Your frequently asked questions
Q1. I don't like doing my accounts as I find it so tedious. How can I motivate myself?
A1. Finding the motivation to do something you dislike often has more to do with the meaning you’ve applied to the task rather than the task itself. For example, if you define doing accounts as a necessary evil to satisfy the taxman, it’s hard to tackle it with enthusiasm.
If you recognise that keeping your accounts up to date gives you a readily available source of useful information about how your efforts are paying off, you will appreciate how this particular job will allow you to make informed decisions about where you can best allocate your time and attention. So really, it’s an essential tool for your day-to-day work.
Changing how you think about any task (thinking of the positive rather than negative connotations) to see it in service of your overall goals and objectives will make it much more motivating and attractive to do.
Q2. There are some things that I feel I really should feel motivated about but I always have to force myself to do them. How can I overcome this?
A2. When we say should, we’ve generally not bought into whatever we think we ‘should’ do. So, when you feel like this, sit down and make sure you are clear about your goals including what you want to achieve and why. Then consider how the jobs you’re avoiding fit in with this.
If the tasks you are referring to are essential ones that support your overall goals, then re-define them as suggested in A1.
However, it could be that when you look closely, you don’t really want a particular goal – perhaps you just think you want it because society/your peers/family say you do, that is, it is not really your goal and you don’t really place much value on it. When you hear yourself say: “I should do that”, ask yourself what would happen if you didn’t? Perhaps there is a better alternative that you are truly motivated to achieve.
Q3. I've got a huge project on at the moment that will last for the next six months. It's an excellent piece of work but I feel overwhelmed rather than motivated. What do you suggest?
A3. You probably feel overwhelmed because you are looking at the work as one, huge task looming over you. If so, you now need to break it down into more manageable steps over interim time-periods. For example, listening to 2012 Olympic competitors, all of them became athletes because they wanted to be the best at a sport they were good at and enjoyed. When they were competing though they didn’t think about winning the gold medal, they only ever concentrated on the task in hand, on that race, that individual heat, that specific step that cleared the way for the next one.
Like these athletes work out how you can break this project down into manageable chunks, with clear milestones so you can track your progress, and schedule in plenty of rewards. In situations like this, getting the chunk size right is key. Too big, it’s overwhelming, as you are experiencing now. Too small and it feels too insignificant to bother with. This might take some planning but will help you feel much more in control and also ensure you deliver the project to the best of your abilities.
Q4. I often feel de-motivated when I have so many things to do that I can't see an end in sight. How can I stop this from happening?
A4. Being busy is not always the same as making progress. Feeling de-motivated can be a signal that you may be busy tackling the wrong jobs. When you feel like this, it’s time to take a step back and assess all the tasks you are juggling and all the areas that you are trying to deal with. Getting what you’re doing down on paper can give you insights into what you need to do differently.
Group the tasks into four categories (as in Stephen Covey’s prioritising tool from ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’):
- urgent and important
- urgent and unimportant
- non-urgent and important
- non-urgent and unimportant
Now consider where you are spending the majority of your time and effort.
If you are working mainly on the non-urgent and unimportant group, you need to consider why. If you are spending all your time on tasks that are urgent and important but still don’t have time to do everything, something needs to change.
Think about how you could do things differently or find some support. Are there tasks you can delegate? Who can you ask for help? Who understands what you are trying to achieve?
Q5. Sometimes, I find it difficult to keep motivated when I'm working alone. What can I do?
A5. One of the big challenges of the freelance is the lack of colleagues who have a shared objective, pulling together when deadlines are looming or just giving each other some reassurance.
We have to recognise when this is an issue for us and take steps to mitigate it. So, make sure that you arrange to meet peers or friends on a regular basis – even if it’s for a quick coffee. Chatting on line is fine, but for many, it’s no substitute for human contact. Join groups, attend relevant industry events whenever possible, take every opportunity to meet like-minded people, who may become work buddies, allies, or useful contacts.
Remember what inspired you to do this work in the beginning. Where does your passion lie and what nurtures it? As often as possible, go back and revisit anything that will remind you of that spark that set you off on this path. It’s so easy to lose sight of that by being too busy and then forgetting what you’re doing it all for.
Q6. I know I need to make some connections to get more work, but I hate networking! How can I make myself do this?
A6. Many people are perfectly happy meeting new people and chatting about their work. Yet the minute it’s called networking, they stiffen up and curl their lip at the very thought! It’s such a loaded term for so many people, why not unload it by calling it something else that you enjoy, e.g., ‘meeting interesting new people, some of whom may be good to know in the future,’ - whatever makes you feel most comfortable.
Also, remember, you are the one who will benefit from networking. It’s not a hard sales situation but a way to start building a framework of people in the industry who would be happy to bump into you a second or third time – and may eventually prove to be a client, a useful contact, a work partner or even a friend. Also, meeting other like-minded people can be motivating and stimulate some bright ideas for you to play with.
If you really don’t want to network face-to-face, make the most of online opportunities such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. You can be the most talented person in the world but if nobody knows this, you won’t get very far. Basically, networking is an effective way of raising awareness of what you do and increasing your chances of success. Definitely worth another go!
Q7. Sometimes it all just feels too hard, and I can’t find the energy to continue. How do I give myself the necessary kick up the pants?
A7. It seems that this isn’t so much about a kick up the pants but an indication that it’s time to step back and review where you are. In creative industries, rejections and unrealised dreams can undoubtedly take their toll. What makes it tolerable is that the good bits compensate for the bad.
Feeling like this can be an indication that you’ve lost sight of why you are doing it and it might be a good idea to take a break and do something purely for fun - whatever makes you laugh or relax. It’s amazing how even a brief break can give a fresh perspective.
Now sit down and look honestly at how far you’ve come. Identify your biggest achievements. If you think there aren’t many, go back through your diaries, you will probably have forgotten lots of things you’ve done. Recognise how much you have learned, and how much progress you’ve made. Congratulate yourself on your efforts and your achievements.
Now consider your long-term goals:
- Do they still excite you?
- Do you still want them (remember, many things have a ‘shelf-life’ and you might be bored and have come to a natural end of a particular pursuit)?
- If yes, how much progress toward them have you made in the last year?
If you answer these questions and know you are still on the right path, you need to find new strategies and new ideas to take yourself forward. Use some of the tips in the answers above to check you are spending your time and energy wisely.
Tap back into things that inspire you and remember what it is that makes it all worthwhile. Then create your new action plan.
If your original goals no longer feel relevant, perhaps you need a longer break to consider if this is true, or if you are just temporarily burned out. Either way, time out will help you work out what it is you want to do.
If you decide to move on to pastures new, take stock of all the amazing experience you have gained, good and bad, which has given you a wealth of experience to draw on. Congratulate yourself for giving it your best shot, and make a plan to work out your new goals are. Just remember that no experience is ever wasted.