Someone asked me the other day how I stay motivated all the time. The simple answer? I don’t. I don’t think anyone can, or should, be motivated and productive ALL the time. We need to rest, and take breaks, and do things that are not work, which seems to be difficult for a lot of business owners. For some reason, when people start working for themselves, they tend to forget that stopping from time to time is a perfectly valid option. It’s easy to get so engulfed with what you’re doing – all the things you have to do, want to do, think you should do – that you forget that sometimes the best thing to do is nothing.
I don’t know how many times the weekend has rolled around and I have this whole plan to get all this stuff done, and then I don’t do any of it. I wake up and think about it, but ultimately it sounds better to take it easy and recharge – from the past week, and for the upcoming one. The thing about it, though, is I never feel guilty about making that choice. And I’ve learned that a lot of people do. They get down on themselves because of some expectation they set, but isn’t necessarily grounded in reality. Who’s to say how much you have to get done by when? Only you! That’s one of the perks of being a business owner. We need to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves.
The world is in a weird place right now, and that’s affecting everybody. It doesn’t matter what you believe about anything that’s going on, we’re all being engulfed in negativity every day lately. No one gets through that completely unscathed. It affects everyone in different ways and most people are feeling some degree of discomfort and anxiety, even on a subconscious level. All we can really do is honor ourselves. Whether you feel good, bad, angry, confused, frustrated, excited, or any other emotion you can think of, it’s all okay. There’s no right way to feel right now, and how you feel could change multiple times throughout the day. We all need to be a little nicer to ourselves and acknowledge that we don’t have to be doing something productive all of the time.
At the current moment, I have been working more than I have in a long time. I’m balancing a full-time role on a series along with my regular client work. I’m doing my best to keep the podcast going so I’m consistently delivering each week. But I reached a point where I knew something had to give. I couldn’t do all of that work, plus keep delivering videos, and work on my new content. I just don’t have the time. And I’m not one of those people who loves to talk about how busy I am, as a point of pride. One of the reasons I started working for myself was so I could work less! But right now, I’m definitely not complaining. I know I’m fortunate to have so much work in such a crazy time. But it means that I can’t get everything done. So I stopped doing videos for now. I’m continuing to do the audio portion of this podcast because that’s where my major audience is. And that’s my compromise with myself, pretty much.
As I’m recording this, we’re about five months into the pandemic. And when it started, it seemed there were people who either got very motivated to do all the things they never had time for before, but since they were at home, there was suddenly time to work on these things. Or there were people that just kind of stayed still for a little while and they wanted to do nothing, because maybe they never had time to do nothing before. None of that was wrong. But I started to hear a lot of people say they felt that they should be doing more. They felt they should be taking advantage of that time and being more productive and working on things. And some people did. And some people didn’t. There was nothing wrong with what anybody was doing, because it’s such a personal thing and it varies from day to day.
And I think in the beginning, we thought it was a short-term thing that was going to happen. We would be inside for a month, maybe, and then things would go back to normal. But as we saw, that didn’t happen. And we don’t know when that will happen. And so now there’s more of a weight that’s hanging over everybody. It’s like, well, what should I do? Some people are working a lot more, some are working a lot less. Some aren’t working at all and are trying to figure out what they can do. When you’re dealing with bigger issues like that, sometimes it can seem petty to worry about making a video for YouTube, or posting the perfect thing on social, or whatever it is that you’re not motivated to do in that moment.
I’ll use myself as an example. This podcast is my personal priority. So when all my paid work is done, this is my biggest focus. I am dedicated to being consistent and making sure I’m putting out a new episode every week. I don’t want to fall behind on that. Usually it’s pretty easy to find the time to do it. I like to have at least two or three episodes completely finished ahead of the release date. That’s part of the prioritizing that I do also. When I do have time and I am feeling productive, I work ahead because I know that at some point in the future, I’m not going to feel like doing it. And I don’t want to feel forced to get something out because I’m on a deadline, even if that deadline is one that I set for myself and is pretty arbitrary.
And today is a perfect example. Because I’ve been so busy on this show and everything else, I am now to the point where I only have one episode recorded in advance and ready to go. It releases in a few days. So I need to get this done. And I started working on it, tried to give myself an outline because I find that I don’t want to ramble too much. And this episode, I might ramble too much because I don’t have an outline. And you know why? Because I sat down to write it and I just wasn’t motivated to do it. I got a few thoughts out here and there, and then I just found anything else I could do. At one point, I was just staring at my computer. Just staring. Thinking about something, I’m sure, but I was not doing anything productive. I was not thinking about this topic. That’s just what happens sometimes. And I’m one of those people who I can’t just create on command, I have to be in that right frame of mind to do it. And usually then it comes quickly, but I can’t control when that’s going to come. So I decided to just hit record and start talking.
I think it’s important to know and acknowledge that we all deal with these same things in our businesses, and in our personal lives in general. People who seem like they have it all together, don’t always have it all together. Sometimes that’s just what you see on the outside, or that’s just what you’re looking for. That’s why it’s funny when somebody says something to me like that. “Oh, well you always have everything done, and you just stay motivated, and you’re productive, and you do all these things all the time.” And it’s because you don’t know how often I’m just sitting on the couch watching TV because I don’t feel like doing anything else right then.
Again, I won’t apologize for it. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Part of being an introvert is what I’ve talked about before, where I need to recharge my energy. And so sometimes doing nothing is exactly what I have to do. And there’s a counterintuitive idea that you need to take breaks to be more productive. And I believe in that wholeheartedly. It’s something that I recommend to anyone who’s starting their business, is just learning how to work from home – the importance of taking breaks. A lot of times, people get into their work rhythm, and they have all these things to do, and all these deadlines, and there’s just too much, and they never stop. They just keep going, going, going. And what happens is you get burnt out. Where if maybe you took 5 minutes, or 10 minutes, or even an hour to walk away and change your environment, change your state of mind, get a new perspective, just distract yourself from the thing you’re focused on for a tiny amount of time (or a large amount of time if you have it, but sometimes maybe 15 minutes is what you have). But walk away. Do something else. Watch something. Read something. Listen to something. Get your brain distracted, because then when you go back to it, sometimes you’re going to be in a much better place, and you can just power through and you’ll actually end up getting more done because you gave yourself that time to reset. And that will be what propels you forward.
Everything comes down to a choice and understanding what the best thing for you actually is in that exact moment. And only you can make that decision. If you’re faced with two options, and one is get that thing done, and the other is go sit on the couch and do nothing, you have to make that choice. But make it not based on what you think you have to do, but what is actually the right thing for you in that moment. If you don’t get it done, what’s the worst that can happen? That’s a really important question to ask yourself. Nobody’s going to die if you don’t get that YouTube video done. Chances are it’s not going to affect anybody else if you don’t get that social media post out today. When you take the pressure off and try to be realistic about the situation, sometimes it’s easier to say, “Yeah. You know what? I don’t feel like doing it right now. So I’m not going to. I’m going to honor what I feel like doing, and that is I’m gonna go paint a picture. Or I’m gonna go listen to a podcast.” Or whatever it is you feel like doing that’s not the thing that you have to work on. Because do you really have to work on it? Or are you just telling yourself you should because that’s what a business owner does?
We tell ourselves a lot of things. And a lot of people tell us a lot of things. And it’s up to us to filter that out and decide what’s really important. I’m all about self-care. I think it’s one of the most important things that everybody should do. That’s a topic for another episode, because I could definitely go on a rant about that. That’s not what I’m talking about right now. I’m talking about motivation and how to stay motivated. And the truth is, I don’t have one answer that’s going to work for everybody. I don’t even have a solution that’s going to work for me all the time. My mood can change from day to day just like anybody else, sometimes from hour to hour. I might feel motivated and ready to go, and then something happens and I don’t feel that way anymore.
We’re allowed to be who we are. We’re allowed to run our businesses however we want to run them. It’s not for anybody else to make those decisions for us. It’s good to set goals, to have plans, to strategize. But it’s also important to be okay with changing your mind. It’s okay to change the plan, to change the direction. Whether it’s what you wanted to get done that day, or if it’s the trajectory of your entire career, that’s up to you. So it always comes back down to being honest with yourself and what you need, and what’s right for you, and not so much about what everybody else is telling you to do.
If you’re feeling like you’re not being productive enough, and you start going down the Google rabbit hole to see how can I be productive? And what are some of the best productivity hacks out there? You will be inundated with information and tips and tricks (which is a phrase that we all know I don’t like, but I just said it, so I’m going to go with it). But we see so much of that. And it’s very easy to think, oh, well, everybody else is doing all these things. They’re waking up early, and they’re getting things done, and they’re working late at night, and they’re still balancing their family and their fun, and they’re doing it all! But they’re not doing it all. Some people, sure, maybe they’ve got it all figured out. But I don’t know any of them. I don’t claim to be one of them. If you know one of them, please congratulate them for us all.
Being human is complicated. But instead of fighting that, let’s embrace it. Enjoy the fact that you can change your mind. Enjoy the fact that you’re not predictable, that sometimes there isn’t a solution that’s going to work in every situation. Have fun with the challenge of figuring it out. And as you do figure out things that work, remember them – you can try that the next time you’re in that situation. If you’re feeling stuck and staring at a computer, knowing that you should be writing something but you’re not, sometimes that means you just need to turn on the microphone and start talking. Because when you do that, maybe you’re doing something that’s a little less perfect than you’d like it to be, but at least you’re doing something. And then it’s one less thing that I have to do. So I’ve been productive – maybe not in the way that I normally would be, or that I wanted to be when this day started – but I’ve gotten something done, and I’ve shared it with you, and you’re still listening at this point. And so I appreciate you.
If you’re feeling particularly unmotivated and unproductive, give yourself a break. It happens to all of us. You’re not the only one I promise you. Remember, it’s okay to stop sometimes and do nothing. Sometimes nothing is one of my favorite things to do. And if you are that magical unicorn who manages to stay motivated and productive all the time, I would love to hear from you and how that works.
I don’t have it all figured out. What I am good at is being decisive and knowing how to figure out if I need to do something now, or if I can afford to wait. For me, right now, I know if I don’t get a couple episodes recorded and uploaded and ready to go, I’m going to start putting too much pressure on myself to meet those deadlines of making sure I get an episode out every week. I know my workload isn’t going to slow down anytime in the next month, maybe even two, so I have to find the time. And that means if it’s Friday night, I might work a little bit later to get it done. Or if the weekend rolls around, now it’s not so much a matter of, I really have the time and I feel like I should be doing this thing, but I’m gonna decide not to do it. Then it shifts to, I really don’t have time to waste, so I will be productive today.
And that’s usually what it comes down to, is that true, honest assessment of, do I have time to put this off? Or do I have to get it done now? And when I know I need to get it done now, I can stay motivated to do that. Because otherwise, then it’s just going to cause stress for me down the road. But if I know I have four episodes ready to go, and a weekend comes around, and I want to watch a movie instead of writing something, I’m going to watch the movie and I won’t feel bad about it.
And just like with everything, it comes down to you and what’s right for you. I know I say that all the time. But it’s so true. You’re the only one who knows what’s right for you. So don’t be afraid to listen to that and honor it, and you don’t have to explain to everyone else why you decided to do something or not do something.
And, on that note, my cat has just jumped onto my desk and apparently it’s time for her to eat. She is very motivated to be fed. So, I’m going to end this here, because I am motivated to keep her happy. And, also, I would like to eat some food myself. Thanks for listening.