Monday, 22 July 2013

How to Motivate Yourself

The other day a friend asked me how to stay motivated when writing a book. I told him the key to motivation is to ditch trying to be conscientious and disciplined and instead to work out ways to trick your mind, and most importantly to learn how to be naughty!

Some principles:
  • replace 'should' with 'could' – instead of 'I should work on that chapter right now' say 'I could work on that chapter right now' and give yourself permission to choose not to
  • follow your energy – do what makes your energy  go up; if you think of cleaning the flat and your energy goes down, find something more interesting to do (which might at that moment by your assignment or your book, or it might be going shopping!)
  • let your body tell you what you need to do – it will tell you when you need to eat, sleep, work, rest, exercise, watch TV, go out; listen carefully and do what it tells you to do
  • be naughty – if you think you ought to be writing your book be naughty and clean the flat instead; if you think you ought to be doing an assignment be naughty and spend half an hour on the book before you start; if you think you ought to be exercising be naughty and finish off an assignment
  • observe your creative cycle – notice when you get your best ideas: in bed, in the bath, when walking, and allow yourself to do these things; notice what time of the day you write best and timetable this in; give yourself time to warm up to creativity, maybe start by editing a previous part until your writing brain clicks in; if working after a certain time affects your sleep or how you feel in the morning then stop before that time
  • trust that it will all get done in the end – when you find yourself doubting you can get everything done remind yourself it will happen, it just might take longer than you thought
  • use external deadlines to raise the stakes – when an assignment has to be in by a certain day it tends to get done; when you're expecting a visitor the house gets cleaned; understand that these things will get done in the end, so don't give yourself a hard time for not doing them earlier 
  • divide jobs into small bits and do one at a time – instead of aiming to do a whole assignment aim just to write the plan; instead of writing a whole chapter aim to write/edit/improve  one section; instead of aiming to clean the whole flat aim to clean one room
  • be kind to yourself – notice and praise yourself for all that you have achieved (which might include resting, socialising or having a good night's sleep) rather than focussing on the things you haven't done