praise as a motivator
I don't have coworkers and I don't have a boss, so I have had to learn how to be entirely self-motivated. It has been a major part of the freelance hustle. I found myself feeling really overwhelmed. Since I make my own schedule, I thought (in the beginning) that meant I could work as much or as little as I want. And I totally can, if I want to be super duper hungry. I still need to pay bills and maintain relationships with clients. So, it turns out I have to work for multiple hours every day or else I won't have a job. That's just sort of how jobs go.
Because I don't have coworkers or a boss, I don't get praise. I have to be honest and say that praise was a big motivator for a long time. I didn't realize how much I relied on praise until I didn't have anyone to impress. I mean, I can try to impress my clients. But it's not their job to encourage me.
If I lose motivation and slack on work, I'll just lose my client. It won't be a conversation or an action plan, I'll just be out of a job. So, I've really had to figure out how to make myself work when it is the last thing I want to do. When I wanted to have a slacker day in previous work environments, I would show up and do my very best and still get paid. That is not the case in the freelance life.
how do I self-motivate?
In learning how to motivate myself I have learned that procrastination is certainly a motivator. It's also terribly stressful and an ineffective way to produce quality work. It's a difficult habit to break. I'm working on it.
I try to maintain a really consistent daily routine
I spend the first hour of my quiet morning writing in my journal. I try not to check my email, though it is frequently the first thing I do before I get out of bed. And then I work for about 8 hours with a break every two hours to take the dogs outside.
In my previous work environment, I was constantly inspired. The people I worked with were hard-working and friendly. There were goals and objectives and procedures. Always new ideas, new things to improve, different people to collaborate with.
I am my own source of inspiration
I spend most of my time at home or at coffee shops with my headphones on and my eyes on my computer. When I hit a wall in my day, I try to reset by empowering myself and getting inspired. I do this by thinking about all of the ways in which I am a badass. Instead of thinking about how I am overwhelmed and have so much work to do, I think about all of the awesome work I have done recently and throughout my life. I have written hundreds of pages in the last six months. I typically write about twenty pages per week. So, when I am stuck on a project, I remember how capable and hardworking I am. I remember all of the times I thought I wouldn't finish something. All of the times I struggled with a task. And all of those times turned into successes.
I categorize my days
I learned this when I was writing a piece about time management. The idea is to chunk major tasks into categories and then structure days according to those categories. The freelance life means I work at least a little bit seven days a week. So, categorizing my days has been something that really works for me. For example, I schedule all of my phone calls and meetings on Mondays -- meeting Mondays! Tuesdays and Thursdays are my intense workdays while Wednesdays are for maintenance and side projects. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are spent on starting projects for the next week, editing, and checking in with clients.
I remind myself how much I love my work
It's super helpful that I am in a new and interesting line of work, doing my very favorite thing. I get to write about a variety of interesting topics, make clients happy, and try new writing styles that I would otherwise be nervous to try. I write for multiple hours, every day. Thousands of words (words are my very favorite thing in the history of anything ever).
I am as much in awe of language as I am of the stars. When I am overwhelmed and stressing out about my work, I think about the beauty in it. This brings me right back down to earth. An instant perspective change. Yes, this is hard work. Yes, it is sometimes confusing and intimidating. It is also my very favorite thing to do. Whether I am writing about how to be a good parent or writing reviews about waterproof walkie-talkies, I absolutely love that I get to help people articulate their message so that they can connect with their audience. I'm the one who gets to construct that connection. It is very cool to think about.
So, when I just think of the reason I do this work, the other stuff doesn't seem to matter so much.
I work long enough to enter a flow-state
Flow is what happens when you are totally immersed in the task at hand. You lose track of time, you're totally loving the moment, you are just totally fixated by what you are doing. Whether you're rock climbing, knitting, or trying to get work done, a flow state is not out of reach. In order to get into the flow, here's what I do:
- Get rid of distractions. I take the dogs out, I put my phone on do not disturb (with the option for it to ring after three phone calls -- in case someone dies), and I clear my desk so that it feels fresh. This also helps me ease my getting started anxiety.
- Put on good music. Lately, I've been rocking the west coast rap essentials playlist on iTunes. Very effective. Sometimes I listen to classical music.
- I start with the task that will make me feel accomplished. I work on something that will help me get started -- something not too difficult but not so easy that I don't count it as work. This helps me ease into work without feeling overwhelmed.
- I commit to twenty minutes. I make a decision to work hard for twenty minutes. But I don't watch the clock and I don't set a timer. I just tell myself it will be twenty minutes and usually by the time it would have been twenty minutes, I've forgotten and I am totally in the flow.
I've always been a dreamer and I've tried to be a go-getter. I realized that much of what was keeping me going and inspiring me was the positive attention I got from people when I worked so hard.
Working hard when no one is looking has given me a new sense of satisfaction with my work. I'm not hustling as hard as I am so that I can get praise. I'm not doing this with my eyes on the next promotion. I work this hard because it makes me feel good. I'm learning how to be proud of myself in every moment. I'm learning how to inspire myself and give (not too much of) myself to my work. If I feel authentically proud of myself, I don't need anyone else to tell me how awesome I am.