I was recently out with a friend when she asked how I got to be so self-motivated. I had to pause because I never thought of myself as self-motivated. I just do what I do because that’s what I’ve always done. But she pointed out that I work out, I write, I eat well: all things that are so easy not to do.
So I started thinking about it, and this is what I figure are some of the top reasons why I’m able to do things others would put off or not do at all. (I’m going to focus on my writing, but these also apply to other things you have a hard time starting.)
I set aside a time of day to write.
I write best in the morning, but only after I’ve had some caffeine and checked my email and goofed around online for a minute or thirty. If I try to jump right into the writing, it never goes well. So I allow myself some forgiveness, knowing that I’ll get to it sooner rather than later.
I have my own designated Writing Space.
Each day when I begin to write, I move to my Writing Space: a room dedicated to our computers, where my standup desk is. Yes, occasionally I’ll move into different areas, but I almost always start in the same Writing Space.
Writing Time is only writing time.
This isn’t the time to distract myself with a zillion other tasks like checking my email or bank statements. That’s why I designate the half hour before I write to do those things that occupy my head space. When I set myself in my Writing Space, I’m there only to write. I do pop onto Google to check facts but any hard research gets noted and put off until later in the day.
Set your intention.
My favorite yoga instructor, Leslie Fightmaster, always has us begin our yoga practice by setting an intention. I’ve carried this practice into my writing. I try to think of what my goal is for my session, what I intend to write, and where I intend to leave it. Usually this means I intend to write a chapter, or maybe a half chapter and a touch-up of previously written bits.
Set a timer.
This is a new one for me. In the past if I had five to six hours free, I’d force myself to try and write those entire 5-6 hours. And when I couldn’t, I’d get down on myself. Now I’m learning to set a timer for 3 hours. This has seemed to take the pressure off, but it’s also lit a fire under my butt. When I know I have 3 hours, I don’t waste any of that time with useless puttering about or trying to get the sentence just right. I fast track my writing, knowing full well that I’ll set aside time later in the writing process to go back and fill in the gaps.
After my three hours are up, I’m free to move on with my day. And if I’m in the zone and the writing is flowing well, I let myself have longer than 3 hours. I’ve been doing this long enough to know when the words start to dry up – i just have to allow myself permission to step away.
Give Yourself Permission
Permission is a new one. I try to keep it in mind with all things in life: I give myself permission to skip a day (or a month) of writing if the task becomes a drag. I give myself permission to skip or do an easier workout if I just can’t do it. And I give myself permission to eat an entire pizza when the notion strikes. I’ll admit, however, that this becomes a bit of a balancing act because you don’t want it to become your new normal. One or two days is fine, but then dip your toe back into the water: try writing a sentence or two. Try setting youself up in your Space. Try going for a walk and then see if you want to write or workout. Rituals and routines are great until they aren’t. Find your balance and carry on!
How do you get into your productivity mindset? What tips do you have? Comment below!