Logical place to start on a self improvement project is to ensure you actually have the motivation and the tools to make some changes. Bunch of ideas and a started blog don't a superman make. I got Nick Winter's The Motivation Hacker suggested to me as one option, so I read it through.
The best thing about these sort of small, light and practical books is that someone has made a lot of legwork for you. The point is less about reading everything there has been written by academics on motivation, than actually having a testimonial on what is out there and what happened to work. Winter has obviously done research on the subject and tested the tools, whereas I would have had to start from scratch, without even knowing what to search on Google. Considering how much time I spent on just trying out different blogging platforms for this project, couple of bucks for a book is a small price for saving tons of time at this point.
Motivation gets things done
Most things in life are not hard. It's just hard to actually bother doing it. Hacking motivation is the key for getting anything (at all) done. Motivation hacking makes reaching goals so easy, that it's actually dangerous to set up silly goals. If you can make yourself turn out to be a brilliant coder in a constantly fun way, you might not realize that you actually don't want to be a coder at all. The same tools that let you bypass procrastination, laziness or weariness, also might insensitive you towards realizing that what you are doing is actually completely useless or super boring.
Motivation = Expectancy * Value / Impulsiveness * Delay
- Expectancy - estimated probability of success
- Value - how rewarding a task is to work on and to achieve
- Impulsiveness - how many distractions you have
- Delay - how long do you have to wait for payoff
If you take this equation as a starting point, it's rather easy to see how you can game it. A single very high or very low multiplier can kick the result into overdrive. Also, if you believe in Pareto principle (bastardized as 80 % of results with 20 % of effort) you can probably optimize away very undesirable factors with very limited costs. Put in a small effort to remove 80 % of things raising your Impulsiveness and Motivation will skyrocket.
One of the most powerful tools according to Winter is creating a virtuous circle of success for every challenge. Start out small, gather successes, get inspired to try larger things, gather larger successes, etc. Motivation will soar and nothing can stand in your way, or so they say.
Tell everyone you are going to do it, so you can't back out afterwards. This blog is an example of that. Buy unrefundable tickets to something, so you'll have to be ready when the time comes.
Remove disturbances and chances to back out with drastic measures. If you are trying to cut back on checking Facebook all the time, pull out the Internet cable or sell your computer.
I personally have a small problem with the latter two methods. I don't blackmail other people, so I wouldn't want to do it to myself either. Also, I don't tolerate threats well at all, so I'm not sure how good idea it would be to go around threatening myself. Still, I think you might be able to burn your ship or precommit in a productive and positive way too.
Beeminder seems like a very, very useful service. It lets you track how much you do something (clean the apartment, for example) and if you fail at your goals it punishes you.
Anki was Winter's suggestion for hacking learning. Basically it makes you fill in cards that you use later to test yourself on the subject (a foreign language, for example).
I'll be posting a list of things I'll adopt and goals I've set for myself soon inspired by The Motivation Hacker. Stay tuned! (Try subscribing for email notifications on the homepage of the blog and let me know if it works!)