I got the following questions from a teen I know:
Ok so the question I had was basically How do you stay motivated doing all the website projects you do? And more then that How would I find something that worked for me?
Motivation for me has a few different parts. There is the motivation to get up in the morning and do the thing. There is the motivation to keep doing what you’re doing. There is the motivation to finish what you’ve started. Put another way, I need motivation to start, continue, and finish.
Getting up in the morning (Start)
Because I don’t have a job or a boss who tells me when and where to be in the morning I have to motivate myself to get up out of bed each day. Because I am my own boss I could stay in bed all day if I wanted but getting up early makes me feel better about my day and myself and I’m more productive if I use the morning.
Of course this isn’t always literally getting out of bed, it’s getting started on the project, task, or challenge. When something is fun it’s effortless to get started, it only takes discipline and motivation to get going on the things that aren’t fun. I have a few motivations for getting started:
- Attaching my reputation to a project outcome – If I tell someone I’m going to do something then I need to do it or I’m a dirty liar. This is a major motivator for me. I don’t want to be that guy who doesn’t do what he says he is going to do. I want to be someone who does what he says and does it well. I take pride in my reputation!
- Finding the fun and interesting part – Even the most boring projects have something interesting. I love to web dev work because each project offers different challenges. Further, web projects are always attached to some kind of product, brand, or field of work that I get to learn about.
- Not taking projects that aren’t interesting – The other side of the coin here is knowing when to say no. I’m in a very unique position where when looking at a project the person requesting my help needs me more than I need them. This allows me to be very picky about which projects I take and thus I can select for projects the will be motivating.
- Planning the project – Planning a project makes the whole thing seem much more attainable and much less daunting. When a project feels achievable I’m motivated to do it!
You’ll need to figure out your own motivators that help you get started on something. Reflect on things that you do that are easy. What activities do you like to do which you spring out of bed in the morning for? What things do you effortlessly jump into, what about those things excites you? Can you find that spark in other “boring” projects if you look at them in a different way?
Staying motivated (continue)
Once a project starts and I’ve motivated myself to get over that first hump I then need to maintain that motivation. Motivation over an extended length of time is called discipline. This is the true question and what will be most difficult for you to achieve. People spend their whole life looking for discipline. I’ve written about discipline before and how it’s the hard part. Here’s how to try and do it:
- Keeping a cycle – Some people call this a routine, I’ve never been great with those and because I travel so much it’s hard to nail down. I prefer cycles. I have a Kanban which facilitates my daily and weekly cycle. Each day I look at what I need to do and choose a few tasks to complete. Each week I review what I’ve done and load up my Kanban with tasks I think I can finish over the week.
- My tasks are bit size – When I’m doing a project I try to break it down into small easy to do chunks. This is part of the planning process. It’s hard to keep momentum if I feel like a project is impossibly big or complex but when I can look at the project and say “okay just do this one little thing and you’ll be closer to the end” it becomes easy to do. To put it another way, walking a mile is hard, taking one step is easy, so I focus on each step and the mile comes easy.
- Mixing up work – I don’t only do programming. I do design, web front end, and illustration as well. Mixing up my active projects keeps me from getting bored or fatigued by any one kind of project. I wish I had more physically demanding jobs sometimes, something to keep me on my feet. Perhaps I should moonlight as a laborer…
You can find endless resources on how to cultivate discipline. Figure out what works for you. At the end of the day you need to be able to motivate yourself to do the things you don’t want to do.
Motivation to finish (end)
I often find myself (especially with personal projects) really excited and motivated all the way up until the end. The end of projects is always the hardest part for me. When all the fun stuff is done and you have to go back and tidy up, edit, check for small mistakes, do the boring work to wrap the project.
Once again good planning and maintaining a cycle will help here. Taking pride in your work and sharing it with the world through a blog post is another good way to get past the finish line. I keep a few blogs that showcase my work and I don’t want to showcase something that is half finished.
My blogs are the portfolio that shows off my skills, it’s a source of pride and a source of employment.
The other thing that motivates me to finish projects is that I get paid after I finish (some of) them. That’s a big motivator.
To your last point: How would I find something that worked for me?
I don’t know. What does work for you? What do you like and how can you adapt that to work you want to be motivated to do.