Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Staying Motivated

When people hear that I'm a freelancer, they usually say one of two things.

1- That's AWESOME. You get to work whenever you want. 


2- That must be HORRIBLE keeping yourself motivated.

I never really had a problem with the motivation part until recently, until last week it clicked with me why, and how I had been self-medicating up to that point. So with that in mind, I'm gonna share some ways I find useful of staying focused.



This is a great way to cut through the crap and distractions and get LOTS done. Essentially, you set a timer and

Work 25 mins
Rest 5 mins

Work 25 mins
Rest 5 mins

Work 25 mins
Rest 5 mins

Work 25 mins
Rest 30 mins

Enough of a break to pee, get a cuppa or whatever. I use a little program called pomadairo to keep track, but there's downsides to this. The downside being the stopping. I generally plug in and work for about 45 mins to an hour before my brain demands distraction, or longer if there's actual problem solving going on. The pomodorro cycle sometimes wrecks my flow. Useful for boring things though.


Music is a great way to keep yourself pumped, and you can use it in multiple ways. I try and shoot for the hour between each break, so I often use albums as milestones. If you're familiar with the album, you subconsciously KNOW how long until the break is coming so you don't keep glancing at the clock and can stay tuned in. It's also a great way to stay in tone for the piece you're working on, with soundtracks being a great choice. Gladiator, Matrix, Lord of the Rings. Battlestar Galactica is one of my favourites for this. 

If you're doing the late night deadline super mega crunch, I'd recommend grooveshark's Ambient station. keeps you mellow and constant. I swear by it.


This is a useful one, albeit tricky to find a balance. You need a show with a strong score and narrative. House is dialogue driven and enough characters to follow like a radio show. MOST of the time it doesn't depend on what's on screen (well directed though it is). Breaking Bad is VERY visual, and is a perfect example of what NOT to have on in the background. It's a great show, and deserves your full attention. Not for working to. Long series are better, as it can keep you hooked in like a long album. I use FullMetal Alchemist, Avatar and Battlestar Galactica (trying Doctor Who) for this all the time. 
Community would be perfect, except the episodes are too short. Which is a shame, I'm loving that show. 


I don't wear my headphones unless I'm working. Now when I put my headphones on it acts as a trigger to drown out everything else and stay involved with what I' m working on. Even if there's nothing playing. Incredibly useful tool. 


I find if I start work after 10am, it's like I'm constantly trying to drag the work out of me. If I begin closer to 8am, not only do I have longer to complete my work but I find I've more energy for it and results are more forthcoming. Better still is when I take the take to visualise what I'm going to do the night before as I go to sleep, that way I can be subconsciously addressing any problems I might have with the job at hand. 


I usually get 7 hours sleep a night, at least. This is non-negotiable, barring deadline days themselves. You don't sleep, you don't think, you don't perform. The same goes with getting out of the house, exercising and all that jazz. Energy begets energy. The more pumped you are, the more you can put into your work. 


I have a whiteboard behind me with a short term to-do list, and a long term one. Crossing off completed tasks is exceptionally rewarding, particularly off the long term one. Writing lists is the BEST thing you can do. It keeps you organised, it keeps you focused, and its a great way of charting progress. 

Hope those help! 


Have you any tips for staying motivated? Feel free to leave a comment

1 comment:

  1. Hey man...

    That is fantastic advice. I'm in a bit of an artistic/creative/motivational slump at the moment and it's causing me to stress out which isn't helping the slump.

    I am however going to print out this blog post and put it on my wall! I think I am starting to finally come out of this mental block but with a self-deadline looming it's no easy task.

    Great that you have put this up here. Great stuff.