The Excursion is not finished. But it sure appears to be slumbering.
So far during the Excursion, my productivity has plummeted four times. These occurances are eminently worth examining so as to discover their causes.
Number One: old patterns recurring.
Days into the Excursion, while still at home making plans, I lamented that I had had a setback: I had been idle for a day.
I was reverting to, sad to say, habitual behaviors. After a prolonged period of seemingly inconsequential return on my efforts, I had reduced those efforts. More and more frequently, I was doing less and less. When I missed a day of work in the Excursion, I was reverting.
Not that it is a good thing, but it makes a certain sense.
A dear friend well-schooled in behavior studies put it in these terms: to encourage a given behavior, you provide reinforcements, some reward for having done it. Conversely, when there are no rewards, the behavior will diminish over time.
This pattern of behavior (or non-behavior) is also called learned helplessness.
When promoting a given behavior, it must receive at least occasional rewards. Also, patterns of behavior are important. It is easy to behave in the way to which one has become accustomed.
Number Two: too many choices.
This was in Sacramento. I arrived there, full of anticipation, and immediately ceased research. There are two dozen museums in Sacramento and I did no research?? Yes, and the reason is precisely because there are two dozen museums. Which should I visit? What would advance the Excursion story? The extent of choices paralyzed me.
When promoting a given behavior, it is good practice to provide only a limited number of choices.
Number Three: tried to involve person whose agenda did not support mine.
The third time my productivity dropped was in Chico. I had planned to visit my friend Allie and take her with me on some of my research jaunts in that region. Unfortunately, Allie’s agenda did not align with mine. It was very hard for her to commit to any plan. Delay became the rule, and I became sucked up in that.
When promoting a given behavior, it is important to exclude people who are not supportive of the behavior.
Number Four: arrival home.
Immediatly upon my return, my productivity (measured in writing) plummeted. I should have seen it coming.
For one thing, it SEEMED like the end, the culmination. Although the Excursion project was never synonymous with the road trip, the symbolism of completing the journey after eight weeks on the road was too hard to resist. I recognize now that it is important to avoid designing a grand finale event into a project before the actual end of the project.
Second, there’s that editing thing again. Is this something that provides gain? If it is, there is no question but that I should pursue it. If, on the contrary, it is unlikely to yield any profit, it becomes something that I should edit out of my to-do list. That uncertainty has contributed to my inacton.
Yet a third reason for my low productivity after my return: I no longer had any triggers to do anything. Gone were the days of explore, make art, research, write, blog. As my friend BJ Fogg elucidates, specific cues to act constitute a key ingredient in promoting a behavior.
It should be noted, however, that writing is not the only valid measure of productivity. I HAVE been reviewing, learning, and thinking. For example, at the time of occurance of these pitfalls, I was unaware of the reasons. The Excursion itself has brought clarity and understanding.
It has been a heck of a learning tool, this Great Valley Excursion.
Thanks for following along on the Great Valley Excursion. Of course, I relish your comments–easy to add, below.
You can also view, and obtain, artwork and photographs at my online gallery.