In an Eden-like world, we would only have to do those things that pleased us and nothing that we didn’t want to do. In our real world, 1/3 or more of each day is filled with tasks we sometimes wish we didn’t have to do but the motivation of eating and having a roof over our head is enough to keep us going. Well, that and a boss making sure we stay on track. What happens, however, when you are your own boss? How do you find your motivation each day?
As someone that falls into that realm, I know that I must constantly employ tricks to keep my mind sharp and focused, while still having the imagination that I also need. I’m a writer, and although you may be something else entirely, perhaps some of my tricks can serve you well too.
Most people think being a writer is glamorous. I can see the spark of interest on a person’s face when I tell them what I do. Inevitably that look turns to something less excited when I explain that no, I do not write novels and my work cannot be found in a bookstore at all, but instead perhaps on a website they might frequent. I write website content, including landing pages and blogs. Not very exciting I admit, but it is no less challenging.
The biggest challenge is coming up with new ways to say things that have already been said a million times in a million ways. Much like a vulture circling a picked over carcass looking for some fresh scrap remaining, I must sometimes circle a topic for quite a bit looking for a new angle. That’s where imagination, focus and motivation come in.
One of the things that I must have is the right environment, one that is conducive to not only coming up with ideas but which protects them from floating away much like the dandelion that has gone to seed does when a breeze comes along. If I am on the verge of that light bulb going off and someone disturbs me, poof it is gone. One way that I avoid that is by using a do-not-disturb door hanger on my home office door. My family knows that when it is in place, if they disturb me they may feel more like the carcass they robbed me of than they wish to.
It is not just important to consider those things that promote concentration and focus. It is also wise to recognize what things can stifle them. One thing that does that for me is clutter. For example, I couldn’t work in a space with cords and wires going every which direction, so I opted to use a cable management system to conceal them.
Becoming overwhelmed is another detriment I need to avoid. I found at one point if I didn’t keep an organized way to track projects that I was forever fretting about a huge work load even when that was not the reality. Now I use a wonderful cork and whiteboard planner to keep organized and on task. I use the cork section to affix a picture of my largest goal – usually a photo of a remote location I want to go to on vacation. This dream photo gives me the motivation I need when I am feeling tired or overtaxed. The second section is my more immediate goal, whatever that might be. The final section is my list of assignments for the week. It sure feels great to see it isn’t as mammoth as my imagination had feared and crossing each one off as I complete it is very rewarding.
I am also a firm believer in aromatherapy and find that diffusing essential oils is quite helpful at putting me in the right zone for doing my tasks. I find that citrus scents like lemon and tangerine boost my spirit, and florals like rose and geranium help me to focus.
It certainly helps when you can let your mind wander off uninhibited when it comes to needing fresh material. What better time does that happen than when you are asleep? Studies show that if we go to sleep contemplating a problem that our mind continues to work on it and you might awaken with clarity. It takes a restful sleep, however, so that is yet another time that I turn to essential oils. The use of such oils as lavender, sandalwood, bergamot, juniper, blue tansy, spearmint, ocotea, and others can provide quality rest and enhanced dreaming and visualization. I don’t pretend to understand the science behind it, but I do know it works for me.
Music or lack thereof is another consideration for motivation, depending on the task at hand and how you react to certain kinds of music. One person may find absolute silence the easiest environment for productive work, while another would find that distractive. I’m one of a very small percentage of the population that finds almost all music unpleasant and distractive, so I opt for quiet when I work. Others like either a calming music to reduce stress or a lively tune to boost productivity and provide motivation. Find what works for you and go with it.
Coming up with new ideas can be stressful if you don’t have much life experience to draw upon. You don’t have to let youth be a hindrance, however, because you can live a lifetime vicariously through reading. If you think all writers do is write, you might be surprised to learn that they almost always read a lot as well. I first realized this when, by chance, I read two books one after the other from different authors and saw quite a similarity in how a particular character was described. While I seriously doubt the author was guilty of plagiarism, he did benefit from reading and having that image form in his mind for later retrieval. I’ve also seen authors refer directly to other writer’s works. Although this tip may seem only for those that are writers, recognize that imagination is necessary in a variety of careers and reading can help you grow yours.
Just about anything can be a motivator when you set your mind to it. The promise of a huge banana split at the end of an arduous day could even be enough to keep you on task. The trick is learning what spurs you on and what stops you in your tracks so that you can grow towards meeting any challenge, even if that is like pulling a single small ember from a burned out fire to spark something new.