I recently read a blog post by Peter Bregman writing for the Harvard Business Review titled "Your Problem Isn't Motivation". In the post he talks about a friend who is trying to get into a routine and work out. The friend is a very self-motivated person who is having a hard time making himself go to the gym and he cannot understand why he cannot muster enough motivation. Bregman points out that his friend's problem is not one of motivation, it is a problem of follow through.
The Nike ads used to address this with "Just Do It."
As Bregman points out motivation is created via thought processes. Motivation comes from thinking about the benefits of doing the activity. It could be working out, writing, or folding laundry and cleaning the house. It could be anything that someone wants to accomplish. Motivation is evident simply in the desire to do the activity. More desire is not going to increase the likelihood of doing the activity. Guilt isn't going to increase motivation either. The case where the person lays in bed and reads or watches television does not mean that the individual has more desire to do those activities than working out, writing, or cleaning the house. Thought processes that make it clear that there is motivation can also sabotage. Thinking can be bad. So, when it is 5 am, I have planned to get up and run, and my brain starts processing and thinking thoughts like "It's cold. I want to stay warm.", I am thinking when I should just be doing. So when it is a beautiful Sunday afternoon and I have planned to write and my brain starts telling me that it would be nice to lay in the sunshine like a cat and read, I am thinking when I should be doing. It does not take much thinking to interrupt plans to do an activity that one is motivated to do.
When starting a new routine for an activity, it takes a while for the habit to get established. I have read in different places that it takes 30 days or 6 weeks for a habit to become routine. Also, habits can be disrupted by changes in overall routine. If one moves or changes jobs, then routine habits have to become re-established. When I lived in Michigan I would get up early in the morning and walk. I did this despite rain, snow, bitter cold (and I really don't like getting cold), or any type of weather. My day felt off if I didn't walk. I moved to Colorado and I live out in the middle of nowhere. I don't feel safe walking in the early morning here and so my routine has been disrupted. I very much miss walking. I dislike running on the treadmill, but it is the only way I can get exercise. I have to stop thinking and just run on the treadmill. Usually if I can just get myself out of bed and started, I will complete my workout.
This also goes for writing. I love writing, but it does take effort. Sometimes my writing will get interrupted by thoughts of "I just want to be lazy," "I owe myself some time off," etc. If I just ignore these thoughts, remind myself that I plan for my breaks, and get my butt in my desk chair, then the writing will happen.
Other things that I do to help make the follow through easier so that I will work out or will get writing accomplished are things like making up a checklist of what writing I want to accomplish or creating a concrete workout plan, making sure that I have everything handy and ready to go for both activities, and rewarding myself when I do get done what I have set out to do.
Now, as for folding the laundry and doing housework....