When I went solo, one of the first of many things that hit me like a kick in the teeth was consistently being able to get into a work mindset when I sat down at my desk. The workplace was now my apartment, where all my fun diversions live, and the staff was now me. When I would go to work before, the change of scenery and addition of new faces would instantly put my mind into work-mode and I would get down to business. Currently, I have three cats that don’t pull their own weight and a picturesque view of a sink full of dishes. Not the most potent inspiration starters. So, I was forced to really reflect on the way I do things. It wasn’t going to be as easy anymore to just sit down and start working. I would have to learn how to motivate myself in a new environment.
There are many ways to get things done, ways to stay organized, and ways to keep things running smoothly. But, they really don’t mean shit if you can’t find something to love about what you do. One of the toughest things to do is stay motivated on a day-to-day basis. Not every project can be the luscious imaginative playground that keeps you up at night. Sometimes they can be the droning, soul-sucking horror that keeps you awake at night. Ideally, you won’t ever have those projects, but realistically you will from time to time. After all, you need to eat. Even when I am feeling beaten down by a project or client, these are some of the ways I can pick myself up to pull through it. Some of these tips may seem obvious, but how often do you actually do them? These are skewed more towards my self-employed situation, but can easily be applied to other situations too.
Some days exercise for me is sprinting down four flights of stairs to meet the FedEx man before he presumes I’m not home and walks away. Don’t you see the apartment number next to the bell you rang?! Hey FedEx guy, it takes time to get downstairs! My own problems aside, I suggest you get out of the house; go for a walk or a bike ride. I love going out for an afternoon by myself to ride or walk around and take photos. It’s a great time for my mind to wander and reflect on problems away from my work situations. By the time I get back to work, I am refreshed and ready to go. Free your ass and your mind will follow.
Being unorganized affects your mood and makes tasks seem insurmountable. When you walk over to your desk and can’t find the keyboard under all the papers and clutter, or are constantly sifting through an inbox of hundreds of client emails, you are causing yourself undue stress. Come up with a scheme to organize your information. Sort your inbox intelligently. Get a filing cabinet.
Set Your Goals
Have goals in mind when you work on things, and plot out time in your mind (or better yet, on a schedule) that you can allow yourself to spend. Make lists, even of the small things. Recognizing successes and accomplishments, however small they may seem, helps to keep your morale up and your motivation pumping. “Write new post”, check.
Make <insert name here> Time
Along the same lines as “pay yourself first” when you get start making some money, you have to make time for yourself first. This is time that no one else can touch, it’s yours and yours alone. Use it to do whatever you like, read, shop, watch movies, catch up on sleep, whatever makes you happy. If you feel like all you do is work, you will begin to resent what you do.
Even if client work is on hiatus for a day or two, there are ALWAYS things to be done. You are in business, re-assess your website, brainstorm new ways to promote yourself, write something on your neglected site. The plain fact is, your job is never “done”. Try to stay comfortably busy. Comfortably busy is having enough work so that you don’t slack off and play video games all day.
When a design problem has really got me hung up, the best thing to do is to get my mind off it, at least my conscious mind that is. I go escape into something else; and by the time I get back to work, the problem has incubated in my subconscious long enough that I probably have a solution or at least a game plan.
That’s it. Surely not an exhaustive list, just a few things that I have found help me stay relatively sane. How do you stay motivated? Please share.