DON’t Just sit there, do something
“So many fail because they don’t get started — they don’t go. They don’t overcome inertia. They don’t begin.”
— BEN STEIN
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It’s been a knock down drag out kind of a week. Between the ASAP deadlines, quick turn schedules, open ended project questions, and resulting sleeplessness, I’m tapped. So my lofty goals of regular blog posts get pushed aside every weekday evening for the comforts of the couch and/or a cocktail.
Then there’s the internal battle, the one between myself and my inner critic that likes to label things. I would call my attitude “intertia,” but the critic prefers the word “lazy.” I’m beginning to think that the critical voice is right.
But my present lack of motivation isn’t limited to this blog alone. There have been points throughout this week where I’ve had a tedious pending project task, personal correspondence that’s lagged for days, a sink full of dishes, or the studio billing that needs doing, all of which tended to fall in the backburner column of my to do list.
This got me thinking about the tricks I employ to get things accomplished when burdened by a relentless case of the “don’twannas.” I’ve singled out three of my favorite fire starters:
1. Make a Mark | Back in art school, my foundation-level painting instructor had a wonderful piece of advice that has served me well for over 20 years now. He often referred to the lack of motivation when starting a piece as “the intimidation of the empty canvas.” His simple, but brilliant solution? Just make a mark on the surface — any mark will do — just start doing something.
This trick has gotten me rolling on countless logo and page layout designs. Aimless doodling evolves into more thoughtful sketching, all because the page is no longer blank.
2. Set a Time Limit | When I’ve got a beast of a Photoshop mockup to build or a complex project proposal to write, I’ve found it productive to set a specific window of time to complete the chore. It becomes a game, as in “I’ve got two hours before that lunch meeting. Let’s see how fast I can get this done.”
Not only is the method a good test of your skills, I’ve discovered that once I’m about 15 minutes into any effort that I’ve hit momentum and there’s no point in stopping until the job is done.
Note: This tip is particularly effective for motivating yourself to exercise. When you’re a mile into a jog, already hot, sweaty and possibly a ways from home, you might as well finish your workout.
3. Dangle the Carrot | Concerted effort deserves a reward. I’m forever treating myself to little indulgences once the job is done. It could be something small but pleasurable, like taking the dogs for a hike or coffee with a friend, or for the greater accomplishments (like winning a project), a new pair of shoes.
I encourage you to try these tips the next time you’re feeling less than inspired about a task. You may be surprised at how effective you can be once you just get started. In fact, I’ve combined steps 2 and 3 to get this post written and checked off the to do list.
OK, done! I’m signing off to reward myself with a glass of wine and some loving doggie company, on the couch, of course.