When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life.
~ Greg Anderson
Most of my working life I’ve been self-employed, first as a documentary filmmaker and now as a personal historian. There have been ups and downs but on the whole I’ve been able to stay motivated. What’s the secret? Here are the things that have worked for me.
Believe in what you’re doing.
This is crucial. If you’re not happy with what you’re working at, then it’s almost impossible to stay motivated. For me, I know that being a personal historian satisfies some of my deepest values. It’s something I wrote about previously in Why Are You a Personal Historian?
Take a break from your work.
No matter how passionate you are about your work, your motivation will wane if you don’t take time off. Now it doesn’t have to be a month in Tahiti although that does sound enticing. I’m talking about something simpler – things like getting away from your computer for 15 to 20 minute breaks every hour or two, making sure to take a day for yourself at least once a week, and planning a major holiday every year. I previously wrote about vacations here and here.
Ensure you have an attractive place to work.
If your heart sinks every time you head to your work place, something’s wrong. Take a hard look at your office. Is it dark and cluttered with ugly mismatched furniture? You’ll be more motivated if your office is a place where you actually like to work. Make sure it has some natural light, ergonomic furniture, your favorite colors, and some attractive pictures on the wall. I love my office which occupies the front of the second floor of our house. It has two large windows that face east and look out on a small park across the street.
Remind yourself of the benefits.
I only worked as a salaried employee for a fraction of my work life but I know what I didn’t like about it.There were the office politics, incompetent managers, endless, often nonproductive meetings, and commuting, to name but a few. Being self-employed I have the benefits of setting my own goals and pace. I can select the kind of projects I want to do. I decide the fees to charge and when to take a break. Reminding myself of these benefits is a great motivator.
Have your very own cheerleaders.
If you work on your own, it can be isolating. You need to have people who’ll be there to sympathize with you, give you a boost, and offer timely advice. The Association of Personal Historians is another source of support. This is a group of colleagues who understand what I’m going through and provide great advice 24/7.
No matter how much you love your work, it can become a bore and a drain on your motivation if you’re always doing the same thing. That’s why I like to challenge myself to find different or better ways to deliver my personal history services. I started with video life stories and then tried my hand at books. Now I have this blog. I find I’m stretched and stimulated and continually motivated.
What do you do to stay motivated?
Photo by h. koppdelaney