Keeping Yourself Motivated Throughout the Workday

By / Jan 31, 2012 / Tips

Centering your attention throughout the workday can be a difficult process. You need to truly love your work and cherish the time you spend. Unfortunately not all of us can feel this way 100% of the time.

Black MacBook laptop featured image

Freelancers are often given tasks related to concepts they care nothing about. In this regard there isn’t much compassion to put into your work. So how do you keep yourself motivated and on-task? I’ve put together just a few ideas which you may try to follow throughout the day. The sooner you complete work the easier it is to move onto the next task. Keep your mind in-check and always pay attention to what you’re focusing on!

Take Infrequent Breaks

To start off with this suggestion seems like I’m advocating slacking off. But honestly breaking from your work every so often is possibly the most important choice you could make.

It’s simply not healthy to stare at a monitor for 5-7 hours in a row. This is especially true if you’re churning out monotonous work in graphics design software or a programming IDE. Even a 5-10 minute period of stretching and walking around will give your mind some clarity. You’ll feel a lot more level-headed sitting down again and tackling projects.

taking a break in the diner

Some people require more frequent breaks than others. I cannot truly offer a distinct set amount of time, so just feel it out for yourself. I like to break every 60-90 minutes after completing a large chunk of work. This gives me plenty of motivation when sitting down again to hit the next task on my list.

Work in Smaller Intervals

The best way to kill motivation is to start over-analyzing each of your daily tasks. If you spend 20 minutes going over what needs to get done you’ll feel majorly overwhelmed. A tasks list is only handy when it can be accomplished in bite-sized chunks.

The best advice here is to jump right into it! Don’t waste any time in the morning except to glance over your to-dos. Start with the important stuff and just bang it out as efficiently as possible. I also recommend waiting to check off tasks until a later time in the day. It takes away focus to move back-and-forth between your to-do list and real actual work.

Follow the End Game

Ultimately your motivation can stem from the reasons behind why you’re working. If your current project is for a paycheck then use that energy. Everybody needs to get paid to make a living!

It can be a bit more difficult with high-priority projects as stress is an added factor. Keep cool and follow through with smaller tasks one at a time. Whether freelancing or working on a personal project all designers will hit a wall sooner or later. However don’t let this creative block discourage you.

home studio with gym equipment

I use this time as an extra break session from the workday. I’ll go and throw on TV or call to chat with a friend or colleague. The only time I would force through the work is creating on deadlines – which at the end of the day is about money.

Find your own end game within each project and use this as the ultimate source of motivation. What is your bottom-line finishing point? And how quickly can you get to this point without too much struggle? Ask yourself these questions before taking on a project so you have an idea of how much work may be required.

Kill Over-Analysis

Another huge deal-breaker to losing motivation is over analyzing too much. When you try to perfect each work it takes a lot longer to achieve any results. This can be fruitful when you have a lot of compassion towards a project idea.

Shiny Apple iPhone 4S device

But you can’t expect perfection out of every artistic work you create. And this is especially true when you need to design for a living. Not all freelance projects can wait for your stroke of creative genius to kick in as unfortunate deadlines loom. Try to put aside ego and just get the work done. You’ll feel a lot better having something to look at rather than a blank slate.

This also gives the illusion of accomplishment even if you feel the work is sub-par. It’s generally much easier to go back and correct work you’ve already made than to build something entirely new from scratch. Take this lesson to heart and you will not have trouble cranking out loads of successful projects.

Get Plenty of Sleep!

In a similar domain as taking frequent breaks you need sleep to function properly. I can’t think of a single designer or web developer who has felt good running on barely any sleep.

royal blue bed spread

Now I’m certainly in favor of pulling an all-nighter every so often as necessary. When you have projects piled up to the ceiling it can feel beneficial to work all the way into the wee hours of the morning. But this isn’t a strategy you can incorporate into your “normal” weekly schedule. Get to bed at a decent time and start working on projects earlier – this should give you a bit of extra time in the afternoon to build on your own ideas.

Conclusion

Motivation is key to the success of any business model. You’ll need to dedicate yourself to getting work done and moving forward even just a tiny bit each day. Luckily with so many handy web tools it’s never been easier to jump-start a new project.

But it is still a difficult scenario trying to force out creative work. When you can’t flow with creativity you often have to resort to mindful tactics of tricking yourself into motivation. This can be invigorated through money, connections, branding, promotion, or a dozen other self-rewards. Stay true to yourself and never lose sight of the end goal. Life seems to always have a way of working itself out perfectly.

About the Author

Jake Rocheleau is a creative writer and UI designer. You can follow him on twitter @jakerocheleau or visit his personal website at JakeRocheleau.com.

  • Alexufo

    iPhone photo makes me sick

  • http://www.pragmaticdesign.co.uk Web Design Wolverhampton

    Good advice for any business owner. Thanks.

  • http://www.davidbjoregren.se David Bj√∂regren

    Very good advice!

  • Ron

    One of the best things you can do for yourself is exercise. During a break go for a short walk or even do something a bit more rigorous like push-ups, jumping jacks, or sit-ups to get the blood flowing again. Over lunch try to do the same thing for a bit longer. This helps ensure you’re getting some exercise throughout the day and can help revitalize your thought processes.

    I actually try to work out every morning before work – either cardio, weights, or a combination of both for at least 30 minutes, usually 45 minutes to an hour. This actually gives me energy for the day and enables me to focus more throughout the day as well. I notice a big drop in my energy level on those days I don’t exercise prior to work.

    • http://frescobrand.com Daniel Gadpen

      I agree with Ron. Personally I bike 30 minutes a day minimum. I renew my mind and forget the stress.

    • Chatman

      Wholeheartedly agree with Ron. When you’re a freelancer, your greatest business asset is yourself. Therefore, if you don’t take care of yourself now, you’ll pay for it later. It’s essential to keep ourselves as sharp as the services we offer.

  • http://www.sketchgraphx.com Chris Allen

    Thanks for sharing some sound advice! I can definitely relate to spending hours sitting at my desk working and loosing all track of time. But lately I try to block out my time during the day that would include items such as project work, exercise, interacting with social media, reading a book, going to lunch, etc. And I have found that I actually get more accomplished when I have four or five tasks set for a day than if I have no set schedule. If I know I have set two hours to work on a client project, then I will focus intently for those two hours and I’m often surprised how much I can accomplish in short bursts like this. And short breaks and changes to the subject of my attention throughout the day do seem to help keep me focused.

  • will

    i’m guessing you meant to say take “frequent” breaks?

  • http://www.stormstudios.co.uk Simon France

    A great read, one of which I actually read in one of my “breaks” a lot of the above points I now include in my daily routine. Many are obvious but hardly any of us employ these techniques. I find making a weekly default timetable a great aid to completing most of my tasks, and using lots of reminders and alerts to move me onto other projects. I don’t always regimentally stick to it, but I do end up getting most things done.

  • http://www.webeminence.com Complete Website

    I’m definitely realizing the side effects of staring at a monitor for too many years. I think I need a one-year vacation from staring at a monitor or screen. Can you imagine that? For now, taking breaks will have to do.

  • http://www.designturnpike.com Design Turnpike

    Good tips. I am actually starting a new routine tomorrow with some pushups and crunches in the mid-morning, a twenty-minute walk in the afternoon, some eye-closing time around lunch, and less social media and email checks on breaks. It’s kind of a screen detox experiment for February! I’ll let you know how it goes. I’ve been slowly sliding into the 5-7 hour screen time stretches the article warns about. Love this site!

  • schua_ozven

    I agree on this. In fact getting enough of sleep make you very effective the whole day. It gives you a positive mood as well as it keeps your brain working. Great post!

  • http://www.oldworldcreative.com Evan Skuthorpe

    A short walk is always a good way to clear the head. When freelancing from home, I find doing household chores with music going is a great way to clear the mind and I often come up with new thoughts on how to approach a particular piece of work.

  • http://www.aledesign.it aledesign.it

    “Motivation is key to the success” are perfect these words. Not always, non all the day is possible stay at pc and create a good work. Sometimes I go to a little walking, or play a game, or take a coffe and think in relax..Good analysis and good points. Thanks!

  • http://www.kredit-darlehen.ch Kredit

    Best advice for any business owner. Thanks.

  • http://www.natehull.com nate

    Sleep and lack of hang-over is vital. Coding is near impossible with no short term memory.

  • http://www.northsparkstudios.com Jonathan

    Don’t try to be too comfortable while working. Stay away from beds, couches and the television. Easy distractions.

  • http://www.dzinepress.com Dzinepress

    this article fruitful for employees and also for employers because both on same way often.

  • http://martealdesigns.com bob

    Drink lots of water. Keeps you hydrated, flushed and forces you into frequent breaks.

  • http://www.fromtheitguy.com Chris

    Great tips! Taking a break and getting away from the computer a while certainly does help clear your mind and focus that much more when you get back.

  • Christian

    Thanks for the ideas.
    Personaly I work as a freeLance for 12 years.
    3 times a week I stop all the work to practice Martial Arts.
    I meet differents persons, I change my idea, do some exercises and try to a avoid to be punched.
    In one word, it clears my mind.
    Regards, Christian

  • http://www.thebusinesstherapist.com Paul Foster

    I support the exercise and sleep requirements to keep your mind healthy. I also beleive each person has only 3 or 4 really productive hours in them in a day. I think it is important to know which part of the day is your best time to be the most productive. If early morning is the best, make sure you do your work then and plan your exercise routines for your not so productive “thinking” times of day. I also like to prioritize and list my top two tasks for the next day in the evening.

  • http://www.sdwhaven.com/ SDWHaven

    Good article. Taking breaks and working in small intervals are definitely two things that help productivity throughout the day.

  • http://www.morganandme.net Website Design Singapore – Morgan & Me Creative

    We have a simple tip, create a task list each day. Take as many breaks as you wish, go out for a 4 hour lunch, play videogames etc but make sure every task is completed at the end of the workday.

  • Clive Portman

    Sleep lots? Does that rule out anyone with a young family? It definitely makes a difference – if you’re tired it makes it much harder about two-thirds through the day, for me, so I try and have an uber-productive morning to compensate.