Forty Two.

When you’ve lost all motivation.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from science writer Richard Berks. He says:

“Alright gang. Any top tips for finding motivation when you have none, but desperately need some??

I’m sure I’m not alone in finding that when I most need to get some flippin’ work done, I seem to have the least motivation to do it. That precious time, while the kids are occupied, or after they’re in bed, and you have a list of things you need to get done… and then bleugh. Not feeling it. List doesn’t get done. Feel bad.

I know I know, we’re all trying our best in a difficult situation, but really I sometimes need to give myself a good kick up the bum. I know there are lots of amazing people in DIFTK who are experts in getting shit done when time is tight — so how do you do it?”

• • • • •

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Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:01:31] – Frankie
Hello. You’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:01:40] – Steve
Hello. Yes, each week we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids community. Do our best to answer it, but of course, we start each episode by looking back at last week’s episode and taking your comments from it. Last week’s question was, oh, it was-,

[00:01:53] – Frankie
Caroline! Accountant Caroline, talking about chasing payments in the midst of a pandemic and the feelings around that.

[00:02:01] – Steve
Sadie Finch got in touch. Hey, Sadie.

Sadie says,

“Steve took the words out of my mouth with his Go Cardless suggestion. I would definitely recommend it. And if you have it linked with Xero, there’s a payment plan option, too. Yes, there’s a small fee, but it’s worth it for me, knowing that I’ll definitely get paid on a certain date.”

[00:02:22] – Frankie
Nice. Automate that shit. Sounds good.

Rachel Allen says,

“This is a really tough one, isn’t it? I’ve taken the strategy of borrowing funds so that I can pay my suppliers, and as such, I will be gently pressing my debtors to pay me too, so that we can all keep going. I think that having the conversation is the most important thing. Being open and upfront and saying something rather than nothing is key.

I’ve had one supplier that said that nothing had changed for them and as such, we had to pay or they would take legal action. I was only two weeks late at this point! I was so peed off with them that we are now looking for an alternative supplier. We need to work together here or we’ll all be stuffed. Good luck, everyone.”

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:06:32] – Frankie
This week’s question comes from Richard Berks, who is a science writer for charities. B-E-R-K-S.

Richard says,

“All right, gang, any top tips for finding motivation when you have none but desperately need some?

I’m sure I’m not alone in finding that when I most need to get some flipping work done, I seem to have the least motivation to do it. That precious time while the kids are occupied or after they’re in bed, and you have a list of things you need to get done and then — blah, not feeling it. List doesn’t get done. Feel bad.

I know, I know, we’re all trying our best in a difficult situation, but really, I sometimes need to give myself a good kick up the bum. I know there are lots of amazing people in Doing It For The Kids who are experts in getting shit done when time is tight. So how do you do it?”

[00:07:15] – Steve
Oh, Rich. Motivation. Motivation.

[00:07:20] – Frankie
Where is it? Do you know? I last saw it on the M6.

[00:07:23] – Steve
In March.

[00:07:25] – Steve
Several strands to this, aren’t there?

[00:07:27] – Frankie
Yes. All of which I can relate to hard, by the way.

[00:07:32] – Steve
So if we were proper psychoanalyst experts (which of course we are, right) we would look at why we’re not feeling motivated now. Frankly, one of those answers could be — because I’m bloody tired, Steve, fuck off.

[00:07:47] – Frankie
Because I’m parenting 24 hours a day in lockdown in extreme circumstances.

[00:07:53] – Steve
Honestly, I think feeling knackered, that’s legit. So one way is sometimes just to give up. No, bear with me… Give up and then maybe just get up in the morning and do some work then instead, after a really good night’s sleep. As good a night’s sleep as you can anyway.

Is that helpful? I don’t know.

[00:08:14] – Frankie
No, I’m with you on that. It depends so much on the context, though, doesn’t it? Because if you’ve got a deadline, you’ve got a deadline. Like, you just have to get it done, right?

Okay, so my approach to this sort of situation normally… I mean, to be clear. I’ve basically stopped working because I’ve become a 1950s housewife, like a lot of women during the pandemic.

[00:08:33] – Steve
And me!

[00:08:33] – Frankie
And you and Steve.

I’m doing bits of work, but I’m not feeling that pressure to perform to a deadline in current circumstances. I can’t even begin to imagine how stressful that must be. Like, that must be off the charts stressful.

But, in ‘normal’ times, I would do one of two approaches… One is what Steve just said — just sleep. Leave it. Sleep. Recover. Get in the right physical place. And the other is to just push and push and push through the pain. It’s so hard, but you will get it done and it will be good. But that bit in between is fucking shit. And also it’s really hard right now because in order to push through the pain, you need the luxury of TIME. And Richard doesn’t have the luxury of two hour long stints where he can concentrate on his work.

[00:09:20] – Steve
Yeah, but you totally just said the other thing that I was going to say, which is because he says it… “Really, I sometimes need to give myself a good kick up the bum.”

[00:09:29] – Frankie

[00:09:31] – Steve
It’s not like the nicest thing to hear, but sometimes, yeah — we just got to suck it up and bloody do it. But the great thing — and surely you feel this too — is that sometimes you’re feeling unmotivated. You don’t really want to do it, but you’ve got that deadline and you start anyway. You’re like, “Come on, Steve. Sit down and do the work!”

Once you actually start making progress, that’s when the motivation comes. How many of us have thought, “Okay, I’m just going to work on this for an hour and then I’m going to go to bed”. And yet 2 hours later, you’re still sitting there doing it? And that’s because actually, you’ve found traction.

[00:10:03] – Frankie
You’re finally in ‘the zone’, yeah.

[00:10:04] – Steve
Yeah, you’ve got there and then you think, “I don’t really want to go to bed now because actually, now I’m finally getting something done and this feels good”. So, yeah, I think fighting through that lack of motivation, making progress, actually gets you motivated because you start seeing the progress.

[00:10:23] – Frankie
It might be worth trying to identify what the hurdles are. What is it that is stopping you from getting into that project? Like, is it the client’s actually not that great a fit with you? Or there’s something about the brief that you don’t really understand? Or you’re afraid of the work for some reason? Maybe you don’t think you’re good enough? Or you don’t think you have enough experience? I don’t know.

[00:10:45] – Steve
Or it seems insurmountable. It seems like a mountain, seems like too big a task? In which case, break it down into smaller tasks.

[00:10:54] – Frankie
We say this every episode, break it down into tiny tasks!

[00:10:57] – Steve
It really works, though. If you’re sitting there thinking, “Okay, I’ve got to make this…” in my case — last week, I had to make this big, important video. A bit of comms for a company about social distancing. And it was stressing me out because it seemed like this big thing with this big deadline. But if you break it down, you break it down into different phases. So for me, it was scripting, the voiceover, getting the music and thinking about the sound effects, and then piecing it all together. Once you’ve broken it down then you start to see the progress. You start to see it come together.

I don’t think we would have ever managed to get it done if it had just been, “Here’s the big thing!” Because then I would have been like, “No, I don’t want to do this”.

[00:11:32] – Steve
I would rather just paint that wall.

[00:11:34] – Frankie

[00:11:37] – Steve
Okay. Another thing that I’m sure we’ve said in the past is about accountability. So, for example, you and I in the past have said, “I’ve got this task to do”, and then one of us will chase the other person about whether or not you’ve done that task. Could be somebody within your house… In fact, I don’t know how old your kids are, but you could even make them your accountability buddies?? Like, if you’re always telling them what to do for homeschooling, maybe here’s a chance for them to boss you around? Give them your to do list and they can hold you accountable!

[00:12:06] – Frankie
You can have a reward chart and they can give you golden stars? Great idea.

[00:12:11] – Steve
Don’t you think? They might really get into that. And we know how good kids are at hounding until they get what they want. And if what they want is for you to finish that task — it might soon get done!

But, okay, if they’re not going to be your accountability buddy then maybe a freelance friend or you can… we’ve mentioned before this, I forget the name of it…

[00:12:31] – Frankie
The creepy online thing where you find a random person?

[00:12:35] – Steve
Some people have used it…

[00:12:35] – Frankie
I know some people love that.

[00:12:36] – Steve
…and found it not to be creepy. Basically it’s like online co-working. So the two of you work at the same time, on zoom and therefore because-,

[00:12:45] – Frankie
You’re being watched!

[00:12:47] – Steve
It would look weird to them if you just got up and started rifling through the fridge. So therefore you feel the need to sit down and actually work.

[00:12:55] – Frankie
It’s just like… what if I need to scratch in awkward places? It’s just a bit strange, isn’t it?

[00:12:59] – Steve
Yeah, I forget the name of it. I’m sure it’ll come up and it’s definitely been discussed in the community and things before.

[00:13:04] – Frankie

Bribery generally is good, right?

[00:13:09] – Steve

[00:13:09] – Frankie
Works for your kids, works for you!

[00:13:10] – Steve
Even if it’s like, “Okay, I am not going to have yet another slice of banana bread until I’ve been sitting down doing some work for 25 minutes!”

[00:13:20] – Frankie

[00:13:20] – Steve
Instead of the Pomodoro technique, this is the Bananadoro technique. After 25 minutes, you’re allowed a piece of banana bread and like we said — if you’ve managed to do a bit of work, that’s when hopefully the motivation will kick in. It’s something to help you gain that traction.

Fuck, it’s so hot in here let me just open the door slightly.

[00:13:41] – Frankie
I think the other thing we need to recognise is, like, these are unprecedented times! If you’ve got half an hour or an hour to do something, it’s totally natural and normal and justified to not want to spend that hour doing work you’re not particularly excited about. Basically — cut yourself some slack, is my point, I think.

[00:13:57] – Steve
We’re all feeling that same way. And it’s totally natural and it doesn’t mean that you’re crap at your work or job or whatever.

[00:14:06] – Frankie
I also think that if you really, really were struggling — your clients would understand.

[00:14:11] – Steve
Yeah, it’s true. In that… In fact it’s something we’ve not mentioned for a while. But it is important to keep communicating with your clients. So maybe if you’re really not…

[00:14:20] – Frankie
Is a deadline really a deadline?

[00:14:21] – Steve
Yeah, because often they’re not! And like we’ve said — you do need deadlines to a certain extent because it gives you a reason to do the work at a certain point. But not if it’s not a helpful deadline.

[00:14:33] – Frankie
And not if you just can’t work because you’re too burnt out. You need a few days to just recuperate.

Also, I don’t know if there’s the equivalent for men… there probably is. I don’t know anything about science! But basically, a woman is massively affected by her hormones throughout the month, right? And there are some weeks where you’re just not feeling it. Your energy is really low, creativity isn’t happening. Like, your brain doesn’t function in the same way. You’re not productive. And I imagine there must be, like, peaks and troughs for Richard too? I don’t know.

Sometimes you just have to give in to what your body is telling you and go for a fucking sit down and not feel like you have to be productive in that sit down.

[00:15:18] – Steve

[00:15:18] – Frankie
That haunts all of us as self-employed parents I think — every time we get away from our children, it feels like it needs to be ‘productive’ time where we’re making money or doing something ‘useful’. And that’s even more so now because that time is precious, right? You have so little time away from your kids that when you do have it, it’s like, “Okay, let’s do all the things!” But in reality — really you just need to have a bath, and a white Magnum and just like, chill out.

Says the woman that doesn’t have any work on… It’s fucking easy for me to say that!

[00:15:48] – Steve
But it is true that resetting your brain and just doing something else. It’s so rare. But it is actually important for us to do right now because we are under a lot of stress and pressure.

[00:16:03] – Frankie
Even if you don’t feel it consciously.

[00:16:05] – Steve
Yeah. This is why we’ve said before about the importance of reaching out and talking to other adults beyond any that are actually in your house. Like, just having normal conversations and a laugh with people. And sometimes you don’t realise how good that feels until you do it and how much you need it. Until you do it.

And it’s the same with just taking a break, with reading a magazine, with a coffee or your book. We would sometimes say, wouldn’t we? Pre-Corona and all that — we would say, “Go do something different. Go for a walk”. And we’d say something like, “Go to a coffee shop, change your space!” But basically it’s just a change of scene, isn’t it? Which is hard to do at the moment, but it’s still relevant. Like going for a walk.

In fact, sometimes at the moment — I’ll even go for a walk at like 9pm at night when it’s practically dark because I just need to change of scene before I can do something else. Funnily enough, though, right when we started recording this, I was feeling not particularly motivated…

[00:17:07] – Frankie
About recording this episode? Yeah! Ha.

[00:17:10] – Steve
Various reasons… hayfever included. Just feeling a bit ugh. But before we hit record, just by chatting and having a laugh with you, by the end of that, I then felt in a different space to go and do it. And isn’t that something in itself? Like just chatting to somebody else, doing something different?

Don’t beat yourself up about it. Go and put yourself in a different headspace and then come back to it. That’s the thing… we could wang on about Trello boards and to do lists and breaking your tasks down and everything like that. But really, it’s all in your head, isn’t it? As to whether you’re going to get into that thing.

[00:17:47] – Frankie
In short, Richard, you’re doing great. You got this covered. Gold star!

[00:17:52] – Steve
And in two minutes time, we’ll have finished this podcast. And when you’re finished, press stop, put down your headphones and then do the fucking work, Richard. No really. Why are you still listening? This is just procrastina-listening. Go!

Okay, if you’ve got a comment — I’m sure you have! — then please do let us know. #DIFTKpodcast on Twitter, on Instagram, and importantly, in the community. Come join us!

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