It’s not exactly a secret that I’ve been struggling with motivation lately.
Part of it is still fear, the tendency to fall in love with my ideas, and then worry that I can’t pull them off. But that’s easier to manage, now that I’ve identified the problem. The bigger issue right now is simply inertia, and time management. Over the last few months—as my goals have shifted, and as I’ve prepared for the move, and recovered from the move—my entire creative routine has fallen apart. It’s become a habit to sit at the computer and do nothing (or worse, do the sort of busywork that feels productive, but doesn’t really accomplish anything).
There are people out there who don’t have this problem. If they want to break a routine, or build a new habit, they just do, and they can’t see why it’s so difficult for the rest of us. I admire those people, but I’m not one of them. I have to work to break my habits.
But I’m trying. And, as with the fear, knowing what the problem is makes it easier to solve.
So, over the last few weeks and into the next, this is what I’m doing:
- Figure out what I want to do. I don’t mean my big ambitions or plans, I mean every day. The specifics. How do I want to spend my time? What do I want to do instead of sighing over perfect interiors on Pinterest or reading endless articles about productivity? (This is surprisingly difficult. I know exactly what I want to do with my life, but it took some time to figure out what I want to do day-to-day.)
- Make a schedule. How much time do I actually have in the day? How much time to I need to dedicate to each of the things I really want to do, in order to feel like I’m accomplishing something? Then figure out how to make the time I want work with the time I have. Write it down.
- Try it out. Tweak it until it works. This is the stage I’m at now. As in anything, the first draft wasn’t very good—I tend to get over-ambitious, and the first day or so was overwhelming—but it’s getting better. (I did scrap my whole plan for yesterday in favour of grabbing coffee with a friend, but… sometimes that’s necessary, too.)
All of this is pretty basic ‘fake it ’til you make it’ kind of stuff. The motivation is lacking, so, yeah: I’m just making myself do the work. Sometimes you have to. And it starts turning into real motivation right about here:
- Track my progress. This is something I do anyway, just as a matter of course. I track time, and word counts, and… everything, really. You can’t change anything if you can’t measure the change. (Some things are easier to track than others, of course. For more subjective changes, you have to find the criteria that matter to you, or maybe just focus on time spent, which, if it’s spent well will translate to real progress.) And seeing the change, for me, turns into its own reward: I start competing with myself, trying to spend more time on the things that matter, trying to get just a little bit better.
So, that’s my plan. It’s not magic, it’s not even easy, and it won’t work for everyone. But it seems to be working for me, and that’s enough.