Read more about Geek Mental Help Week: Ed Finkler on anxiety and attention disorders at CreativeBloq.com
My name is Ed Finkler. I’ve been a web developer for nearly 20 years, and I’ve been writing code for web applications for about 15. Ed Finkler
Read more about Geek Mental Help Week: Ed Finkler on anxiety and attention disorders at CreativeBloq.com
Read more about Geek Mental Help Week: 5 ways to keep your creative tap turned on at CreativeBloq.com
Read more about Geek Mental Help Week: Benjamin Howarth on bipolar disorder at CreativeBloq.com
Read more about Geek Mental Help Week: Chris Murphy on web design and mental health at CreativeBloq.com
Read more about Geek Mental Help Week: We need to talk about developers and depression at CreativeBloq.com
Read more about How to plan your website using Mental Models at CreativeBloq.com
If you’re reading this article and you work from home, it probably won’t be much surprise to you that one of the hardest elements to master is the ability to maintain your freelance mental drive and stability required to push forward in what can otherwise be a difficult, lonely workspace.
I consider myself to be somewhat of a stay at home professional. Like a good number of Speckyboy’s readers I have forged a career from my home office. Yet I could not have done so without learning some really key tips and tricks along the way to keep my mind in the right gear, and on the right road (and in some cases, on the right planet!).
I’d like to share with you the following article of easy-to-implement ideas that have helped me along the way, in essence as a shortcut to the knowledge of how to keep yourself alert, motivated and with a happy outlook in your working life as a home based entrepreneur.
Every time someone asks me why I do what I do I find myself saying something along the lines of "well it means I can go surfing, or play tennis if I fancy it one day". That is entirely true, but making that reality as positive as the theory had previously been a struggle.
The fact is: doing something you enjoy on a day you think you should probably be working can make you feel very, very guilty. If you’re anything like I was you can’t help but think to yourself that you’re being lazy and workshy. You know you’re going to enjoy taking some time out, but the build up to it is not often a happy one, it almost always makes you feel restless and unproductive.
Image Source: Surfer Vector via Shutterstock.
Once you recognise this pattern in your own behaviour – you can begin to make some changes. Set some monthly goals – so this month I will take 1 day off to rest, and 2 days off to hit the waves. Doesn’t sound so bad, just 2 days in a month. In fact that’s slightly less than you’d receive from a full-time employee position. You need to allow yourself to be excited about these things, look forward to the next day that it’s so sunny you decide to go to the beach. Don’t beat yourself up about it, its all part of the schedule!
I eat out for lunch, every day. I do it because it means I get out in the world, lift my head up, see the sky and hear the people and you’d be surprised at how effective a tonic that can be for those who’ve felt the pressure of the home environment bearing down on them each day.
I started this as a young chap with barely any money to spare. I didn’t turn the heating on in the evening because I couldn’t afford it. But I still went out and had lunch every day in town with just a £2 budget (there’s no better way of finding out where all the best bargains are than having a very restrictive budget).
Image Source: Office Worker Eating Lunch via Shutterstock.
I’ve worked in retail before and sometimes it seems like you’re on a break when you only just had one five minutes ago. This is due to the rules for the number of hours you can work before you are legally required to take a break and the science under-pinning these laws is about looking after your mental health. So don’t starve yourself of breaks at home. Don’t feel guilty about that daytime tv programme you like to watch, factor it in. Or even better, go for a wander for 20 minutes or so, nothing like a bit of vitamin D from the sun! Breaks are another thing that used to make me feel guilty about not being productive enough. I soon learnt that with the right amount of ‘me time’ I can actually be far more productive with the hours that I do spend in front of my desk.
I know, I know, I sound like your doctor! But here’s the difference, I’m a practical man, here is something you can do to keep your body healthy during work hours.
Find a snack or three that you love, that’s healthy. It can even be something you just find acceptable, as long as it’s good for you. For me its carrots, grapes and dried fruit. Carrots if I want something to bite into, grapes if I’ve got a sweet tooth and dried fruit for variation.
We all feel the need to snack, and we need the continual flow of nutrients to keep our brains well fed(!). With healthy food, you can usually eat whole bags for hours on end, satisfying your cravings for food and keeping your body ready for the day ahead, moment by moment.
It is an over emphasised point, you don’t need me to explain this one, but think of a way of getting exercise that doesn’t cost you much in terms of effort.
I personally combine this with the points above – heading into town for lunch and going for walks on break times, but that in itself isn’t really enough for me.
Image Source: Sportsman Running via Shutterstock.
I’m willing to bet that you won’t meet many successful people who don’t exercise early in the morning before work. I don’t personally think the gym is a good environment for this (nothing worse for feeling like you’re on a treadmill 😉 ) so when I’ve got little motivation for the day I pull myself out of bed half an hour early and put my running gear on. When I first started this I thought to myself, ‘this is early, its cold and I don’t want to do it’. But after a few weeks I began to actually look forward to it. Exercise is addictive, you’ve just got to get started. Make yourself do it, reward yourself with an iced bun when you return – its the stimulation you want in this case, not the weight loss!
I think its crazy how easy it is to overlook this one, and how devastating not paying attention to your mind’s needs as well as your body’s can be.
Sometimes working from home using the same graphic design software or web design frameworks over and over can be truly and utterly droll. But its your job right? Spot on, but as a professional, you have a responsibility to yourself to be on the forefront of your industry. So why not get involved in the latest, newest, untested technologies? Dig deep to find a use for them, be part of a community like Stackoverflow or Dribbble. Learn, learn, learn and learn. If there is nothing in your industry you’d like to know more about then choose a related industry. Use something that makes it fun and interesting, a platform like Codecademy or Treehouse. Learn French at Busuu. It really doesn’t matter what it is, all that matters is that it intrigues you, and you can engage with it for an hour before work starts every few days.
Image Source: Online Education via Shutterstock.
You might not technically need to know it to be the best at what you do. You might however, need it to stay in the game long enough to be recognised as the best at what you do.
I asked my friends to pass on tips of their own whilst researching this article and most of their answers fell into this particular category. We all have our own little oddities, the things we find amusing, our guilty pleasures. We have them for a reason, they help keep us sane.
I personally keep soppy old cards with pictures of kittens and puppies on my desk (from aunties and uncles who haven’t yet worked out I’m no longer 5 years old!). Why? Why not. It makes me laugh, and somehow their existence is proof that no matter how much of a Precious Andy (read: nuisance) my client is being, its all OK.
Some ideas from the list of oddities put forward by home working friends:
They might be a little ridiculous but these are the sort’ve things that make you laugh to yourself, under your breath, even when no-one else is around. You just can’t help but find it amusing – even if everyone else thinks you’re nuts. Don’t hide these things away under the guise of being a professional. An office environment without laughter is without doubt a bad place to work – and its not something you should surrender in your home office either. If you’re short on material, try Funny Typos. Laugh out loud, I dare you!
In my own experience, somewhat conversely, the underlying issue for most of the problems that stem from working at home are to be found in the very benefits of doing so. A home working environment will only ever be a happy place to exist when you allow yourself to be happy and enjoy the time you spend away from your actual desk.
Its fair to say that my life is better for each of these little tricks, I’ve found a place I can both inhabit personally and use as a productive environment for web design. Its time to swap your oversized stapler for a picture of a puppy and smile next time you get a cold call. Take a peek into the latest HTML developments or learn a bit about game design. Go out for lunch and get hold of some super attractive jogging or cycling gear. You may still be utterly crazy at the end of the day, but in the end, its better to be the person randomly giggling to themselves than the person wondering why, and how that person manages to stay so darn happy
The post Some Ideas for Maintaining Your Freelance Mental Drive appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.
‘Caldera’ glimpses into a world of psychosis and explores a world of ambiguous reality and the nature of life and death.
Sometimes, you just don’t want to do your work. It can be such a hassle to get up, start up the computer, fire up the software, and do what needs to be done. You feel tired and bored, having lost sight of why you chose a career in design in the first place, and you find yourself wondering whether you should just give it all up and become a dental hygienist. It can be really demoralizing to lose your motivation part of the way through a project, but what do you do if you absolutely have to get something done regardless of how you feel about it? Today, I’m going to tell you about a technique you can use when you’re feeling burnt out and you simply can’t bear to think about taking one more step to complete that big, hairy project staring you in the face.
Emotions are not permanent. Sometimes you’re exuberantly happy, and other times you’re depressed enough to cry. This is normal – it means you’re human and not a robot. Most people realize that their current emotional state won’t last forever. However, most of us seem to conveniently forget that fact when there’s a pile of work that needs to be done, and it isn’t going to do itself. It doesn’t matter if the work is for a client or boss, or just for ourselves. We can usually find a way to get our work done when there’s a paycheck involved, but sometimes even that isn’t motivation enough to press on. Procrastination is a problem that affects us all, but for some people it can be more devastating than usual. Believe it or not, people have lost their jobs, homes, and families because they couldn’t bring themselves out of the trap of procrastination. Procrastination usually occurs when the emotional side of our brains – the side that loves to laze in front of the television and eat ice cream – overtakes the rational side of our brains. The rational side no longer has control, and the emotional side is now telling us that there’s nothing more important than catching up on our favorite show or finishing that new video game we just bought.
Image Source: Roller Coaster Silhouette via Shutterstock
If this sounds painfully familiar, I have some news for you. First of all, you should realize that procrastination, despite being an annoyance and a major waste of time, is perfectly normal. Really. You’re not some lazy freak of nature if you procrastinate now and then. There’s no real cure for procrastination, and to be honest, as a creative person, you probably wouldn’t want the cure even if there was one. Why? Because procrastination is a major source of distraction, and distraction is what allows you to be creative in the first place. Think about it. If your life was merely a series of tasks from your to-do list, which you did flawlessly all the time, where would you find the time to be creative? And what are you usually doing when you’re at your most creative? Are you getting things done productively, like a good little automaton? Or are you goofing off – staring into space, doodling aimlessly, thinking about crazy, abstract things that have nothing to do with the task at hand? If you’re anything like me, the answer is almost always the latter.
The problem comes when your procrastination lasts longer than the period it’s required to be useful. If you find yourself avoiding your work for no other reason than you’re just not motivated to do it, there are a few things you can do to get yourself back on track and complete the work that needs to be completed. First of all, it’s important to understand the nature of human emotion. Don’t worry – this isn’t some esoteric psychology lesson. It’s actually quite simple: there’s no way you can maintain the same level of enthusiasm for the entire duration of a long-term project. It’s just not possible. Your brain will eventually run out of energy, and you’ll find yourself exhausted and demotivated. This is normal. And like procrastination, there’s nothing you can do about it. What you can do, however, is something that many people refuse to do: accept that it’s normal and that you can’t do anything about it.
Once you accept that something is inevitable, you’ll be much better prepared to deal with it when it happens. If you’ve ever lost a loved one to a long illness, you’ll probably recall how, after a certain period, they will begin to make preparations for their own passing. They’ll update their will, and set everything in order for the day when they’ll no longer be around. There’s nothing they can do to stop what’s coming, but they can accept it and make things go that much smoother. And if a terminally ill person can accept their own mortality, you can certainly accept that you’ll have to continue working regardless of how you feel about it at any given time.
Image Source: Pieces of paper via Shutterstock
In order to continue working on a project once you’re past that stage of initial enthusiasm, you have to prepare yourself ahead of time to deal with your fluctuating emotions. It’s important to realize that you won’t always be at the same level of excitement, and that that’s perfectly okay. That way, when you lose steam halfway through, you’ll have a system in place to deal with it and you won’t be completely lost and frustrated. A lot of people say things like “it’s not the destination that matters, but the journey.” After you get through wanting to punch those people in the face, take a moment and really think about what they’re saying. If you’re too focused on your goal, you won’t even notice when your enthusiasm runs out and you’re no longer able to rely on it for motivation.
Many times, we lose motivation to work on a project because we just aren’t seeing the results we thought we would in the allotted time period. If you took on a few freelancing jobs in hopes of saving up enough money to take that trip around the world you’ve been wanting to take, or even to just pay some of your bills that have been piling up, and you haven’t gotten as many clients as you hoped you would, you can easily become discouraged. If no amount of marketing or niching down your target client base has been showing results, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the amount of time you’ve given yourself to reach your goals.
Are you expecting to double your income through freelancing within six months? If so, you might want to sit down, because I have some bad news for you. Building a successful freelance career takes time – time that you might not have given yourself in the beginning. Use your “down time” of minimal motivation to reassess your goals and create a more realistic scenario. When you’re feeling defeated, it can be much easier to accept that your goals will take you longer than you thought. Why? Because you give your brain hope that they can eventually be reached, rather than thinking that everything is doomed and you’ll never be successful.
If you’ve been successful at completing projects before, you might recall that, though you can laugh and joke about it all now, you probably experienced feelings of doubt and anxiety about the success of your project. Doubt is one of the biggest killers of motivation, because it robs you of the confidence needed to complete any task. Even if you’ve planned your goals carefully and rationally, and you haven’t miscalculated anything in terms of time or effort required, if you feel you’re still not getting the results you were hoping for, you can start to lose your enthusiasm. You may feel as though you’ll never reach your goals…until you do reach them. Then, you become totally confident again and nothing can stop you. Right?
Well, sometimes. I don’t know about you, but even when I’ve been successful with a project, I’ll still get a nagging feeling that I just haven’t done enough to secure my success. If you experience anxiety about succeeding, you can feel as if you’re a fraud, hiding behind a curtain of false confidence like the Wizard of Oz.
The good thing about these feelings is that they’re usually temporary. Most people have them, and they’ll eventually go away after awhile. If you began your project for the right reasons, those reasons will always guide you through the wilderness, and you’ll eventually meet back up with your confidence.
Creative people are natural born risk-takers. Everything we do – from finding freelance clients to generating valuable work those clients will love – involves a risk of some sort. Even if the only risk is you feeling demotivated or unenthusiastic from time to time, it can still prove too much for you to handle. But imagine how our lives would be if nothing involved any kind of risk. If everything you touched turned to gold and you could never fail, ever. Maybe you should ask this guy what happens then. I hear it’s not so pleasant after all.
How do you deal with loss of motivation in your work? Is there anything in specific that you do to see yourself through difficult projects?
Good Old Static HTML Sites Aren’t Dead Yet. Should They Be? →
Should You Keep Your Website Open Source? →
Should Designers know how to code? What do you think? →
Is a Design House-Style Really Necessary? →
Ode To a Wooden Spoon – How The Right Tool Can Help You Design Better →
10 Things Designers Can Learn From Pastry Chefs →
Apple Pie Appeal: How Simple, Classic Design Works →
Repeat Work and the Search For The Holy Grail →
Thoughts and Considerations for Freelancing on a Part-Time Basis →
Is Working Freelance Really Worth It? Pros and Cons →
Tips for Converting Your Freelance Operation into a Business →
Thoughts on why Spec Work is Bad and Why You Shouldn’t Do It →
Technostress – The Freelancers Disease? →