Lately, I've had more and more people ask me how I stay motivated or comment that they're impressed by my motivation. Believe me, it pretty much only applies to art and I wish I had more motivation in other areas. But I wanted to talk about what motivates me right now and how to motivate yourself. Post write-up thoughts: You can use steps/guides for just about anything, from work out goals to art to business. I hope this helps and I'm sorry it's long!
Pressure and Accountability
We usually attribute pressure to being bad, but one thing my dad would say to me growing up is that without pressure and tension, a violin would not be able to play.
We need pressure occasionally in our life; we need a little tension and push. My pressure right now comes from deadlines. Fiverr gives me strict 3-10 day deadlines for orders, Etsy gives me 14 day deadlines, and I give myself for my personal/gift projects 30 days. If I don't have pressure, if I don't feel like I have to meet those deadlines, I won't accomplish anything. There's still a few out-standing projects I have that I need to finish and are hard for me to go for because I haven't set deadlines for them (I need to!). But those deadlines help me to maintain a schedule. Balancing my full time job and my business is hard, but with a schedule, I can manage. With that eek of pressure, I create and improve and refine.
It also holds me accountable. Etsy and Fiverr give me ratings based on my response time and delivery time. I get poorer ratings and less support and views if I do not perform well. Other people may need a buddy-system, a friend or family member who isn't afraid to call you out if you're slacking or someone who you can also encourage. It gives you a sense of both camaraderie and competition since you are encouraging each other and helping each other reach your goals as well as someone who can make you think, "Well if they can stay on task, so can I!"
Short-term Goals to Get to the Big Goals
I try to set goals, for the most part, that take no longer than a week. Daily goals are even better. "Today, I will finish this small piece" or "Today, I will put out 5 sketches." "This week, I will start sculpting." It helps, it gives me an easy to attain goal, while still accomplishing, by the end of the week, quite a bit. I do have month-long and year-long goals, but those tend to be more loosey goosey and get the fine points worked out along the way. But these small, realistic goals are crucial to progress. Yes, you should go ahead and set your big, pie in the sky goals. You should be ambitious. But smell steps get you to the big things.
Set the Mood, Set the Schedule
I have the most energy to dedicate to creative things around 2PM and can carry that until 10PM. It is better for me to be able to sit down, eat a meal, drink an adult beverage (just the one...! maybe the two...), and then settle into creating (while watching Netflix) than it is for me to wake up early in the morning and create before I even take a shower. Everyone is different, though! Find the time where you feel you are in the most positive mood and are the calmest. Morning people may not actually be calm in the morning, and may start to let their inhibitions go in the evening.
You also want to be in the right environment. I work well at a desk or where I can spread out. I also work well with noise in the background, whether that's music or TV show. Others may work well outside or in silence. Find your place, make it your own (I like to put up images of my subjects or color schemes I'm focusing on, or pieces that inspire me). Many people encourage going with a blue color scheme for your work area as research shows that blue is calming and enhances performance on a creative task.
Make sure you are also giving yourself enough time in your process to get into the flow. I don't find a flow and don't pick up speed until I've been focusing on my projects for an hour. For some, it may only take a few minutes. But be aware-- this is a real mental state, where you are fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment of the process. Also make sure your project is to your skill level -- not too easy as to be boring, not too hard as to be frustrating. Find your rhythm. It's as natural and unique to you as your circadian rhythm or monthly cycles.
If you find that you're still having a hard time getting creative and in the mood, go for a walk, do some exercising, and make sure you're getting enough sleep. Being healthy, mentally and physically, will allow your brain to not stress and worry about those aspects and will allow you to put all of your attention towards your creative projects.
Finally, take breaks! I cannot work for 3 hours straight without at least getting up to get a drink of water. Depending on what you want to do, you may work for 20 minutes and take a 10 minute break. Work for 45 minutes and take a 15 minute break. Work for 90 minutes and take a 20 minute break. I don't recommend breaking for more than 15 minutes, but for some people, and depending on the task you want to accomplish, you may need longer breaks. Do it for your mental health, do it for your creative process.
No Procrastinating, Only Perseverance
We tend to procrastinate when there are negative feelings involved, like anxiety or worry. A good way to overcome that is to repair your mood, and that’s all a mental task. Visualize how good you’ll feel when you finish your task and forgive yourself for procrastinating because that guilt doesn’t help anyone. Start with the easy things or the steps you feel most like doing, as that will help you build momentum… and it’s the first step to most importantly to… Just. Getting. Started. Just getting started is so important. Just tell yourself you only have to do one or two things. Just begin.
Once you can overcome your procrastination, you can start to acknowledge your disappointments and frustrations and accept that they have happened and will happen, and you just have to forgive any current ones. You need to keep trying even if you feel like you’re falling short. It’s okay.
My dad always says, “Half of your success is just showing up.” And if you have morning classes or a job you dislike, it’s encouraging to know that. Just show up. And it takes absolute grit to just get up in the morning and go. It takes perseverance.
The key to your success does NOT depend on your skills, abilities, talents, or even intelligence. The key to success is perseverance: Getting up every day with determination, making it to your work space, getting those first steps done, setting an action plan. If you can commit to any goals, long term or short term, despite adversity, you will succeed.
If that doesn’t encourage you, then maybe this will: Your ability is not in a fixed state, and you are capable of constantly learning. There is life after failure. If you don’t hit your deadline, if your project falls apart, if you fall flat on your face… it won’t kill you. Get up, dust yourself off, and start over. Forgive yourself and keep persevering.
Do Scary Things!
I left this for last because it’s one I struggle with. You will not be successful if you only do what is comfortable and what you can easiest. You don’t improve that way; you don’t find solutions to problems that way. You should challenge yourself; you should have some small amount of discomfort. Doing the scary things will change your world view and enhance your creative thinking, seeking out new problems will challenge your skills, and taking on your uncertainty will help you to fuel your brilliant, creative brain. That is how you will create your best work, even if the first few times you try, you fail. You will get better and you will create something amazing.