novel, but I was afraid to start because I was afraid it would be bad, that I would never finish it, that I didn’t have any good ideas. Excuses, excuses.

But guess what? I DID IT. 50,000 words in 30 days. It wasn’t easy, but I did it.

I loved NaNoWriMo because it pushed me. But this year I had different things I wanted to work on. That’s how No Excuses November was born. I wanted to simulate the motivation and accountability NaNoWriMo provided without the novel-writing bit.

Another lesson I took away from NaNoWriMo was that it is incredibly motivating to know that thousands of people are doing the same thing as you, and are probably struggling just as much. Most importantly, it’s motivating to know that you’ve told people about your goal and you really really really don’t want to have to tell them you bailed on it. This is where you come in.

YOUR No Excuses November

I think YOU can achieve your goals too. That’s what No Excuses November is all about. I hope that you will take away from this the knowledge that you can do something that seems scary and impossible (like giving up television, for example).

No Excuses November is meant to be the flame under your a$$ that pushes you into action. Because fire on your bum hurts.

Now, not all of you are writers. That’s awesome. Each one of you has made (or will make) a goal for this month that you want to accomplish, whether it’s going to the gym, spending time volunteering, or being nicer to that one guy at work who picks his nose at his desk. No goal is too small for No Excuses November!

Since not all goals may be quantifiable (e.g. eat healthier), you will be responsible for knowing just what it means to have achieved your goal. I do encourage making a quantifiable goal though, just so you know when you’ve done it! I won’t police you, but know that the Monsters of Unaccomplished Goals will haunt you in your sleep.

As you set out to participate in No Excuses November, it’s important to remember that it’s okay to fail. Maybe you didn’t make it to the gym like you planned. Maybe Starbucks ran out of your favorite coffee and you failed to finish that last page. It’s okay. It’s easy to give up after slip-ups after you think to yourself, “I can’t do this after all.” I think the most important thing you can learn from this project is persistence. To carry on when you think you can’t. Or something deep like that.

OUR No Excuses November

This is the first year of No Excuses November, and who knows, maybe we’ll do it every year. Maybe never again. But just know that I am proud of each and every one of you for joining me this month. Believe me, I need you more than you need me.

My goal: I will write 4 pages every day in November.

If you want to, feel free to email me your goal(s). Or not. You can keep them to yourself if you want. I will be checking up on you every so often this month, but know that I will be counting these emails toward my writing goal. Also feel free to forward this to friends, enemies, lovers, anyone you think may want to suffer– I mean, *accomplish goals* with us!

You are spectacular and wonderful people who are capable of great things, and don’t you forget it!

To no excuses!