1. Motivation doesn’t make you act…action makes you motivated. If you’re lolling around on the couch waiting for motivation to hit before you write a query or research an article, you’ll be on that couch so long that it will have a permanent writer-shaped imprint on it. Taking action — whether you feel inspired to or not — will generate the motivation to keep going. For example, I have a hard time getting started on articles, but once I get myself to sit down and write the title and my byline, I have the momentum to continue writing.
2. Box it. Time boxing is an IT term that means to divide up a project into smaller chunks, each with its own timeline and budget. Diana and I often write about how to apply this concept to your freelance life: Commit to working on any given task for a small amount of time; 15 to 30 minutes is good. Set a timer, and work on that tough project until the timer goes off. This boosts motivation because you know when you sit down that there is an end in sight. Another benefit is that once you’ve gotten started, you’re likely to get on a roll and not want to stop.
3. Buddy up. A goal buddy can help motivate you by holding you accountable for getting your work done. Choose a freelancer you admire or someone who is at your level in their career, and commit to talking in person or by phone at regular intervals, such as once a week or twice per month. Each of you should go over what your goals were during the last session, whether you met those goals and how (or why not), what your new goals are for the upcoming session, and what you plan to do to meet those goals. Your goal buddy can help you brainstorm your way past blocks, crises of confidence, and other barriers.
4. Take a break. Sometimes you just need to give up. Not permanently, mind you, but just for a while as you relax and renew. If you’re feeling a real lack of motivation to get anything done, give yourself permission to lounge on the couch with a good book for a few hours, take a day off to go to the park, or spend a couple of days at a B&B for some R&R.
5. Reward yourself. Assign yourself a reward for every step of a project you’re working on. For example, if you’re writing a book proposal, you can treat yourself to a fancy coffee drink after you write the table of contents, a new book once the first draft is done, and a massage when the project is complete. Rewards don’t necessarily have to be pricey; you can also give yourself an hour off to take a nice bath, or ask your partner to give you that massage when you finish the project.
6. Scare yourself motivated. A friend of mine made a deal with another writer: She would complete her book proposal by X date or she would have to do a certain thing that really frightened her. You can be sure she was motivated to crank out that book proposal!
7. Write for people. When I’m feeling less than motivated about writing an article, I think about all the people the article will help. Even the most boring-to-write article will be interesting and helpful to someone else — otherwise the editor wouldn’t have asked for it. I write a lot about health, wellness, and nutrition, and these articles help other people live healthy, happy, long lives. I also write marketing articles for custom and trade publications, and these articles help readers — especially small business owners — make a living. What can be better motivation than that?
How do you motivate yourself to do difficult tasks? Please post your ideas in the Comments! [lf]