Motivation or habit?

It seems to be generally accepted that we need motivation to work from home, yet we assume that having a job outside the home – what?  Doesn’t require motivation?  Is intrinsically motivating?  Just requires you to turn up, motivated or not?

Of the motivation tips I’ve written, I’d say the first is the most important for home workers: remember why you’re doing what you do.  Whether you’re reaching towards something (“I want to change the world”) or leaning away from something (“I’m not leaving my son in nursery again”), it can help to get you over any humps you meet in the home working road. After all, the definition of motivation is: the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way / the general desire or willingness someone has to do something.

Knowing your reason for soldiering on is important.  But what about the days when your lofty (or not so lofty) goal doesn’t seem to help?  I wonder what we can learn from those who go out to work…

What makes an employee get out of bed and go out to work every day?  Habit, the ruler of most of our days, probably plays a large part: this is what I do every day.  Habits stop you having to think.

I take the boy to school, I come home, I make tea, I sit at my desk.  That’s the first part of the habit.

The trick, of course, is in not stopping there.  I can sit at the desk and read blogs, stare out of the window, doodle, move bits of paper around, or do any number of things which don’t get the work done.  The next part of the habit is to actually begin working.  Radical, eh?

Ernest Hemingway said “The best way [to write] is always to stop when you […] know what will happen next. If you do that every day…you will never be stuck.”  Knowing – planning – what will happen next is a mindset that helps with any kind of work.  If you plan ahead of time what you’re going to do when you sit down in the morning, you have fewer excuses for not doing it.

Building a planning habit will help to build a working habit.  Motivation sits in the background, but we also need to cultivate the habit of doing.


Do something!

Round and round go the thoughts on their little train track.  Round and round.  Maybe it’s not a train track; maybe it’s the track a caged animal makes pacing around the inside of the fence.  Whatever it is, it goes round and round and round.  Have you ever wondered how many times you have the same thought, make the same plan, rehearse the same conversation in your head with someone so many times you feel as if you’ve actually talked to them in person?

Tiring.  All this thinking is so tiring.

Perhaps those of us who work from home are even more prone to overthinking than the rest of the human race.  After all, most of the time the only person we’ve got to talk to is ourselves!

All the planning in the world gets us nowhere unless we actually do something.  I’m naturally a do-er.  I don’t like long-winded plans or detailed analyses.  I’d rather get going, make my own mistakes, learn from them and move on.  But sometimes I get stuck in a thinking loop, going round and round like a dog chasing its tail.  And I’ve learnt that the only way out of it is to do something.  What you choose to do is almost irrelevant.  It will become clear pretty quickly if the thing you’ve decided to do isn’t going to get you anywhere.  But the very fact that you’ve taken action – like I did with a phone call last week – seems to work a form of magic in breaking the endless thinking loop.  Once you’ve done one thing, even if it turns out that you should have done something else, it’s easier to go on and do another thing, and another thing, and suddenly you’re making forward progress again instead of going round in ever-decreasing circles.

Do something.  You can think about it later.

Skills for life

When I signed up as a charity fundraiser all those years ago, it hadn’t occurred to me that I’d need negotiation skills, a thick skin, and a creative imagination.

When I became a mother, I thought I was prepared for the sleepless nights, constant nurturing and complete revision of life’s priorities. (I wasn’t, but that’s another story!)  But at no point did I consider that I would need to learn any of the following:

Fixing a prized remote controlled car with nothing but duct tape.

An encyclopaedic knowledge of all things Star Wars and the ability to converse endlessly about it as if it matters.

Even more highly developed negotiation skills.  Especially at bedtime.

How to watch the same film forty-nine times, play the same game and read the same book four hundred and nine times without going crazy.

Whatever the job, there is always more to it than you think.  Any business has accounts, marketing, planning and a raft of other things to be done which aren’t what you might call the core of the business (the fundraising; the widget-making; the writing, whatever).  Even that dream business, the one you’ve been dreaming about since you were eight, the one that’s ideal because it uses all your natural abilities – even that one needs planning, financial and otherwise, and has a hundred mundane actions which need to be done to make it real. 

But if you’ve held down any kind of job, been a parent, or made anything else happen, then you do have the skills to make the dream come true as well.  It won’t happen with a flash of light and a magical rainbow.  It will happen with hard work and putting to good use the skills you’ve learned in other areas of your life.

Mind you, I hope I won’t need to use my remote-controlled car repairing abilities too often.  I think that skill needs a bit of work.

Business un-planning

I haven’t deliberately lied to you. I promise. But I seem to have accidentally misled myself – and thus you – into thinking that I don’t make detailed plans.

However, yesterday I found myself ironing. (Which I hadn’t planned, but the ironing fairy was away. Again.) And while I was doing it my mind was wandering and I swear I found myself having the following thought:

“If I go to visit my parents in half term and then I’m only home for a day before I have to take that trip to the south west and then I only have another two days before we go away again… Maybe I should plan what the boy and I are going to wear for that fortnight so I can make sure we have enough clean clothes.”

Quite apart from the fact that it is impossible to plan what an eight year old is wearing (he would disagree, insist on wearing something else and then spill baked beans on everything) – how on earth is that the thought of a person who doesn’t make detailed plans?

For years I have carried this image of myself as a spontaneous, fly-by-the-pants-seat type of person. And yet, it appears, I am actually in danger of carrying out wardrobe and laundry planning.

However, I stand by my previous point. When it comes to the big things, I do still avoid planning and wing it. I don’t know where my business will be in six months, let alone six years. I’ll follow my nose, see what happens, follow up opportunities. And by micro-planning the things which I can control, I can free up time and head space to roll with, cope with and even take advantage of all the many things which I can’t control.