As I mentioned in my last post, there's a lot more work involved in being self-employed than people may think. Even if you're living sustainably, it's easy to lose track of everything you need to continually get done in order to move forward when you're your own boss. I want to share with you 5 interesting ways I stay motivated to create, network, and progress in my business even when my mind is telling me it would be easier to binge Breaking Bad for the 19th time.
#1 - Place Emphasis on Healthy Personal Relationships
This point doesn't exclusively apply to a dating or marriage relationship, but more encompasses all relationships in your life that don't specifically apply to business. Whether you are a natural social butterfly who thrives when going out with a group of friends or a homebody who enjoys the occasional company of a select few, it's important that the people you put the most time and energy into also value doing the same for you.
I am lucky enough to have the ability to work closely with people I would normally choose to be around outside of a business environment anyway, but I know that not everyone has that luxury. It's important to recognize and establish boundaries between professional and personal life, but it's not always imperative that there be a hard line. A lot of these people have day jobs and a hectic schedule of their own, and I do my best to respect their time. With my other friendships, the ones who don't share an immediate career path with me, the relationship can really depend on the person. In my personal experience, I tend to be more of a homebody in my free time. With that said, a majority of my personal relationships outside of the multimedia industry tend to be maintained via social media, text, Skype, etc. My best friend on this earth is back down in Florida. He's a college classmate of mine named Juan. We send funny snapchats back and forth every once in a while and video chat when we have the time, but we give each other our space (figuratively speaking anyway, since we're always about 850 miles away from each other) to get work done and just generally live our lives. The important thing about this and all healthy friendships is that we encourage each other to pursue our passions and do our best to motivate and lift each other up. It's never a pissing contest to see who did the better thing or who hit this milestone, it's just consistent love and support. Don't get me wrong, we act like total and complete children in our conversations, but as adults, we support each other. That's what a healthy friendship should be.
Calling back to the last post, many people don't know the sheer amount of time dedicated to working for yourself, so if your friends are the type to complain that you're never available or try to guilt you into hanging out or participating in an activity despite your need to work, it may be time to step up and have a conversation with them. At worst, you may need to re-evaluate how healthy that friendship is to your life.
#2 - Find your "Productivity Zone" and Limit Distractions
As I write this right now, I've got the space heater on (my basement is basically an arctic cave all year), my phone on silent in my pocket, and the Skyrim soundtrack playing in another browser tab. Through years of sitting at my desk and trying to ignore the literally infinite wealth of distractions the world wide web has to offer, I've honed in on the little things that put me in the mindset to get shit done.
I've tried listening to my favorite music or podcasts while I work and I find that I either get wrapped up in the conversation or just air-drumming for the duration of the album, only an hour later realizing that I was meant to have been working that whole time. I also tried the "tunnel vision" approach where there were no stimuli other than the program in front of me, but my good old Type-B self decides to dig into the only distraction my brain had left; itself. I got introspective and realized that I needed just the right set of things going on to keep me in a productive state. I determined that I needed some kind of audio that didn't make me want to sing along or participate in any way. I'm a musician at heart so that one was tough.
I remembered playing chess with my friend Tyler while listening to Lord of the Rings Radio on Pandora, and how fitting it was to the game, yet not distracting. Bam. Movie and video game soundtracks were the way to go. Skyrim is 100% my favorite game of all time, so that's my go-to now. The full soundtrack is also 3 hours and about 40 minutes long, so when it finishes, it's usually a good time for a break.
The zone that works best for you will probably be different because we're all different anyway. The things you have to do might require a different approach or use a different part of your brain than the things I do. The things that distract me might put your mind right where it needs to be to knock the tasks you have for that day out. It's super subjective, but I think it's definitely important to figure them out. Your schedule will thank you.
#3 - BOOKS. ALL THE BOOKS.
When I was much younger (and hadn't heard of the internet yet), I read books like it was my job. As most kids do, I gravitated toward fiction because of my active imagination and desire to see what worlds others had created with theirs. I actually used to be heavily biased against the "nonfiction" section in the school library because that's where all the books I had to read for book reports on biographies were. Yuck! School taught me that nonfiction consisted of nothing but textbook historical fact and biography-style "literature". It wasn't until someone literally made me read Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki after college that I realized that books could actually have some real-life benefit.
The value of books written specifically for the value and benefit of others depends heavily on reading the right ones for your goals. Rich Dad, Poor Dad has literally nothing to do with the creative or multimedia industry, but money is a great motivator for me. I find joy and excitement in pursuing money in different ways, so Kiyosaki's book really stood out to me and taught me valuable things about an industry I knew literally nothing about prior to reading it.
Take a look inside and figure out what your end goal is, then make it a point in your life to read a book or 30 from people who have been there, failed at that, and can provide real-world experiences for you to learn from. Not only will it actively show you the steps successful people have taken to get where you want to be, it will (hopefully) motivate you to actually apply those lessons to your own situation and move forward. Maybe you'll write a book one day. If you do, send me a copy. You know I'd love to read it!
#4 - Be Social. Go Network.
This one has been probably the most valuable habit to form, and I touched on it in my last post as well. I used to have this weird mentality that "going out" was for single people or people that valued drinking and partying more than anything else. I couldn't even begin to tell you where that idea developed, but I stayed painfully true to it for far longer than I should have.
If you work for a company, you may already go out after work and fill your quota for social interaction, but if you're self-employed, this is a huge aspect of your life and career that you may be missing out on. You genuinely can't further your business's reach solely via online ads or the occasional word of mouth conversation your clients might have about you after the fact. Sure, you may get a few new clients on the recommendation of some old ones, but the rate at which people will remember your name will skyrocket if you're actively engaging in the community and finding the people you want to do business with. This doesn't mean you should hit up the bar on Friday night and yell over the live band to Jennifer and her friends about your marketing consulting background, but hey, to each their own.
Go to networking events, ask your colleagues who they're working with, just be a person and build relationships. That's really all it takes. If you're not a social person or feel uncomfortable in crowds, How To Network When You're Socially Awkward is a good article to refer to. Overall, practice makes perfect, and once you make a habit of getting out and meeting prospective clients or others in your industry, you'll make friends and networking will become something you crave instead of a taboo activity.
#5 - Utilize your Down Time
In the past few weeks, I put about 1,500 miles on my car driving in circles around the DMV every day to various meetings, appointments, shoots, events, and eventually back home to get a few hours of sleep before doing it all again. My first thought upon waking up today (my first day with an empty schedule) went something along the lines of "You don't need to do SHIT today, just put on the TV and do your best impersonation of a vegetable until you have to get ready tomorrow"
Like I said, just because you don't actively have something to go do doesn't mean you can take a day completely off. I put on some comfy clothes, ate a meal that wasn't rushed for the first time in what felt like ages, and sat down at my desk. I went through and organized/deleted the miscellaneous files that have accrued on my desktop and in my downloads over the past month, caught up on some Tested videos (Adam Savage is a sort of demigod to me), and got to work on scheduling the week's activities and writing this post.
Now I'm a firm believer that everyone needs a "potato day" every once in a while, but don't let that be your default activity when you have some time away from the hustle and bustle of your work life. There's a way to relax and replenish your mind's fuel tank without wasting the day. The method will look a little different from person to person, but it's definitely a valuable habit to enforce.
Every human is motivated by different things, in a different industry, in a different way. Hopefully, you'll be able to take these 5 points that I use and apply them to your life and career. I'm excited to see where you'll go!
“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London