I met up with a friend yesterday who is new to working at home full-time. She has had an online business for years but has now left her “day” job and is solely focused on the online business.
We were discussing the reality of working from home and the challenges with staying motivated to work when you don’t have a set routine or schedule or office hours.
I don’t have perfect answers to this one.
Earlier this year, a friend shared this book with me:
It was a game-changer for me. It’s a surprisingly small book. It isn’t profoundly worded. But for whatever reason, the short little chapters are just the kick in the pants I need to get going when I am lacking motivation and inspiration.
If you are working in any creative industry of any kind, I highly recommend you grab a copy. It’s cheap. It’s an easy read. And I think there is a nugget of truth for everyone in it. You might read it and take out of it something entirely different than I did. That’s totally fine. But it addresses many topics that apply to the challenge of being at home with no boss and finding the inspiration and motivation to get work done.
This book was a very freeing read to me. I find that I do best with staying motivated when I remove all pressure from myself and give myself permission to just NOT work. I go for a walk. Go to Disney for the day. Go to the beach and soak in some sun. Enjoy dinner with a friend. And then when the inspiration hits, I spend hours upon hours holed up in my office with music blaring, coffee-by-the-gallon, and creation pouring from my fingertips onto paper and ink and computer screen.
I’ve been at home for 2 1/2 years now. The initial transition from being in a highly social school environment where I was teaching high school students and interacting with others all day long to being at home all day with just my work and my kids (I homeschool) was rough. I’m now in a good groove and would have a hard transition back to an office environment or school environment. But there is a real transitional period.
My Tips For Staying Motivated:
1. Relax Inspiration will never come when you are stressed out about seeking inspiration. Relax. Let it go. (Easier said than done!)
2. Read Steal Like An Artist again!
3. Take a stack of graph paper, drawing paper, lined paper (I take all 3) and a big bundle of great pens (I love Pitt Artist Pens) and head to a coffee shop for a few hours. Draw. Don’t cross anything out. Don’t correct yourself. Just draw. Doodle. Outline. Write words. Write whatever you need to write. This isn’t a contest. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to do anything worth saving. Maybe you will make a masterpiece. Maybe it will be awful. It’s okay. Give yourself that permission.
4. Exercise. Every day. Even when you don’t want to.
5. Give yourself permission to mix office hours up if you need to. Sometimes I wake up at 3 a.m. and work until noon and quit for the day. Sometimes I start work at 9 p.m. and work until the wee hours of the morning. It’s okay. I read a lot of books that say you need office hours and you need that stability. I’m just super ADHD and that doesn’t work for me. And that’s *okay*. Do what works– FOR YOU– and be okay with that.
6. Pray. Not about work. Not about needing inspiration. But take the focus off of yourself and your needs and your wants and your desires and pray for people in need. Pray for big issues. Pray for understanding and compassion.
7. Shut up and work. Sometimes it isn’t that we lack inspiration. Sometimes something doesn’t require any creativity at all. It just takes a little super glue of your rear-end into the office chair and a commitment to muscle through the yuck. Balance this with the permission to not work when uninspired. Is this contradictory? Yes. Sorry.
8. Do something that is completely unrelated to your work. Bonus points if you can earn money doing this other thing. This is touched on in Austin’s book, but I agree completely with it. If you love to sing, take some time to sing. Exercising different creative muscles keeps us fresh. If your work is something that you *used to* love that now feels a little bit too much like work and a lot less like fun, spending time with another creative endeavor can be a great way to refill yourself.
9. Set goals. Maybe not financial goals. Financial goals can sometimes be a bit out of your control, depending on the industry you work in. But if your goal is to spend a month in France next year, and in order to do that, you need to achieve X, Y, and Z– put pictures of France all over your office. Keep yourself visually reminded of why you work and what you want to keep working for. It’s easy to get caught up in work and forget what you’re working for.
10. Be patient with yourself. Sometimes there is a bit of a dark period in our creativity. It’s okay. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t mean you are a failure. You will recover from that season. Love yourself enough to be kind to yourself.
11. Stop looking at other people and comparing yourself. If you get hung up on Susie Snowcone and her amazing new ideas and start questioning “How does she do it all? Is she just better than me? Am I a failure and doomed for life because I can’t compete with her?” you will never get past that. You just have to let it go. You are enough.
I’m planning to do a series of posts on this topic. If you have specific challenges in working at home, please leave a comment (it won’t be visible to anyone other than me and you- I have my comments set that way). I’ll try to address several of them throughout the year.