The grumpy old man, scoffing at the kids and their little “hacks” and gimmicks… imploring them not to get all wrapped up in every shiny new object that comes along… knowing full well they’re not gonna listen.
I especially feel it when it comes to LEARNING web development.
I get all these emails or YouTube comments or Facebook messages from aspiring web developers about staying motivated and getting through the hard parts of learning to code…
And, they’re always look for some “tip”…
When, the truth is…
You can’t “hack” your way through that.
I think we’ve created such a “life hack” culture that the youngins seem to think there’s a “hack” for everything. Feeling uninspired. Life hack! Procrastinating a lot lately. Life hack! Arm got chopped off… life hack!
Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.
Sometimes, you just gotta sack up and grind through it.
And, what matters in those moments is commitment.
How committed are you?
Think about that for a second.
Really ask yourself:
“How committed am I?”
Would you do whatever it takes to make this happen?
If so, you’re in good shape. And, you just need to realize that sometimes, some things are going to suck. Every day isn’t going to be rainbows and butterflies. “Love what you do and never work a day in your life” is a trap, in many ways.
But, if you’re committed, it won’t matter.
If this is what you really want, you’ll keep going.
That said, procrastination and burnout are real things. And, while there’s a certain amount of “you just gotta gut it out”, there are things you can do to not get so overwhelmed and stressed out as you go through all this.
These are non-hacks.
The purple-haireds would call them “life hacks”…
To make them sound secksy.
But, really they’re just common sense.
Anyway, using this stuff I’ve created and released 5 new courses in the last 6 months… all while running a business, homeschooling my kids and building a house. I know there’s no way I could have done it without this approach.
Of course, I have no idea if it’ll work for you.
I’m not some productivity “guru”.
But, if you wanna learn what I do…
I teach it in my NO B.S. Guide to Get More Done course.
And, you can get no-cost access to it on SkillShare.
This time of year always gets me a little reflective. I want you to think about this, though. Why? I mean… why are you here? Why did you sign up for this mailing list in the first place? Why are you trying to learn development?
Or whatever the reason you’re here is… why?
We’re all pushing toward something greater. For me, it’s “retiring at 40” and spending as much time with my kids before they leave the house. Teaching them everything I know. Giving them the childhood I didn’t have.
Stop and think about it for a second.
What does a day in your ideal life look like?
What do you do when your first wake up?
As you imagine it, it sounds great, right?
Well, here’s the reality…
No matter how close you actually get to living that life, there are always going to be annoying things you don’t want to do that you HAVE to do. I bet the vision you just had probably didn’t include getting the oil changed in your car.
Or, getting groceries.
Or, scraping ice off the sidewalk in the middle of winter.
Or, any number of things you find annoying…
But, still HAVE to be done.
And, that’s where most people get tripped up. They let those HAVE-TOs kill their motivation. They just hang over your head like vulture waiting to pounce, sapping all your energy and making you feel miserable.
No matter how much you get done…
No matter how good your life gets…
No matter how much you accomplish.
They’re like little leeches sucking all the happiness out of your life.
That’s what I found, anyway, as I was going through all the different productivity and “time management” trainings I put myself through. Trying to get my s!@# in order and stop procrastinating so hard.
I knew if I ever wanted to actually GET that life I imagined for myself…
I had to handle this once and for all.
And, I’d just come off an epic failure CAUSED by procrastination.
And, none of these systems really addressed it.
As I did them, I always just felt like I had this cloud hanging over my head. Increasing my stress, making me anxious and killing my motivation no matter how many boxes I checked off my to-do list.
Anyway, that’s one of the things about the “NO B.S.” system I finally discovered.
It tackles these little leeches head on.
No kitty-footing around them.
In fact, they become an essential part of the system.
They’re what make it work.
And, help INCREASE your motivation.
When done right.
Building my house the last six months, while running my business and homeschooling my kids, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used this “hack” (that’s not really a hack at all, but just common sense).
It’s proven its effectiveness to ME 100 times over.
In any case, I have no idea if it will work for you. I’m not some rocket-surgeon who dissected the brain and figured out which pound of flesh to press on. But, I DO know that if YOU are actually going to get that life you imagined earlier…
Staying motivated CONSISTENTLY…
And, taking “massive action” will be required.
And, IMNSHO, you can only do THAT after you’ve slayed these productivity leeches.
In any case, believe and do what you want.
If you want to learn the system I discovered, I teach it to you in my NO B.S. Guide to Get More Done course over on the SkillShares. And, you can get no-cost access to it. All the deets on that are here: https://skl.sh/2yIl8oP
P.S. In case you’re wondering here’s a recent review of the course:
“Brilliant info. Highly recommended!!!” — Billy Peacock
“ok jump in where I am wrong…. YOU ARE: a teacher, a developer, a business owner, a husband, a father, a dog owner, a homebuilder??? Do you have a personal assistant walking next to you, feeding you to save time?”
Now, I think the typical response is..
“Aw gee shucks. I just do my best!”
But, the truth is…
For me, that’s not really the case. A few years back, I made a conscious decision to push myself as far as I could productivity-wise. I’d just come off a big project where I’d failed to deliver several key parts of the end product…
And, the client was taking a hit because of it.
And, there was nothing to say.
It was 100% my fault.
And, it was because I’d let procrastination win.
So, I decided I was never going to let that happen again. That’s about the time I started doing these daily emails. At that time, I had one course… now I have over a dozen. And yes, the last 6 months, I’ve been building a house.
None of it is an accident.
It was all done consciously.
And yes, I sleep a healthy 8-9 hours a night.
Spend lots of time with my wife and kids.
Aaaaand, walk my (supposed be my wife’s, btw) dog.
Well, when I made that decision, I decided to put myself through a productivity “boot camp” of sorts. I tried about every productivity “system” and “trick” you’ve probably heard of.
And, I was just ruthless about it working FOR me or not.
And, what I found is that I ended up spending more time DOING the productivity “system” — whatever it was — than I did actually BEING productive. Which was a NO-GO for me, Captain.
So, through lots of trial and error…
I developed my own system.
It’s a simple 10-minute “routine” I do every morning.
To get me focused…
And, clear on what needs done that day.
And, motivated to actually DO it.
Now, I won’t say that this will work for everyone. I honestly have no idea. It’s not some fancy “scientific formula” based on the “neuroscience” of rocket surgery. It’s just this thing I do that works really well for me.
Anyway, if you wanna give it a try and see if it works for you…
I teach it to you in my NO B.S. Guide to Get More Done course.
You can take that course for nothing over on SkillShare.
Been doing this Keto diet and today was a cheat day. So, had a huge stack of pancakes for breakfast… and my body is reeling. You know when you’re laying down and your arms feel like they weigh 100o lbs?
Anyway, got me thinking about this tweet:
When you procrastinate, you are focusing too much on the big tasks.
Focus on the small tasks & build up.
Ex: instead of focusing on getting the entire blog done, do 1 paragraph.
You will strangely want to complete another paragraph…
I thought, “Okay, just figure what you wanna talk about”.
Just do that one little step.
Now, here I am typing this whole thing out.
Same with web dev projects.
Don’t think about everything you have to do. Just look at the list of things left to do and find one you think you can get done in 5 minutes and do that. By the time you get done with it, you’ll “strangely” want to keep going.
Before you know it…
It’s three hours later and you’ve got half your list done.
And, it’s works over and over and over.
Almost 10 years now for me.
Anyhoo, use that as you will.
Of course, if learning how to code and how to freelance is one of the things on your list, I can give you an assist. You can get access to my entire curriculum of web development and freelancing courses for nothing over on SkillShare.
So, you don’t have to waste time figuring out WHAT learn.
“My problem is I suffer with anxiety and depression and during those times that I despair with the code and want to give up, I don’t know if it is just the depression talking. It creates a lazy attitude that makes you want to do other easy things like watch Netflix. I’m not sure if that is me that doesn’t want to learn to code or I just need more discipline. Depression confuses things but I need to do something so I keep persevering”
I have those days.
To be honest, this morning was a little like that. For some reason, I woke up at like 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep. And, after 2 hours of laying in bed trying to get back to sleep, I was frustrated as f!@#.
And, I have a melodramatic mind.
So, I started questioning everything about my life.
“I’ve been scratching a clawing for everything I got since I was 8 years old. Nothing’s every come easy. And, I’m tired. Is this all even worth it, anyway. Maybe, I should just give it all up?”
It happens man.
I think we all deal with it.
But then, I see those two little boys. They’re about the same age I was when my dad had his car wreck. And, I couldn’t imagine CHOOSING to put them through what I went through. I could never do that to them.
And, the flame relights itself.
My mind begins to steel itself.
And, all the nagging voices go silent.
And, I’m back.
And, I think that’s the answer. You have to find something you care about more than yourself. For me, it’s my boys, but it could be anything. It could be an idea, a principle, a loved one or simply other people you want to help.
Whatever it is…
You need to know it and use it.
When, things get crazy and your mind starts going off down that “dark trail”, remember this thing… and use it to get you back on track. I think until you do that, you won’t have a good way to deal with those tough days.
Another thing you might find helpful is my productivity course, The NO B.S. Guide to Get Things Done. It’s not your regular “make a to-do list and tough it out” productivity spiel.
We dive into the internal s!@# most people won’t talk about.
And, tackle anxiety, stress, guilt and and fear head-on and I show you how to consistently get out of that “I’m feeling lazy” funk and actually feel excited to jump into your day and get things done.
I hate Facebook. Seriously. But, I love it. I get to keep in touch with all the most important people in my life… but it can so easily suck away my day.
Email, YouTube (oh god!), Clash of Clans (insert demon face)… as a freelancer my time and income are intimately linked.
And, if I blow a day watching 50 Cent interviews on YouTube or building the “perfect” base on CoC… I lose money.
Here’s seven of the best productivity tips and resources I’ve found to STOP me from doing this day after day (after day):
5 Apps To Boost Your Productivity As a Freelancer
While being accountable for your own productivity is a daunting task, in this day and age, it’s totally manageable. For those of us with untraditional careers, there are plenty of resources available to keep us motivated and organized. After all, as the good people at Apple told us numerous times in the year 2010, “there’s an app for that.”
How to Organize Your Writing Workplace for Better Productivity
This problem is not new, and everyone looks for tips and tricks on better blogging, reads guides, searches for inspiration, etc. But do they realize the decision they seek is right in their backyard? It’s all about writing workplace organization.
In today’s digitally powered world, online tools abound that can address a great many of the typical freelancer’s productivity, workflow, organizational, and intellectual needs. A well-curated selection of apps, websites, and software provides additional arrows in your creative quiver—not to mention sanity.
Productivity for Freelancers: The one key to doubling Your free time and Your income!
Do you want to get more done in a single day than most freelancers do in a week? If you struggle with productivity – as most freelancers do – the steps laid out here could easily do this for you. Turning you into a productivity machine.
Ten Productivity Tools Every Freelancer Must Know About
It may not be a walk in the park, particularly if you’re just starting out, but freelancing becomes bearably easy if you’re equipped with the right tools to do the right jobs. Just like plumbers have their own special tools to take the edge off usually backbreaking and challenging work, so do freelancers. Below are ten of such tools:
Today we are sharing tips and guidelines that will increase the productivity of a web designing freelancer. In order to become a successful and reliable freelancer, it consist of consistency and determination.
31 Marketing & Productivity Tools That Every Freelance Graphic Designer Should Use
In order to help you allocate more time to your creative designs, we’ve created a list of useful tools that many small businesses are already using. We hope that you’ll use them too and save time in order to optimize your creative performance.
Now, you (and me) have no excuses. Do me a favor and share this with someone you know needs it.
Yeah, it may rob them of a day of watching those awesome totally inappropriate Thug Life videos on Facebook… but it may just help put a few more benjamins in their back pocket. (And, I’d love you forever too of course.)
Yesterday, I was feeling completely burnt out. For the last couple weeks, I had been pushing real hard on a number of projects, working late nights, and basically strapped to my desk 24/7.
And, it was starting to catch up to me.
But, I had one more project I needed to finish and I really didn’t want to do it.
Now, I’ve learned over the years that the quality of my work is pretty horrific when I force myself to work when I don’t want to. So, instead of forcing myself to work on the project and “get it done”.
I was lazy.
I basically sat around all day, watched movies, ate too much, drank too much pop and was generally a complete bum.
However, as I did that… I also used a couple tricks I’ve learned to prep myself mentally to get ready to hit it hard again.
As time passed, I began to feel more and more naturally motivated to work on this final project. Soon, I reached a point where I was feeling inspired and I couldn’t stop thinking about how I wanted to do the project.
THEN, I went to work.
And, instead of me laboring over the project for days trying to force myself to get it done. That night, I stayed up a few hours later than normal and got it all done.
And, not only did I get it done without all the stress and hassle of forcing myself to do it… I got it done days before it was due.
The key is understanding how to tap into your natural motivation and let it build until you’re fully “turned on” and inspired to get a project done.
Now, if you stick with me, I’m going share those techniques with you and exactly what I did to stop procrastinating in these situations.
If you implement these techniques, you can virtually eliminate procrastination (and the stress that comes with it) from your life.
This is Why You Procrastinate
I’ve found two main reasons why coders procrastinate:
The mountain of work
We’re addicted to the drama. Let’s face it… after the initial bliss of learning how to code and feeling awesome because of all the cool things you know how to do… coding gets a little tedious.
Before you know it, you find yourself doing pretty much the same things over and over again for every project. And, you get a little bored.
Procrastinating until the last minute provides a sense of excitement. There’s a real possibility you might not get done in time, that your client will be pissed, that you’ll ruin your reputation and forever be banished from the brotherhood of coders…
See, how easy that is?
It’s easy to turn a little procrastination into a cheesy drama where you get to play the super-hero by swooping in and completing the project just in the nick of time.
Problem is, your works suffers. Not to mention, it’s also incredibly stressful. And, as you get more work, you find yourself bouncing from one project to another in this kind of dramatic fashion… and you get burnt out.
But, that’s not all…
Because, this pattern is fed by another that I call “Mountain of Work” syndrome.
Have you ever looked at a coding project, knowing full-well you need to get going on it right away, and began to see everything you’d need to do in order to get it done… and felt completely overwhelmed? And, as a result, instead of working on it… you put it off?
We all have.
The particular problem for coders is that the majority of the projects we work on provide enough ambiguity that it’s easy to blow the amount of work it’ll take way out of proportion.
Because, frankly, in a lot of cases… you don’t know what all a particular project or piece of a project will entail.
And, your mind will then tend to do what cognitive therapists call “maximize”. It’s worst-case scenario thinking. And, before you know it, your mind has you convinced that there’s absolutely no way you could ever get this project done.
So, you put it off…
But, you also have a sense that if you were just motivated enough, you could probably knock the project out pretty quickly. You just need some energy… some motivation… and that’s where the drama comes in.
Most of the time, coders procrastinate because they know that the drama of doing it last minute will give them the motivation they need to power through this “mountain” of a project.
And, because it feels good when you actually do pull through and “save the day”… this entire pattern is self-reinforcing. Your mind convinces you that this is a good way to go about things… because, in the end, it feels good.
Again, the problems come when you start to get more work. Now, because you have so many projects you’re trying to juggle at once… you start to fail. There’s time when you don’t save the day. There’s times when what you create in those moments is crap.
You notice. Your clients notice. And, it can quickly overwhelm.
I know… I’ve been there.
So, here’s how to get off the roller-coaster and use your natural tendencies to your advantage to get things done faster, perform better, and provide a better overall service.
Here’s How to Stop Procrastinating
First and foremost, you should never work when you don’t feel like it.
Now, I know… that sounds the exact opposite of what you probably think you should do… and what you’ve probably been told you should do…
But, it’s 100% true.
If you force yourself to work when you don’t feel like it, you antagonize your body to fight against. And, you set yourself for a bigger drop-off down the road.
Not to mention, 99.9% of the time… your work will be crap.
Instead, you learn how to make yourself feel like working. Here’s a few methods I’ve learned to do just that:
1. Focus on something small you can get done right now. The problem of maximizing is in making the work seem like more than it is… so much more that it’s not even worth doing because there’s no way you could possibly ever get it done.
What’s really happening is you don’t feel like working right then. So, you maximize the work in order to rationalize not working on it right now.
To cure that, you need to hit yourself with a dose of reality. For me, the conversation literally goes like this:
Fantasy Me: “OMG! It’s so much work. I’ll never get it done. Why bother?”
Reality Me: “Well, you know, you could just knock out this small piece. It’s really easy and you could get it done pretty quick. That’s better than nothing.”
Fantasy Me: “Screw you Reality Me! I don’t wanna!”
Reality Me: “Right, but you know you need to. And, deep down, I know you WANT to.”
Fantasy Me: “Ugh!”
Now, that doesn’t mean you will immediately feel like working. But, what it does is stop you from continuing to maximize. It injects a little reality into the equation and gets you to come back down to Earth a bit.
This is absolutely critical! You must do this… and usually first.
2. Focus on what excites you about this project. Once you’ve stopped the maximizing and injected a little reality into your thinking… it’s time to start to swing the pendulum the other way.
Remind yourself of what excited you about this project in the first place. Maybe, it’s the topic or content of the project. That is, what the project is about. Or, maybe, it’s the people you’re working with on the project. Maybe, it’s what you’ll need to learn in order to complete the project.
Or, maybe… it’s just the money you’ll earn as result of completing the project.
Whatever it is, dangle a little carrot out in front of yourself to remind you why you accepted this project in the first place.
As you do, you’ll start to feel your natural motivation gearing up. Your mind will begin to focus on the project and not let you think about anything else.
3. Ride the wave. As you start to feel more naturally motivated, let it build a little bit. Let it build to the point you just can’t stand to not go work on it. THAT is when you’re at your best and your performance will be optimal.
And, once you’ve started moving on the project and generated a little momentum… ride that wave for as long as you can. It’s important to recognize just how important that momentum is and find ways to sustain it.
Sometimes, it hits at 11pm at night. Sometimes, it’s 4am in the morning. Sometimes, it’s in the middle of some other event.
You need to organize your life in such a way that, as much as possible, you can immediately go work on a project when the inspiration hits you. Those moments are gold opportunities and you can’t let them slip away.
That may mean having a “sit-down” with your family and friends. It may mean changing some habits. But, whatever it means, it’s important to do everything you can to maximize those opportunities.
Managing Your Motivation
Now, keep in mind… what I just described is not a 5-minute process. It’s not some mental gimmick you can whip out and in 5 minutes feel all gung-ho to go work. It’s more of and understanding of how your mind naturally works and how to tap into it.
In most cases, the above process will take at least a few hours. Sometimes, it might take a whole day.
So, you need to be sure to effectively manage this with your clients. That means working “buffer time” into every project you accept. If you think it’ll take you 8 hours of actual to complete a project, tell your client that it’ll be a week or two.
Because, finding 8 hours to sit down and just code… among all the other things you need to do… is never easy. Factor in the time where you’re not going to feel like working… and finding 8 hours of time where you’re 100% inspired to work on that project is going to take a little bit.
And, although, your client may not immediately understand or agree if you told them that explicitly… believe me… they want you at your best. They want the hours you put in to be motivated and inspired hours… not “feeling forced” hours.
So, you build that time into your scheduling and set those expectations early on.
What’d You Just Say
So, in summary… here’s a few things to keep in mind:
Never force yourself to work when you don’t feel like it
Instead learn to naturally prod yourself into feeling like working
Inject reality into your thinking by focusing on someting small you could get done right now
Remind yourself of what excited you about the project in the first place
Ride the wave of momentum you’ll create for as long as you can
Be sure to manage your motivation and set clear expectations with your clients
John Is An Idiot
Completely disagree with me on all this? That’s cool. Why? I’d like to hear how you deal with procrastination. Or, maybe you completely agree… I’d like to know that, too. I’d like to hear about others who’ve used these techniques to stop procrastinating.
Leave your thoughts in the comments below and let’s have a conversation we can all benefit from.