Motivation Monday: Layering Work I Like with Work I Don’t Like

It is now officially that time again: grading season. My first batch of student essays is in and the drafts are staring at me, daring me to read them, add comments, and fill out the rubrics. It isn’t hard work, not really, but it does require every ounce of my concentration, and it isn’t perfectly objective, so I feel like if I’m distracted in any way, it might hinder my judgment.

So I end up delaying grading… like many teachers… for longer than is ideal. It isn’t even ideal for me: the feeling of dreading grading is way worse than actually getting some grading done.

Because this is the case, my Monday Motivation plan today is to layer my work. I’ve decided that for every essay I grade in its entirety, I can work on some organization and writing work that I like much more. I am not allowed to lose myself in the fun work; I get 20 minutes of it, max. Then back for another essay.

This way, I do technically grade about twice as slowly as I usually do, but (and this is important) I make SOME progress on grading. After all, the physical act of grading an essay is not enough to leave me sweating and dizzy – it is doable. But I procrastinate, which isn’t good for anyone. I make progress, and I get rewarded, so I look forward to more progress.

This Monday hasn’t been very easy so far, and I’ve got a major meeting that I’m not much looking forward to, but knowing that I’ll get time for the work I like best in between the bouts of work I like least gets me pumped to work hard. I also am giving myself little incentives, like moving out of my office and sitting in a nice common space that I enjoy, and making myself a yummy cup of coffee as a break, to get through it all.

Hope you are all getting things done this Monday, no matter how many unpleasant tasks are ahead of you!

5 Comments, RSS

  1. navigatorseries February 5, 2018 @ 4:17 pm

    This is exactly the tactic I use with myself, as bookkeeper, adult student, and writer. In a reversal of this formula, sometimes when my studies were hard (thesis, French), doing my work as a bookkeeper was the reward! But getting either of those things done means I reward myself with fun writing. I really like your blog. 🙂

  2. Karen Horsley February 5, 2018 @ 7:37 pm

    This idea can be used with any task that brings dread! Layering cleaning the house with dancing to loud music. Cooking with piano. Anything could be made more manageable in this way. Great tip.

  3. whenparkspeaks February 6, 2018 @ 11:40 am

    It is also a good way to make sure that you read each essay with a fresh outlook. The last essay could be the best you have read but if you are not in a good place it won’t get the attention it deserves.

  4. Claudette February 6, 2018 @ 2:18 pm

    My partner is a college prof. He dreads grading assignments. One of the main reasons is that the grammatical and spelling part of the projects is, for most of his class, below par. It almost feels like the students are graduating from highschool without the basics of how to put together a research project. So when he starts bringing home the stacks of assignments I know that his mood is going to be rather precarious over the next couple of weeks. SIGH.

    But yes, each person needs to find a way to balance the undesirable work with the more desirable. I for one hate hate HATE laundry so I’ll plug in a show I like and fold it while keeping my brain entertained by tv. 🙂

  5. Sonia Chatterjee Banerjee February 7, 2018 @ 7:07 am


    Since I love your write-ups, I have nominated you for The Versatile Blogger Award. Congratulations. Details in the link below –


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