Golly it’s been a while since my last behind the screen post! Perhaps that has something to do with a lack of the above?! I’ve actually had this post in mind for a while as it’s a something I get asked about a lot when people find out I work for myself, from home. I think the automatic curiosity is how do I even get going with work day to day? Surely I’m just sat at home on the sofa in my pjs fighting and failing to avoid Netflix?
I’m guessing people ask because it’s something many struggle with or see as a potential struggle. I find my sticking point when it comes to motivation is starting big, new ventures rather than day to day ‘get up and go’. I’m easily overwhelmed by things that are big, brand new life changes. For instance starting my blog or going full time with The Lovely Drawer or starting my own workshops. These were all things I had floating around my brain for a while and couldn’t actually bring myself to do as there seemed like too many things to consider as well as the constant niggling fear of failure or even more subtly the fear of change. I thought I’d share some tips on how to motivate yourself for these big challenges and changes that to a certain extent are governed by you. I’m no expert still but I’ve had to overcome these things enough times to know what helps. My latest lack of motivation lies in the unknown waters of YouTube. I’ve been asked for at least 2 years when will I start a channel and wouldn’t it be a great way to show case my DIYs and yes, it would indeed. But it’s so unknown, I’ve never filmed myself properly or edited a video and I’m wondering do I really need to add that into the mix now. Sure, I know that’s where everyone is hanging out these days and video are killing static images but I lack motivation to learn something new. I guess there’s a fear that when I’ve already taken time to develop strong style and brand, as well as working hard on getting my photography to where I want it to be….well, if I do video like and amateur at this point, isn’t it going to ruin cohesion and look out of place? That’s my current ongoing motivation woe and part of that is figuring out if it’s really necessary. I could take some of my own advise so don’t think I’m sorted but here are my tips for those things that feel like big, longer term things.
If you’re not a natural visionary (I’m not) then find a partner, friend, family member or housemate who is, to give you some accountability. My husband helps me a lot with this and it means that when I vocalise an idea to him he’ll keep following up to seeing if I’ve executed it, as well as strategising how to get to the goal. He’s totally different to me and loves all that kind of stuff. Sometimes you need to acknowledge your weaknesses and find someone who has the strengths you lack in order to move forward and have someone to get on your case when you’re avoiding.
Break it down
Not like a nineties rap, but the feeling over overwhelm can be combated by breaking the overall goal into bite size chunks. This is like a breath of fresh air to me as suddenly there’s a list of smaller goals to tackle over weeks and months that adds up to that final far off goal. I don’t know about you but as soon as something seems manageable I’m way more motivated to do it. Break your large goal into general points you need to reach and then split this into smaller tasks. You’re essentially working backwards from where you want to end up. Is that what reverse engineering is?…probably.
Compare and don’t compare
Sometimes it’s really helpful to speak to or read about other people’s experiences of getting to where they have. It makes your far off plans seem more attainable if you just keep working at it or making the jump in the first place. Often it’s encouraging to see that someone who’s business you admire, that seems so far along, actually took perseverance and some hard knocks to start with. It makes you realise most of us don’t really know what we’re doing but that’s not a reason to give up before starting because we work it out and evolve as we go. Seek out those people or that reading material but at the same time don’t use these things to compare yourself to directly. Everybody’s journey is a little different and a variety of factors plays into why people get where they do, some of which our out of Human control and to do with timing or circumstance. So use comparison to motivate and inspire you rather than beat yourself with as a stick. I need to remember this as much as anyone and ironically found it a lot easier to do when I was less ‘successful’.
It’s the day to day things that I have to say I generally find easy to get motivated for. Sometimes I’m so caught up with those things that I forget about the bigger picture! Usually I don’t find it hard to get going each day. I’m more tempted to work later than I should, than settle down on the sofa to watch day time TV. I’ve always been conscientious but not brave. Hence why I’m more motivated by the smaller tasks. When it comes to the day to day graft it feels much more natural just to have my head down and cracking on. I never really got out of my old working pattern from my in house days at my previous ‘proper job’ , still starting at the same time, lunching at the same time and just accepting that’s when I work. It’s not a question it’s a pattern I’m used to at this stage. Flexibility is good and a bonus of working for yourself but I think you also need a routine or at least I know I do in order thrive and focus.
Having said all this I’ve found the last four months a challenge in the day to day motivation camp. Basically pregnancy has affected me a whole lot more than I thought. I was and still am expecting maaaaassive changes once baby girl arrives but I hadn’t banked on quite how sick and tired I’d feel in the run up. Thankfully all day sickness isn’t with me post 15 weeks but I still struggle with much less energy than my baby-free self. I’m no longer a jump out of bed at 5.45am kinda girl, ready to go. I’m more likely to go back to sleep and then wonder how on earth I’m going to get focused for the day. I was trying not to beat myself up about my lower capacity and I thought I was feeling relatively peaceful about it all but I came to realise I’d just been locking those negative feelings in a little box and not addressing them.
Along with this, there’s been another issue that I think really piled up a few weeks ago, resulting in a bit of an unexpected, teary explosion (poor Nick)! Even the day to day motivation was becoming very hard without knowing what the bigger goal was. People asked what I would do with The Lovely Drawer when I’d actually given birth and my answer was always, ‘I really don’t know’. I hate saying things and not following through so I thought it best to keep it open and see what happened, having no idea what motherhood would actually be like and how I’d be but also what kind of temperament our little girl would have. It’s hard to plan when you have no idea what you’re walking into but it turns out that no planning at all doesn’t liberate you. It can leave you the opposite, feeling totally aimless and lacking any passion and drive in what you’re working on. That’s the place I was at, wondering ‘why am I even doing any of this?’ I don’t mean there’s no point in generally working as God says it’s a good thing that he designed to help us flourish and I genuinely feel that alive and true in my life but I found working on those things with more of a long term effect and even putting in the work to build the brand in general seemed kind of pointless. It was affecting how motivated I was feeling day to day and so my little outburst just cemented the fact I needed to sit down with the help of Nick to formulate some kind of plan, any plan! We had a day out the house together, plotting and planning which Nick get’s super excited about! It was so helpful that one of us enjoys that stuff because personally, I was only wooed by the delicious lunch at the other end, more eager to bury my head in the sand. We needed to project realistic ideas but also hold them with an open hand, fully expectant that they may have to change and adapt because God often takes us on twists and turns we don’t expect. These so often fall outside of our own plans but that’s the same with most things in life and if you don’t have any plan at all the you ain’t got nothing!
This along with shorter term goals i.e what I wanted to get finished before maternity leave has really helped me to get motivated in the day to day ‘knuckle down’. Even my energy levels have improved slightly so it’s been full steam ahead. All the long view things I’ve already mentioned really do effect the day in day out motivation that we have but there are also a bunch of things I’ve always done which have helped a great deal. They will differ for some people but these have helped keep me on track in the nitty gritty.
Form a basic routine
As I said this can be so helpful for a lot of people, so that you know roughly when you should be doing things. This isn’t to squash any freedom or create guilt if you alter your day/ week slightly but knowing what hours you roughly start and finish work gives you a framework and kicks you up the bum a little. Even having days of the week where you slot your admin in and others for creativity can work well so you’re getting a balance flowing through. I know that I work best if I leave my emails until after lunch and use the morning when I feel most creative to stretch those muscles. That’s not always possible if I’m working on something specific and waiting on responses but I find starting my day with emails first thing, really drains any creative motivation out of me. I know that the post lunch sleepy, slump until about 3pm is much better for admin as I can do this in robot mode. You might be a night owl however, and when you know that about yourself you can work your day accordingly. Personally I like working mostly standard, sociable hours so that I’m around when friends and the husband are back from work plus I know I ain’t good with late nights…I’m a delicate flower. In line with this I find it sooo helpful to make it a rule that I get dressed properly each day i.e no PJs allowed unless I’m poorly. Even if it’s comfy clothes but they need to be ‘real life clothes’ that I wouldn’t mind wearing out the house. This totally changes my state of mind…I’m hear to work now!
Look after yourself
I don’t know about you but when I’m disciplined about my bedtime, exercise routine and eating well, I’m much more disciplined in my work too. I feel like these are practical ways to set myself up for better motivation each day, even though I won’t claim it’s a magic formula. About a year and a half ago Nick and I decided that we needed to be stricter about when we went to bed to help us get through each working week. We knew the optimum amount of sleep we needed and setting a formal ‘bed time’ for week nights sounds so lame and boring but otherwise we’d just keep on saying ‘yes’ to another Netflix episode and then live to embody The Walking Dead the next day. We aim for lights out at 10.30pm and if we get closer to 11 then we really notice a lack of motivation the next day. Another thing that benefits me no end is exercise. I work out regularly and have done for about 10 years now (prior to that I was more like a pizza munching sloth). I’ve noticed that when I work out in the mornings, I’m more likely not to flake out and bail but also it sets me up for the day ahead and actually gives me more energy and a clearer head. Those endorphins aren’t to be poo pooed! It’s the same with food. The way I have to eat for health reasons doesn’t really leave tons of room to chow down lots of naughties but I’ve worked out the kinds of meals that boost my energy rather than plague me with lethargy. I know this sounds a bit annoying & you’ll already be pigeon holing me but bear with…I try not to eat refined sugar during the working week, even in the evenings or drink alcahol for that matter (obviously not an option right now). The reason is that I know they both slow me down and don’t help me focus one bit and that’s good enough reason for me. I try to get out of the house at least once in the day too. It’s amazing how fresh air can help you regroup and shake you out of a motivational hole. I used to make sure I walked before I started work, almost like a pretend commute. These days I have to be a bit more flexible but just like all of these things, when you see they have a wider impact on your general motivation and productivity, its much easier to action them. It just takes a bit of looking ahead to how they’ll make you feel and work better in the long run.
Lists, lists, lists
I’m a great advocate of the humble list. Over time my lists have become slightly more organised and less like scribbles on random torn pieces of paper but even so I still need them. Last year I migrated all of my big things throughout each month onto Trello, a system a little like a google calendar, which gives me a clear view of busy weeks and upcoming deadlines. Even so I still like to write daily lists which further breakdown my tasks. This gives you something to continually glance at to up your pace a little and keep you moving forward, plus ticking jobs off is sometimes motivation enough for me. I think the danger is becoming a slave to your list, which I hold my hands up and can safely say I’ve fallen into. When realising I’d only ticked off 3 things out of a possible 300, my tendency was to feel deflated and completely unmotivated. This is why it’s important to make realistic lists, which is probably something that gets easier to do over time. I know mine have become a lot more realistic even just by halving what I initially think I can get through. Lists are there to help you not to trap you so make them serve you rather than the other way around. When I’m on the ball I’ll even make my list for the next day at the close of the day before so that I’m already prepped, knowing what needs to be started the next morning and I can crack on straight away. I’m not into bullet journals as I know that I would personally waste more time on making it look perfectly pretty than using it to help me but whatever way resonates with you is worth a try.
You’ll know what distracts you right? We all do, but tend to try and ignore it. For me it used to be cleaning because I was working in my home space and not even in a separate office! I found myself wasting hours at a time tidying and cleaning. Having a nice environment to work in is so important to me, particularly in a small space. I was attempting to make work easier but was actually stopping myself working by cleaning. It was so brilliant when I finally gave in and hired a cleaner. It’s only once a fortnight but it makes such a difference for someone to blitz things in 3 hours and then the rest of the time I can just tidy a few papers out the way! It’s money well spent because I can earn more money in my own business than the time I would waste on cleaning. I also find Instagram a constant distraction aside from when I’m actually using it for work related things. Scrolling is a total time drain and my bet is you’re no stranger to that pitfall. It’s so beneficial to set aside specific times to look at your phone and actually the times I’m most productive are when I leave my phone downstairs for a couple of hours at a time. I wish I did that more often. Another for me are notifications, particularly email notifications that pop up on my computer. They completely stop my flow and my temptation is to click straight away and suddenly I’ve been transported into a different head space thinking about how I should respond and feeling guilty that I’m not when I could be getting on with actual work. It definitely doesn’t keep my motivation pumped. Finally I’ve come to realise what I can and can’t have on in the background. We all love background chit chat but I know that most TV shows are resigned to those times when I’m crafting, essentially making with my hands. If I’m doing computer design work I can work to podcasts or documentaries, basically anything that’s more about hearing the info than stopping to watch. If I’m typing of trying to think up ideas for a brand then music is best to have on in the background and that also applies to styling and shooting, perhaps something a bit upbeat to get me revved up to go. You’ll find you may have different tolerances and a different kind of job to me but work out what those pesky distractions are that drain your motivation and focus. Do you make bucket loads of tea throughout the day, are you distracted by the TV when you sit on the sofa or if your desk faces the window are you endlessly people watching?
Change it up
My tendancy is to always push through but sometimes it’s helpful to park a job that you aren’t getting anywhere with and come back to it. It may not be that you’re just generally unmotivated that day but that you just need a bit of time away from a particular project. Then when you come back to it, fresh eyes and a clearer head will reverse the blocker that previously felt like you were banging your head against a wall. You might even feel better if you do something you find relaxing or inspiring and come back to it the day after, time permitting of course. Sometimes I’ll prioritise a brush lettering commission when I’m struggling and take an extended amount of time to have a little play on the paper with my ink. That’s what I find relaxing. I also say yes to press days and events when I can so that I can get out of the house and be inspired by things in a totally different environment. It may not directly inspire something I’m doing but simply leave me with a general feeling of get up and go. Changing environments can have that affect on me.
Hopefully some of these are helpful! As I said I haven’t got motivation mastered but I have learnt a lot from the past 3 years! Put things in place that help rather than hinder you and be honest about where you’re burying your head in the sand or getting distracted.