For my first official Men with Pens post, I asked James whether I should write a serious post or a funny one. James shrugged, and I realized I’d asked possibly the stupidest question ever, slapped myself across the face, and sat down to write about The Magical Whiteboard.
I have a problem with procrastination. If you are of the human persuasion, you probably do too. I suspect that humans are the only creatures who have a problem with procrastination. Monkeys, for example, probably don’t sit around thinking, “Should I go climb a tree so I can eat a banana now? Meh… I’ll do it later.”
Monkeys know what’s up. But then, they have it a little easier. They don’t have a middle step.
Human beings do. We have a middle step between labor and the fruits of that labor. As human beings, we work. Then we are paid for our work. Then we use the money we were paid to buy our fruit. (No, I don’t know what the fruits of our labor might be; possibly they are pomegranates. For the monkey, the fruits of labor are almost certainly bananas. For us, they might be Fruit of the Loom.)
That middle step of getting paid for our work is screwing us up big time. For the monkey, labor = fruit. For humans, labor = money = fruit.
It means we have no direct result of our labor. If every time I finished a press release, a new piece of finely honed weaponry appeared on my doorstep, I would be way more motivated to finish the next press release. My labor would have an immediate result, just as it does for the monkey. Fruit is just too damned far away for us to remember that fruit is why we’re working.
This is where the Magical Whiteboard comes in. The Magical Whiteboard transforms labor into fruit.
That probably requires some explanation.
If we’re vaguely trundling along knowing that our labor nets us money, we’re not really motivated. Money is boring because it is not fruit (true fact).
If we know how much money we have, though, we start thinking about our money and our fruit. We think things like, “$200! That’s TEN WHOLE BUSHELS of bananas!” Or new pairs of shoes, or that car payment, or whatever. The Magical Whiteboard lets your overtaxed little brain make the giant leap all the way from labor straight to fruit.
So here’s how. Write down all your labor on the Magical Whiteboard. Every single little project you have. Then write down how much that project is worth, even for the tiniest projects. Don’t discount the fruitiness of a project because it’s only worth $5. $5 can get you a watermelon.
A whole watermelon. That is some valuable fruit-labor, there.
When you write down what your labor is worth before you work on it, you transform your labor into money immediately. That’s not enough, though. What we need is to transform our money into fruit immediately.
Now – and this is very important – put a big ol’ box in one corner of the Magical Whiteboard. This box should say in very large friendly letters: FRUIT. Or “Week’s Total.” You can be boring if you want. My box says FRUIT.
To turn labor into fruit, don’t cross projects off your list. Add up the money you’ve earned from your fruit column and put it in the FRUIT box. When you can see, clearly and visibly, all the money you’re making, all at once, a peculiar thing happens. You start to think about fruit.
I’m not kidding. Try this: Think to yourself, “This next project is worth $35.” Not that exciting, right?
Now go to the bank and take out $35. Put $35 in your hot little hand. What do you start to think about?
Damn right. You start to think about how much fruit $35 gets you.
Totaling your earnings for the week in the FRUIT box of your Magical Whiteboard every day transforms money into fruit. You can almost taste it. $100 becomes $150 – do you know how many more bananas that gets me? That gets me a LOT of freakin’ bananas. That gets me MORE bananas than I had before.
And you know what? If I just finish this next project, I’ll be able to buy kumquats. And if I finish the next one, I can buy passion fruit.
Change your motivation. Don’t labor toward completing work or wiping stuff off your whiteboard. That’s useless. Labor toward FRUIT. Keep that motivation front and center, and you’ll be a lot more inspired to get through your list of work.