My New Year’s resolution was to make an observation every day in 2021. I made it not even a week in, missing it yesterday. Now I feel discouraged and don’t care as much about making observations. How can I motivate myself to keep going?
Make a habit of going for a walk every day, and bring your phone. If you’re looking around you you’re definitely going to notice something: it doesn’t matter if it’s something you’ve seen before, it’s useful to know that it’s still around on those days/months, and more pictures from more angles are always useful.
Working on a streak was a great motivator for me, so I applaud you for wanting to get it going. I don’t know where you live or what your outside environment is like. Having said that, even a weed counts on a day that you are busy and can’t get out and search like you may want. Birds are often a good target, even in winter. If you are in an area where winter hits hard, just getting out to observe a tree (non-cultivated) is enough. Don’t forget to look for those small little insects who like to live in your home or close to it…under rocks, logs, doormats, or other stuff in/near the house. Keep it up and reach out any time, I’m happy to help generate ideas. iNatting is fun and provides many rewards the more you do it, so please don’t stop :)
If you want to get a streak going, keep starting till it sticks for you. I started mothing in my backyard every night when we first had a pandemic lockdown. I didn’t intend to do it every day, but after a few days, I had a streak going. It lasted 130 days till a hurricane came through. Moths aren’t my favorite subject and I don’t know a lot about them, but its always fun to find something rare.
I suggest you reset the date on your camera so that it looks like you took a photo yesterday.
I’ve made that same resolution - only that I’m trying to take a photo of an animal every day. Since my goal is mainly to “exercise” - I’ve now got an online job and there where days when I didn’t leave the house - I’ve decided to go out during my lunch break.
- take your camera/ phone wherever you go, even shopping etc.
- have a close look at walls - I often find some moths
- set a certain time to go out - for me it’s between 14-16 h
- tell everybody! I promised on facebook that I will post a photo of one animal per day. It will be very embarrassing if I won’t make it. ;-)
- look at your iNat calendar every day and admire how the blue numbers advance ;-)
Now with this post I even told more people, so we’ll see how that works. I wonder though if that will result in a lot of photos of “spam-like” quality of sparrows and pigeons…
No. Just no.
Burnout can happen, especially when you “have to” do a thing. It’s OK to take a break! But you might like to schedule a future visit to one of your favorite sites, – in a week, or a month. You’ll find yourself looking forward to it. In the meantime, give yourself permission to experiment with some other approach to engaging with nature or with citizen science.
I am fortunate in that there are a couple of trees visible out of our back windows that are wild (tree-of-heaven and white mulberry) and some bits of invasive ivy too. When all else fails I can fall back on them to keep my streak going. I recommend you try to find something like that which requires no effort and which will certainly do in a pinch as an observation. And take one photo early, as soon as you get up, so you are covered for that day.
One thing I’ve started doing for a similar streak goal is looking for organisms in places I’ve previously ignored. By flipping through the soil and turning over firewood in my yard, I’ve been able to find several fungi and invertebrates that I never looked closely enough to find. My initial ID is usually pretty broad and my distorted phone pics usually don’t reach species level, but changing where I look has helped prevent burnout and has helped me learn more about some different taxa than I am accustomed to.
I find the idea of having to maintain a streak increases my anxiety, so I try to deliberately avoid caring about streaks. You could also think about setting a different goal, such as making at least ten observations each month, or whatever level you feel will motivate you without being stressful. Also, going from zero to making a year-long commitment is hard. What about first committing to make an observation every day for a month, and then seeing how things go after that?
Why would anyone need a streak after all? Observations matter, not that they were made each day, if you make 100 today and 0 tomorrow it’s 100 times better than 1 today and 1 tomorrow. I’m sure you have thousands species around you that you never met yet, if it’s not motivational enough - search for bioblitzes you can paricipate in.
Yeah, I don’t see a reason to stress out about a streak either. In fact, after I hit 1000 observations I started trying to rethink why I was doing this and what I should record, and I’ve become a little more selective. I also have focused more on trying to participate in projects that use certain data than just trying to record anything for the sake of having a record.
So think about why you want to make these observations - there can be a lot of reasons. The biggest one is usually personal curiosity to learn something new, so documenting something you are already familiar with doesn’t fulfill that. You might want to document something through all its stages - I’ve been working on documenting my plants as they grow from seeds.(They are casual observations of course, marked cultivated).
Of course, maintaining a streak does encourage you to get out every day and look around you carefully, which is probably something I should be doing, but if it’s more work than fun, there are lots of other goals to pursue!
I think you can apply the same sort of techniques that people use to lose weight or exercise or deal with an addiction: you think, “Huh. I missed yesterday. Well, that’s to be expected when you start a new habit. No point beating myself up, I’ll just keep going.” So, use the fact you missed a day as motivation to get back to it. Think about why you missed a day and see if you can come up with a way to ensure that doesn’t happen again, to the best of your ability. Come up with quick and easy ways to keep the streak going, like photographing the same tree every day, as susanhewitt suggested. Think about why you want that streak - do you want a reason to get outside and look at the natural world every day, for example? - and figure out ways to satisfy that desire, such as by learning about a new organism by reading a field guide, or helping with iNat confirmations, or even just staring out the window and appreciating the tree or birds or weeds or whatever’s out there.
For Gods sake, why? Why any resolution to do something? Just do it ONLY when you feel you want it and have fun of it. All New Year resolutions sound like a big crap to me. It is, in the end, just a day on a calendar and maybe a headache from a NY eve party. That’s it. If you start making resolutions here on iNat, it even worse - you will loose fun. Just go out, keep looking around and if see something interesting, make a photo. Or make new game: check your iNat map, look for the places close by that you have not covered yet and populate the little red square. Or think of something else that would enjoy you.
If your goal is to make an observation every day then the next thing to do is to define its purpose because then you can find what will motivate you to reach that goal. Your purpose can be anything but you have to define it and then evaluate its motivational value. Just to have a streak of observations because it seems like a good resolution may not be sufficient purpose to motivate you to reach your goal. But if your purpose is to be more active each day then you are more likely to find motivation to continue (but some days you won’t… that’s just part of motivation).
Personally, I find that iNaturalist lends itself very well to the purpose of self education. A few years ago I decided out of the blue that I needed to know more about moths and make more observations of moths. Initially my goal was just to make a lot of observations on moths but my purpose was to learn more about them. The goal has become more self sustaining because of my purpose. Here I am 3 years later and I am still only scratching the surface on moth diversity but it has become one of my favorite hobbies to photograph moths at a blacklight. I have had extra motivation because what I have learned I have been able to apply to my classes as a teacher.
Anyway, I wish you luck on your goals for the new year. Don’t be hard on yourself if you miss a day here or there.
Slowing down after 1k observations sounds too fast for me, it’s only a start and looking at possible species’ numbers from mypoint of view it only can motivate to start being more active!
So long as you’re having fun, do whatever. A goal can provide great motivation, but make sure your goal is realistic and flexible! It should take some effort, but not burn you out. Try aiming for a twenty-day streak. Once you can do that, make your new goal forty days.
And if at any point you don’t find that goal fulfilling any more, choose a different one :)
Naw, I didn’t want to do a lot of re-documenting of things that nobody was interested in. Lets face it, the number one goal of iNaturalist is to connect and inform people about the natural world. A very slim number of observations will be used for science. We don’t need to know about every dandelion in the lawn. More isn’t always better.
I don’t try to go for streaks. I looked at my calendar and I think my longest was only 8 days. My goal in 2020 was to submit 1,000 observations. Not just new ones, I was including submitting my backlog of photos. I only got 433. I guess I’ll try for 1,000 again this year.