Maintaining Motivation

May 14, 2020

Maintaining Motivation

We are surrounded by motivational posters and art quotes telling us to “hustle every day” and boss it 24/7… What does that mean? How can I reach and maintain those levels of motivation? And most importantly – Is it ok to not crush it every day?

Spoiler alert! No matter how passionate you are about your art and creative work, it’s human to have fluctuating levels of energy and changes of mood, despite what the posters say.

Understand what drives you and use that knowledge to build healthy new habits, tailored to your personality. Here’s how to make decisions that help you spark that passion and stay focused on your goals.

What Does Motivation Mean – To You?

The most important thing to understand is that we’re all driven by different goals and respond to different emotions. What makes one’s heart beat faster can be a paralyzing concept to another.

Use this article to explore what makes you tick and feel free to pick and mix the ideas that best match your personality.

Motivation is defined as “the desire or enthusiasm to do something” and the way to reach that state is to understand what will help spark that creative passion inside you.

Have you ever felt “in the flow”? Pay attention to how you reached that point!

For me, the 2 main triggers to get motivated are list-making and change of scenery. I’ll elaborate on those shortly. For you, this can be verbal affirmations or reward schemes, amongst others. Take a moment to analyze the triggers for your motivation. This will help you cause them more deliberately and create your personal art motivation recipe.

Ways To Spark Motivation

It’s completely normal to not wake up every morning bringing the artist A-Game. Most of us have to create routines and form new habits that help get us there.

Goal Setting

First of all, have a goal. Make it clear. “I wanna be rich and happy” isn’t a clear goal. “I’d like to profit $2,000 monthly from my art in order to be able to leave the job I hate” is a lot less vague! 

Why is this important? Ambiguous wishes are hard to supervise. Without defining precise goalposts we have no means of knowing when we reach them and similarly no way of tracking progress.

Most of the time it’s not the journey that excites us. “I need to run 4 times a week” is not nearly as thrilling as the thought of finishing that marathon in 6 months’ time.

End goals can be overwhelming though. I likely speak for a lot of people when I say that “I’ll never get there anyway” thoughts can get the better of our positivity some days. The key to make unthinkable tasks more palatable and get motivated to tackle them is to break them down into bite-sized chunks.

Let me give you an example building a website. Years ago I got into child-like tantrum states when it came to building my website. Sure, the thought of it being up and ready to launch sounded great but there was way too much to do before I could get there. Weeks worth of work! I. Don’t. Want. To! 

Eventually, I did. The key was to simply stop looking at the task as a whole and break it down into palatable chunks. Buy a domain name. This won’t take long, I can do this. Decide on sections, pick images for galleries, write a bio… and suddenly the mammoth task was done!

And some days it’s not about ticking off the whole task, timed goals such as “I will chip away at this for 1 hour today” are as motivating.

Divide your sub-goals into short and long term goals. This way you can plan what you do today,  this week, this month. Plan their completion. Which leads me to…

List Making And Other Motivators

  • Make lists. See what I did there? For me, the act of making a list is the biggest motivator of all. Putting a task on paper not only declutters my mind but helps make me somewhat accountable to tick it off. I’m visual it needs to be neat handwriting and a colorful tick. Ticking off tasks is a way to provide feedback about the completion of a task and is, therefore, an immediate reward of your efforts.
  • Another big one is a change of scenery. Whenever possible I will take my creative work to a café. Since I made the effort to pack up my laptop and leave the house I now feel highly driven to make good use of my time.
  • Try creating a work environment that makes you happy. Clear spaces make for happy minds. Feeling great and relaxed is key. My bliss is a clean desk, fresh flowers, and non-vocal house music. Maybe yours is comfy socks and fresh coffee?
  • Schedule times to be creative and make them exclusive. “I’ll retouch tomorrow” makes you less accountable than “This image will get done at 9 am”.
  • Eliminate distractions and causes of procrastination. As I write this my phone is in another room, the habit to check messages is too strong. Don’t multitask. Focus on one job at a time. 
  • Picture success. On days you struggle to get into the flow, try visualizing reaching that end goal. Imagining euphoria and pride will get those juices flowing.
  • Dips of energy while working? Get up and move around. 10 star jumps or crazy dancing with the cat can raise those oxygen and endorphin levels. 

Ways To Maintain Motivation

Motivation can dwindle over time when goals are constantly out of reach, so keep them realistic. Make deadlines (something a lot of people are driven by) and make sure they are attainable.

Social Support

Surround yourself with like-minded people. Observing other artists’ habits can be a great motivator to stay on track yourself. Networking with peers can be incredibly inspiring and at the same time provide feedback and a group of cheerleaders.

Having “accountability buddies,” people you’re letting in on goals, gives them the opportunity to push if that is something that motivates you.

I get motivated by my idols. Immerse yourself in the habits and art of those you strive to be. Let their routines help inspire your own.

Keep On Track

Be consistent in your approach. Setting aside time to tick off tasks every day will soon form a habit and getting into a flow of art motivation will become easier over time.

Keep an eye on your progress and adjust your path if necessary. If you’re too ambitious and struggle to meet your own expectations, make them realistic and attainable. 

At the same time, if you crush your goals with ease, crank up the difficulty to stay motivated. Instead of running 10 miles over and over, maybe aim for a marathon?

Reward Systems

Many adults are driven by positive reinforcement and rewards in the same way they were as children. No shame in that, it’s simply another trigger for a positive emotion that can lead to motivation.

Rewarding yourself for small successes is a great reminder of your progress! For me, this can be a treat (ticking off tasks and the consumption of ice pops is in direct relation here) or allowing breaks and distractions (“once I’ve done these I’ll do a quick Fortnite battle!”).

Allow others to recognize and praise your progress, and use positive feedback as a motivator without depending on it.

Don’t Push It

Some days it’s just not happening. And that’s ok. You’re forming new habits by triggering your motivation and as much as you’re doing great most days, allow yourself a break too when needed (as long as break time isn’t the new habit).

Trying to push yourself beyond what your body and creative mind are capable of will lead to resentment of the whole thing as you’ll start to associate creating art with anger and pain.

In those cases, completely switching off and turning your attention to something else is a lot more useful. Productive procrastination can work wonders for your mind and creativity!

Step away consciously and try to tap into your motivation triggers again later.

Conclusion

Find what excites you and use it to get and stay motivated.

Set goals you can reach and remember the feeling you get when you complete one. Stay motivated by positively affirming yourself and keep remembering that glorious light at the end of the tunnel!

And always remember to make it fun!

Which part of this article resonated with you? Did some of the ideas get your heart racing? Explore what they were and use them as a starting point!

I’d love to hear what your motivation hacks are, feel free to share them with me on @tina_eisen


Tina is a commercial and editorial beauty photographer based near London, UK.

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