Monday, October 19, 2009


I've been having a lot of trouble with motivation and procrastination lately, more than usual. This is an issue I had second thoughts about posting in case I give the impression that I'm lazy or not dedicated enough. Those are definite fears of mine. But I figure that most people have these issues, and they're not going to go away by ignoring them.

I'll give you a run down of my morning.

I got to sleep in (for me that's getting up at 8am), I stayed in my pyjamas and got right to work making Yoki tees while listening to Triple J's Hack podcast. I made two tees and then ran out of episodes of Hack to listen to. I made some food and ate it while looking for other podcasts to listen to.

For two hours. I didn't want to get back to work and the distraction was a relief.

One genre of podcast I came across was the motivation variety, and I listened to a few, mostly unimpressed. I started searching out articles on motivation and time management. Some time during the search I realised that none of them would help me. None of the authors know me. They don't know which unique combination of things works for me. They don't know the cause of my problem.

I realised that if I wanted answers, the only place I'd find them was in my own head. I guess it helps to know which techniques are out there. But the techniques I've found most useful are the ones I've come up with myself because I saw a problem and took the time to think about how to fix it in a way that works for me.

I opened a blank text file and started writing about what my bad work habits are, what my thought process is when they occur, why they happen and some ideas on how to alter them. Writing my thoughts down always helps to shed light on them.

I think I figured out what my problem is. Problems are.

I'm a bully to myself. I can't shake the thought that success and productivity are about control, that I need to push myself hard, harder, and force myself to fit into schedules, deadlines, I "should" do this and I "can't" do this.

I feel defeated every time I should be working and I'm not. I feel like I've given in, and even if it's only been ten minutes, my motivation declines to zero because I haven't had the willpower to stay productive. And if I don't have the willpower, how on earth do I expect to be successful? And if I can't be successful, what's the point? I'm procrastinating and lazy and I might as well give up now because it's too hard. I try to escape and distract myself with anything but work. I write off that hour or the rest of that day, thinking that tomorrow will be a new day and it'll be different and I'll definitely work harder then.

With all that written down I could try to work out solutions.

I think the root of my issue is feeling defeated. So I wrote, "What will help me to not feel defeated?" and rambled whatever came to mind. What sprang from that was the idea that I need to disregard thoughts of later or tomorrow, and how overwhelming the work I have to do between now and then is. I need to focus on now. And I need to make a choice, right now. I need to choose defeat or strength. Every minute is another minute that I have a choice about.

When I feel strong and capable I work best. When I feel defeated it doesn't matter which amazing time management techniques I try to enforce, my productivity still suffers.

It sounds a bit New-Agey, but I wrote down the positive ideas that address the root of my problem on Post-Its and stuck them around the place. It immediately made me feel energised again.

I don't want to have to bully myself into working. It's helpful to remember that I have a choice, that I can do this and that I want to do this. It's helpful to remember that these are things I enjoy. Instead of feeling backed into a corner and looking for an escape, I want to feel confident enough to be able to focus on what's important to me.

If you don't relate to this issue, it might sound ridiculous and obvious. If you sum it up in a sentence it seems simple, but I think it's pretty complex. For me, it is by far the most challenging aspect of running a business.

I'm going to spend a little time regularly to think and write journal-style about how to improve it. I can work it out.


R. said...

That's exactly why I have my blog - to document my thoughts and progress, and remind me why I want to write and create in the first place :) Self-reflection is such an underestimated tool!


-- Carolyn -- said...

Ahh the internal critic. Very common and CAN be managed. Rest assured, *pat pat*. Look up some cognitive behavioural therapy if you're desperate.

I think what u said is right; a lot of times, it's just better to be in the moment. Just you and the sewing machine. Maybe hum to yourself instead of listening to the radio. Talk to yourself. "

Keep reminding yourself that the pressure you give yourself does not work. A reward system may also help.

There is light at the end of the tunnel! =) Be happy.

Penny said...

I found something on procrastination on thefluentself blog, which was very helpful in figuring out why I procrastinate...

I have like 7 systems that all need to be working. Not procrastinating, time management, positive thinking, to-do list, something to listen to, not cold feet... I know there's some more.

Anyway, good luck. Those t-shirts are cute. Just 1 step at a time though!

Gina said...

Oh, I have to second Carolyn and suggest a bit of cognitive behavioural therapy. I found a book called 'Change Your Thinking' helpful (but not for your particular issues...). Procrastination is so much the flip side of being a perfectionist. I think it must be hard to be trying to grow a business whilst still maintaining your creativity and a love for what you do. I also think it's great that you post.
Oh and another thing. I for one don't understand how you could consider yourself lazy, or think others do. You have a toddler. You seem to do a million other things. Your idea of what should be possible is very ambitious... not necessarily a bad thing but it is if it gets out of hand.

Heidi and Seek said...

R - I definitely agree about self-reflection. I always feel better after writing down my thoughts, because I can't seem to delve into them very much just thinking about them.

Carolyn - Thanks for your comment. Maybe one of the problems is that there are so many techniques out there that just don't work for me, so trying them just ends in what I percieve as failure.

I'm happy and optimistic. Just trying to work through this and find solutions instead of worrying about it.

Penny - I was thinking about getting Havi's book about procrastination.. Then I thought that I'd probably procrastinate reading it and decided to keep my $100. But I really like her way of writing and her point of view. I'm checking out her blog for posts on procrastination now, thanks.

Gina - I might look into cognitive behaviour therapy, thank you.

I guess, on the surface, I don't think of myself as lazy but it is one of those sore spots of mine. Unless I analyse myself like I did before writing this post, I don't really realise that this negative self-talk is going on in the background when I procrastinate - I'm just faced with something and I really really want to escape the pressure.

I really appreciate your words. Sometimes I forget how much I'm taking on at the moment.

JulieG said...

I know what you mean! One thing that helped me was an idea from Anne Lamont's Bird by Bird (not a how-to, more of a story about her own process) about allowing myself to make a 'shitty first draft' of whatever I'm working on, every single time I sit down to make things. It shuts my internal critic up for a while :)

mummalu said...

Hi, just wanted to let you know that I had the opportunity to visit Melbourne last week and headed straight for Incub8r so I could check out your stuff IRL (in real life)! It was so great to see everything up close, you have an amazing eye for detail. The colours are brilliant. I was so set on buying myself something from your range but I am now on the larger side of the size 14 and didn't feel quite comfortable in anything that I tried on. But don't take offence to that as I am not feeling overly happy in any clothes I put on at the moment! We are planning another visit over Christmas time so hopefully I can have another go then! Thanks for your blog, it's genuinely inspiring!

myownlittleuniverse said...

ok, i TOTALLY relate to this. as does my boyfriend. we both have this issue. and it's not's a slew of other things. for me i think it's a fear of not being good enough so why even try because i'm sure no one is going to buy anything so what's the point? and for that, i have found that self reflection is good...but to take it a step further and be your own best friend, number 1 fan, life coach, etc... i have found that writing to myself helps and this is going to sound really weird and cheeesy, but it HELPS.... i do right hand/left hand writing.... with your non dominant hand, write as the part of you that is having a hard time. then imagine the most amazing, supportive, knowledgeable, confident, caring, etc etc person. (we all have it inside of us) and with your dominant hand, write from that part of you. i have found myself to be very supportive and helpful when i go to myself for help. it gets you out of the bullying yourself thing and more into supporting yourself and giving yourself a break while also coming up with some practical solutions. hang in there....there are a lot of us feeling the very same thing!

Heidi and Seek said...

JulieG - That's a really great idea. Bird by Bird is a book I've been meaning to get my hands on for a while!

mummalu - Oh, hello! I'm so flattered that you checked out my wares while you were in Melbourne. The last size 16 in incube8r would have sold the week before you came in, I feel a bit terrible that I didn't restock them sooner! Come Christmas I'll definitely keep all sizes stocked at all times, though.

Katie - Thanks for the encouragement! The left hand/right hand writing technique sounds utterly fascinating, I will have to try it. If you came up with it yourself I'm totally in awe!

I know what you mean about being nice to yourself - learning that really really helped.

Hugs all round to everyone going through this.

Michelle Michel said...

I know exactly how you feel!!! Hi, my name is Michelle, I'm new to your blog (I found you through etsy), and honestly my first impression was that you have an amazing talent and passion for what you do. You have no idea how good it is to find people that feel the same way you do sometimes and that can understand what we go through wnen we have those i'd like to call "dry spells".
All I can say is: They do pass, you are not lazy, Don't listen to people that say you are (they are probably jealous of you)and remain true to yourself, take time to relax and gain energy and surround yourself with people that are strong and that inspire you.
Believe me!! if you do that you are going to be just great.
P.S. I would probably be one of the first to buy your book... I would sooOO love to learn how to sew.

pepper said...

wow, I have been feeling that way for a while now too, and I find it hard to blog when I feel I have nothing amazingly positive to say. Really loved your post, I'll be thinking of the same questions too..
x Pepper