Maintaining motivation

I love my work.  I make no secret about it, but even in loving my work, I struggle to stay motivated 100 percent of the time.  As I’ve written in this blog before, external things like deadlines can keep me motivated.  But, sometimes I have fewer deadlines and more time to work on pursuing new projects or do paperwork and my motivation lacks.  Here are a few tricks I’ve learned to keep myself motivated when I don’t necessarily feel like working.

Set your own deadlines. I learned this trick while working as an assistant historian for the History Program of the National Model Aviation Museum during graduate school.  My biggest task was to compile biographies of model aviation enthusiasts.   It was an ongoing project that had no deadline or end in sight.  I would set deadlines to have so many biographies or certain biographies completed by certain dates.  I also knew that I had to schedule other tasks to keep myself from burning out, so I also set deadlines to create things like a writing guide for the biographies, a form for modelers to use, etc.   I employ the same tactic today in setting deadlines for non-deadline tasks, like updating business finances, pitching new projects, etc.

Know when to switch tasks. This is part of what I mentioned in the first tip.  Some tasks just don’t hold our interest for long.  If I have a task that I dread doing, like updating business finances, then I reward myself with a task that I like to do.  Knowing that as soon as I’m finished with the dreaded task that I can start on something more fun helps keep me motivated to keep plugging away.  For larger tasks, sometimes that can mean breaking it up over a couple of days to avoid getting burned out.

Find someone to keep you accountable. A little while back I wrote about how Twitter can keep me accountable.  That’s one option, but sometimes I need a bit more interaction with someone.  I have another writer who lives across the country from me that I’ve discussed this with.  Sometimes we e-mail each other and encourage the other to keep going.  I also use my family support when needed.  I’ll tell my husband about a project I’m working on, and as he asks me about how it’s going, I want to have answers, so I stay motivated.

Understand that sometimes you just need a break. I’ve also learned along the way that sometimes to maintain my motivation and drive I need some time away.  When I’m working on more technical aspects of writing and less creative ones, I will sometimes need to take a creativity break.  Just spending 30 minutes playing the piano can refresh me to return to my task more motivated.  I also take breaks sometimes just to throw the ball for my dog in the backyard or chat with a friend on the phone.  Whether it’s a five minute break or an hour break, it’s sometimes just the thing I need to refresh myself and my motivation.

Work through the drudge. Another tip I have for now is working through the lackadaisical feelings.  Sometimes I find I get the most done by simply applying my backside to my chair and working when I don’t feel like it.  Usually by the time I’m 20 minutes in (or sometimes less!), I forget that I was even dreading work.

Music as a motivator. My final tip is to use music as a motivator.  I love music.  It’s part of everything I do.  I’ve written a bit about this before as well.  When I’m feeling least motivated, I can put on the right music to keep me going.  For times I am struggling to write, I turn to the soundtrack from “Riverdance.”  For times that I’m feeling sleepy and need to do some design work, I turn to peppy tunes that make me happy.  I’ve been known to jam to old M.C. Hammer tunes or Broadway scores when I need some pep.  It works for me.

What do you find helps you to maintain motivation on days/times when you feel like doing anything except working?

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