The summer is nearly up. And even though we spent most of this year at home because of the lockdown, summer months still feel like holiday to me.
I imagine this is because once, long long ago I was a carefree child with long summer holidays which happened to be in, well, summer.
Hence I find all three summer months, but July and August in particular, the most challenging months to be productive. All I want to do is ride my bike, climb trees and eat ice cream.
I have so many work-related projects and quite a few passion projects that I’ve been neglecting since June.
My husband asked me a valid question: 'if you are procrastinating or not wanting to work on those - maybe they are not your passion projects, perhaps you are lying to yourself'?
But let’s be honest - we cannot always feel passionate about all our passions, can we? Sometimes we feel lukewarm about them, just like about anything else in life.
Take TV-series or films - sometimes I love binge-watching my TV, sometimes I don’t touch Netflix or TV remote control for months on end. But it does not mean that I won’t go back to them when the time is right.
The same is true for our other passion projects - writing, knitting, arts & crafts - sometimes we just need to take a break from them, don’t we? Only to start working on them with increased passion and enthusiasm when we feel like it.
But the challenge here is as follows: the longer you leave your project dormant - the more you move away from it mentally and emotionally. Because we change - all the time! What excited us yesterday might be sleep-inducing tomorrow.
That is why we need a sprinkle of self-discipline because anything could turn into a boring chore once the muse of creativity is out of the house.
But how do you get back in love with your passion project? There are different ways, but I decided to challenge myself to 28 Days of Self-Motivation.
I have self motivated for 28 days, using my imagination to come up with ideas to allow for my creative juices to flow again.
Day 1 - Define What Success Means to You
For Day 1, I chose to redefine what success means to me.
It means different things to different people. For some, a certain amount of money might equal success, for others more free time to spend with their family and loved ones is the ultimate goal.
For smaller projects - it might be something tangible to show for your efforts.
My passion project is my writing portfolio.
I’ve decided to put one together in case there is a job I am interested in and would like to apply to. I thought that I might as well be prepared. In the worst-case scenario, my writing samples might be my starting point for something else - because you never know, right?
Day 2 - Create a Vision Board
For Day 2 of my challenge, I have tasked myself with creating a vision board for my future writing career.
Vision boards are powerful tools - I have tried them before. If you really put your heart and thoughts into it - it does actually work.
It works because you are crystallising your dreams and desires and putting them on paper in a visual way. Which, in turn, will help you to visualise your future goals. It’s a like a cheat sheet for our brain - we see an image that serves as a key, a symbol that represents something we want (e.g. a house, a car) and we start reaching towards that dream.
Day 3 - List Your Achievements
Confidence boost! I am planning on listing all my past achievements, does not matter how tiny or menial.
This motivation task is about reminding myself that I can achieve things now because I have accomplished something in the past.
For some reason we tend to linger on something negative more often than on positive. We mull negative experiences over in our heads.
And we tend to undermine positive experiences, saying: 'oh well, thank you, but it was nothing, really."
Thank is why my list will begin with the smallest accomplishments ever and it will grow to bigger wins, just to remind myself that small wins bring big achievements about.
Day 4 - Get Rid of Mental Clutter
For day 4 a clean up exercise was chosen on purpose as I do not think we can create something new when we have a super heavy barrage of something old and forgotten.
We all have unfinished projects that have been abandoned for various reasons. But they are not as harmless as they seem. They are draining our creativity of vital energy.
I am planning on doing the following:
Note down unfinished or abandoned project (knitting, writing, gardening, cooking; books; films, etc.)
Write down why you think you abandoned them in the first place
Decide if they are still important
If they are - add them to your goals for this quarter
If they no longer serve your bigger goal - accept that they are pretty much finished and put 'complete' next to them so in your mind they are no longer hanging in the air, waiting to be touched...
Day 5 - Be Intentional and Use Positive or Powerful Words
Wouldn't you agree that the words we use affect how we feel? If we use positive, optimistic words, we might feel motivated. Negative words could make us bitter, argumentative and aggressive.
According to the book ’Words can change your brain’ and research conducted - words that we use could indeed affect parts of our brain - and as a result, help to motivate.
The authors say:
’By holding a positive and optimistic [word] in your mind, you stimulate frontal lobe activity. This area includes specific language centers that connect directly to the motor cortex responsible for moving you into action.’
’A positive view of yourself will bias you toward seeing the good in others, whereas a negative self-image will include you toward suspicion and doubt.’
Different people need different words to motivate them.
For some words such as - peace, calm, resilience - will work their magic.
For others - affirmations might help to move into action:
The world is a safe place
I am confident and capable
Day 6 - Accept Your Imperfections
Accepting Your Imperfections is my challenge For Day 6.
Imperfections have a negative connotation straight away as an opposite of something perfect.
But I’ve noticed that perfection is holding me back more than anything else.
Imperfection is what makes me unique. It’s what makes me, well - me!
And that’s what I want to embrace and celebrate today.
Is it easy for you to accept your imperfections?
Day 7 - Try Reverse Brainstorming Technique
I am trying out Reverse Brainstorming recommended in a book called ’How to Boost your Brain.’
Rather than coming up with ideas on how to improve something - you need to brainstorm as many ideas on how to mess things up.
For example, instead of writing about how I can better prepare for my job interview and listing all the options - I will ponder on 'how can I fail my job interview'? And you list all the things that you could do wrong.
The authors claim that reverse brainstorming helps us to draw attention to ’our own laziness’ or limiting beliefs, etc.
It's also fun to concentrate and seek out negatives and potential failures for a change.
Day 8 - Explain Your Project in Pictures
Did you know that 70% of all your sensory receptors are in your eye?
This is according to ’Thirteen Reasons Why your Brain Craves Infographics’ by neomam.com.
So for Day 8 I am challenging myself to plan and explain tasks at hand using pictures.
Because we are overloaded with written information, it might be beneficial and easier for our brain to process new information when we present it using a different medium, such as drawing doodling, sketching or emoji!
For instance, this week I need to create an editorial calendar for my client, so my draft task might look like:
An editorial calendar for one week to promote a new product: tell the story, illustrate advantages, explain why you might need it (help you feel more positive, enjoy your day, etc.), introduce a giveaway.
📅 - 📱 🌠 💡 🛋 🎊 📈 💖 📣 🎁 😊
I have enjoyed thinking in emojis more than I thought I would - it made me feel more optimistic about the task at hand. It also kick started my creativity - as there are so many other ways to explain this task.
How about you? Do you ever use pictures to tell a story or explain something?
Day 9 - Pause and Help Others
Today's motivation challenge is to pause working on your project and help others instead.
Have you by any chance been neglecting your loved ones?
Do you need to check in with your friends?
Are you children craving a bit more attention from you?
Maybe your local community is in need of volunteers?
From time to time it's more productive to let your project be and work on something that is not yours.
Day 10 - Create Fun Playlist
Create a playlist for your mood.
I’ve been waiting for this challenge! I cannot remember the last time I made a playlist.
A brand new playlist should help to boost your motivation and mood!
Even though there are many good new songs I have a feeling my playlist will contain a lot of oldies like ABBA.
How about you? What songs/bands/artists will always make it to your playlist?
Day 11 - Journal Your Thoughts
Use your journal as a self-motivation tool to capture fears and sabotaging beliefs.
How easy is it for you to admit your fears even to your journal?
I struggle with it. I love journaling, but quite often I write it as if for someone to read. As a result, I omit the most painful details, including fears and self-sabotaging thoughts.
But for this challenge, I am finally writing it down. If someone reads my journal one day, they would see how afraid I was of not achieving my goals and disappointing myself and my loved ones.
Day 12 - Try the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is relatively well known nowadays, isn't it?
Everyone has heard about it, but not everyone remembers to use it consistently. I am one of them - I love the concept, but forget about it when push comes to shove.
So for my Day 12 I am going to set up a daily routine to remind myself about this technique.
I have downloaded 'Be Focused' app for my phone recommended by Belinda Weaver from copywritematters.com in one of her Facebook Group videos. The app helps to time 25 minutes of productive work followed by 5 minutes rest. It uses a tick-tock sound to highlight that your precious time is ticking.
What do you think about Pomodoro? Do you use it?
Day 13 - Start a Gratitude Photo Journal
Creating a Gratitude Photo Journal every day is something I started doing recently as part of my #28daysmotivationchallenge.
I’ve read it first in a blog post by a coach Veronica Morena in a blog post about introducing gratitude to your daily routine.
Instead of writing what you are grateful for - take a picture.
In my case it’s mostly pictures of my little one, flowers, sunsets, sunrises, coffee and wine. But now that I have a special folder for it where I also add a few words to each photo - it started turning into a little memory box full of special treasures.
Day 14 - Treat a Task as 'FUN' not Work
Did you know that if you set up the task in your head as ”fun” the chances are you might actually treat it as one?
Studies on self-control showed that if you persuade yourself that the exercise is fun and not work, you might find the whole experience more rewarding.
I am going to try this tip today for Day 14 because it sounds fun.
I practice something similar with my child when she demands I read the same book for umpteenth time... At first I sigh in despair but then I decide to just go with it by putting in my most ridiculous reading voice! And you know what? It works - every time without fail.
How about you? Do you have any tasks that you enjoy more when you remember to turn them into fun activities?
Day 15 - Let Your Work Guide You
Do you sometimes work hard on something without significant results?
And then you step away for a bit, and the magic happens - a breakthrough!
Sometimes when you let go, it feels like your project gets a life of it's own. It starts working on itself. Well, not exactly but because you allow your brain a bit of a break it feels like inspirations are coming from unexpected places.
I've read about this in Melissa Harris’ book ”99 Keys to a Creative Life.” She talks about how when working on a painting/drawing you should allow for the end result to reveal itself as you go. And not to force yourself to finish it the way you originally planned. Because sometimes the very best outcome appears later, once you've started something.
So for my Day 15 I am trying to step aside and let the task itself take over and guide me towards the best outcome.
Day 16 - Create a Metaphor to Inspire and Excite You
Do you believe in magic? Well, creating unique metaphors might not be magic, but it might help to excite and inspire you.
Bekki Hill, in her book ”Coach yourself to writing success” suggests to create a task-specific metaphor and then visualise them to help with the creative process.
Day 17 - Take a Day (or Two) Off
Remember to take and enjoy a few days off without thinking about work, chores or passion projects!
Taking time off to relax and recharge your batteries will motivate you better than the most upbeat music.
Day 18 - Write a Short Fairy Tale
How about motivating yourself by writing your own short fairy tale?
Writing a fairy tale is a form of self-therapy - you could write it to deal with writer’s block or find an unorthodox solution to a problem.
It does not need to be long or complicated either - it could be a one-liner or a paragraph: ”One morning I opened my chest of drawers and found a magic wand that helped me to finish all my tasks in no time. But I also turned my neighbour’s cat into a vase when I caught it digging in my garden yet again.”
I had so much fun writing this short paragraph - thinking that my tasks could be completed just like that! A girl can dream, right?
But most of all I enjoyed turning that cat into a vase - it is doing my head in!! - and I felt so much better afterwards chuckling to myself.
Day 19 - Use Setbacks as Motivation
How many of us get absolutely paralysed by fear of...failure?
Setbacks are something we dread. They are dragons lurking in our wardrobes ready to jump out any minute: boo!
But they are inevitable, aren't they?
No one achieved remarkable success without failing first. Or failing many many times first.
Carol Dweck’s book ’Mindset: changing the way you think to fulfil your potential’ reminds us that failures could be used as motivations. They could force us to try harder, to fall and stand up again. All we need to do is apply a growth mindset and see setbacks as challenges, as opportunities, as teachers.
Day 20 - Use Old Photos as Motivation
How often do you have time to go through your old photos? On your phone, computer, old fashioned paper album?...
My little one keeps grabbing my phone to take pictures of the floor, and other fun stuff while keeping her finger on the camera lens but there is one she took yesterday - have a look, it's not too bad.
Her new hobby means that I have to go through my phone photos every other day to delete those hundreds of bursts of black nothing. But while I am at it I also find my old photos that trigger certain memories: they remind me of my dreams, mistakes, short-lived hobbies, long-forgotten friends.
They motivate me to revisit some of my old projects, or to simply daydream for a bit - which is so much fun!
Day 21 - Do some Yoga Stretches
My little one was also up for it. She managed to get under me during downwards dog. It made her giggle a lot little monkey
Nevertheless, I've managed to stretch well enough to feel super motivated afterwards.
Day 22 - Read a poem out loud
Do you like poetry?
When was the last time you read a poem?
I used to read poems before going to bed. They made falling asleep sweet and gentle. Occasionally there would be a romantic flavour to my dreams, while others my dreams would take me far far away carried on the wings of a poem.
This morning I've read one out loud to my toddler. She wasn't that impressed. But something stirred inside me - I felt inspired!
I am adding this tip to my self-motivation list! Such a simple way to rediscover your muse!
Day 23 - Name Your Emotions
How often to we admit to ourselves what we are feeling and why?
Quite often we just get worked up or angry with ourselves or our loved ones.
Instead of achieving our goals, we spend days angry, then guilty...
But the easiest thing to do is to name how we feel, name our emotions so they don’t have a power over us.
Instead of running around snapping at everyone, I could stop and ask myself: am I upset that my little one is crying and demanding attention? Or am I angry that I have not finished that blog post?
This act of pausing and naming has a therapeutic effect of slowing down.
But it is also a good practice to name as many emotions as you know. I, to be honest with you, use the most popular ones: sad, mad, angry. But there are so many more!!
Day 24 - Tell your friends about your project
Today is about getting accountability from people who’s opinion you value.
Sharing your plans and projects with someone might make you work a little bit harder towards completing your goals.
I don’t normally tell anyone what I am working on, but as result I often leave my projects unfinished hence I am doing this challenge and I must say - it’s working like a charm!
Day 25 - Listen to classical music
Listening to music has always helped me to get over fatigue, stay motivated and improve my mood.
The studies show that our nervous system reacts to music, so when you feel like turning that radio up while performing certain tasks it's probably your brain's way of saying: I need encouragement! So give it some and then some more
I am opting for Classical music in my challenge because I, personally, don't listen to it very often. My child is in charge of our music choices. Hence we usually listen to ’the wheels on the bus’ and ’row row row the boat.’
But there is some scientific evidence that classical music is especially beneficial when it comes to learning and memory retention.
So not only I might feel motivated after listening to some classical tunes but I might also remember & learn more as a result!
Day 26 - Read humorous or funny story
Humour can motivate better than a personal trainer.
It gives you such a boost of energy that you want to do twice as much if not more.
Happy hormones are also beneficial as they lift our mood and turn us into friendly sweet creatures.
My little one is super snotty at the moment and isn't sleeping very well. I am running on coffee and funny videos!! Honestly, if it weren't for humour, I'd be worse than a Grumpy Badger from one of my daughter's books!
Day 27 - Listen to motivational speeches
Never underestimate the power of a good motivational speech.
So many times, I would feel slightly deflated and then stumble upon a random motivational video that had nothing to do with my work, interests or the problem at hand. But it would always pick me up, show me a different perspective.
Day 28 - Celebrate and Reward yourself
Well, I cannot believe it but I did it! Today is Day 28!
I started it because I needed to pick myself up, to create a better routine. And here I am.
I loved almost every second of this challenge. It nudged me to be more creative, to think things through, not to give up halfway.
That is why my motivation tip of the day is: celebrate and reward yourself! And that's exactly what am planning on doing. Remembering your achievements and celebrating them is every bit as important as starting or continuing with the task.