By the end of 2016 I had finished editing my book “Waking Mathilda — A Memoir Of Childhood Narcolepsy.” You might think that completing a 65,000 word project was a huge success in and of itself but towards the end of the editing process I began to realize something that weighed so heavily on my shoulders that I almost gave up:
Finishing the book was just the beginning.
To actually complete the project I still had a LOT to do — finalizing my cover art, pre-launch marketing, setting up my own publishing company, registering with the Library of Congress, getting a bar code and ISBN number to name but a few.
All this on top of being a full-time care-giver to my daughter who has narcolepsy. This means I am up through the night giving Mathillda (10) meds and rarely getting more than a few hours unbroken sleep. I’ve been doing this for just over 7 years.
I remember a similar slump in motivation occurred when the Professor was in the final 5 months of his PhD thesis back in 2001. One night as he was draped over his desk he told me he was going to bail. He said that he just couldn’t finish the dissertation let alone go through the viva. And I recall being somewhat shocked. After all, he was on the home straight. Surely now was not the time to give in? I think I said something like “Er…no you’re not. We haven’t come this far for you to throw the towel in!”
And in the new year, he threw that comment back at me. I was overwhelmed with exhaustion, fear of failing and just the sheer amount of work that was still left to do in order to finally hold Waking Mathilda in my hands. I wanted to give up because I honestly thought I couldn’t do it.
The learning curve has been pretty vertical for me these past few years and I’d love to share with you how I kept motivated.
So let’s jump right in and look at ways in which you too can stay on course. Whether you are writing book, finishing up a big project or having difficulty saying positive when life seems overwhelming, I hope the following sentiments are helpful to you.
1. Banish Negative Thoughts — Especially Those That Wake You Up
If you are anything like me, the moment I become conscious in the morning which can be quite early, I start to dread the day ahead. It might be because I feel super tired and indulge myself in a few minutes of wondering what a day in bed would be like.
Either way I do not naturally wake up with joy or a good mindset. But, because the rest of the day hinges on my outlook, I make a conscious decision to banish all negative thoughts by mentally making a switch.
In Hal Elrod’s book The Miracle Morning he recommends actually visualizing yourself waking up happy, full of energy and ready to go. It doesn’t sound that dramatic, but interestingly his suggestion is pretty effective. I was doing this on waking, but now I start the early happy thoughts as I switch the bedside lamp off. Since I know I am going to be up between 2–4 times each night with Mathilda I sometimes go over my mantra again in the small hours:
“Tomorrow will be a wonderful day.”
“I am going to be full of energy and focus.”
“I am so grateful for all that I have.”
2. Develop A Good Morning Routine And Make It Habit
I am a great believer in my morning routine setting the tone for the next 12 hours or more. If the time between 7am and 11am goes wrong, I can almost guarantee I have set myself up for a whole day of distraction, non-productivity, and even failure. I’ve learned that I need to do certain things in those hours to stay maximally motivated.
So, for me that means having a good brekkers with the family, hitting the gym, doing a fast hour of housework without lamenting the fact that I wish I had a housekeeper and then sitting down to work.
On the days I have sacrificed this for something like breakfast out, the rest of the day has been a right-off.
My workspace is a green desk in my front yard because that way I can slip into the zone, find my mojo and not look at crumbs on the kitchen floor. I start there under the oaks and begin with intentional writing, focusing on the my work and claiming my beliefs about the world and myself.
Whatever your optimal early morning routine is, make it habit and don’t give it up unless there is some real emergency. Try it for a month and see the difference.
3. Dream Big. Then Bigger
Reading Michael Hyatt’s book Platform-Get Noticed In A Noisy World was a game-changer for me. Michael challenges his audience to raise the roof on their dreams. May be it’s because I’m a Brit or having a mid-life or just not really believing that I can do anything if I put my mind to it, but after reading his book I wrote down all the things I really wanted to achieve in life.
This comes from my personal philosophy that life is short and I want to make a difference while I am here.
So in dreaming big, and even bigger, I have at the front of my mind both personal and professional goals which I have written down and remind myself in my daily planner. This is also the time when I list all the things I am grateful for and document how I can be more effective at serving others — my family, friends, community and audience. What I found in writing down my wildest dreams was that they were ridiculously ambitious. But hey, why not dream big and reach for the sky?
If you could lift the lid on your thinking and dream bigger than you ever have done, what would you reach for?
And what’s stopping you?
4. Keep Your Eye On The Ball
Here’s what separates the men from the boys. FOCUS.
I’ve known brilliant people who have brains bigger than Venus but who just can’t make it happen. I understand all the distractions because I have them too — low self-esteem, taxes, competition, kids, too much to do, the dog needing his meds, whatever. Since life is made up of the necessity of dealing with demands both trivial and significant it’s crucial to stay focused and on-task.
Typically, a motivated person keeps their eye on the ball by compartmentalizing their lives despite every day distractions.
Feeling exhausted and worrying about the kids distracts me as does other things. But worrying during my work hours does nothing for them and certainly hinders my work focus. Once I have finished writing for the day which is usually around 2pm, I switch mental gears but the hours before are focus-driven, protected and productive.
What distracts you?
Could you do a better job at staying focused by mental compartmentalization?
5. Re-kindle That Fire In Your Belly And Remind Yourself Of What’s At Stake
Going back to giving up the battle I had 6 months ago, I only needed to remind myself of the WHY I was writing my memoir in the first place.
What was it that drove me to begin telling our story and what would be at stake if I didn’t complete it?
The big drive with the book was to reach other parents and people who suffer. I also wanted to give sick children a voice because if we don’t as adults, who will? That’s about it in a nutshell. So it followed then, that if I didn’t finish the book, I would be letting all those people down. This reminder of what was a stake was enough to make me finish well and on time.
I’ve had fire in my belly three times in my life. The first was when I wanted to be a physical therapist. The second was deciding to home educate my kids and the third was the book that as published 6 weeks ago.
Reminding myself of what was at stake if I didn’t cling to those dreams forced me to see them through. And I am so glad I did!
And here’s where you can grab your copy of my memoir Waking Mathilda
For more info on Michael Hyatt check him out here: Michael Hyatt
And for the Miracle Morning check out Hal Elrod here: Hal Elrod