Staying Motivated

by Kevin Cornell

58 Reader Comments

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  1. To me There just one word: Be a Zealot~

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  2. Especially love the “be unrealistic” and “get out of the house” (or office) ideas. Sometimes a steeper hill and a change of scenery ARE what it takes to shake out of, or off a plateau.

    Thanks…will recommend to others, as well.

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  3. It’s so easy the get pulled away to read articles about motivation, RSS, or just wander the web, when the best solution would be just start working.

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  4. That’s a kind of external and internal stimulation at once, the crazy people help your internal ideas to come out by not being blocked by thinking of being normal so much.

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  5. http://www.scottberkun.com/essays/55-how-to-stay-motivated

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  6. It seems that recently we are getting more and more fluffy articles and less technical ones. Is that because there’s nothing left to discover with CSS, or the result of [gulps] market research?

    I didn’t enjoy this article at all. To paraphrase Duke Ellington’s (?) quote about swing: “if you need to read articles about it, you ain’t got it”

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  7. It’s you.  ;)

    Seriously, though, not every article hits every reader’s sweet spot (or can). If you have no problem getting and staying motivated, rock on with your bad self. But many of us do have problems staying inspired and productive; articles like Kevin’s help.

    More broadly, if ALA is not “amazing CSS trick of the week,” that doesn’t mean there are no new horizons in CSS. It means professional webmaking is about more than just great code. Articles about information architecture, writing, design, and so on may be fluff to you, but they are not fluff to many other web professionals who read this magazine.

    In the late 90s and early 00s, we focused more often on web standards (and on the kind of articles that would generate excitement about web standards) because somebody had to. Those battles are not over, but history (and best practices) are now on our side, allowing A List Apart to once again broaden its coverage of professional web design and development.

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  8. I am not knocking articles writing, design and the rest of it, but I do miss some of the more technical articles you guys used to publish.

    This is not to say ALA is not a great site though, and thanks for the time and effort you put into it.

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  9. Jeffrey I fully agree with Your comment for me the best part of Your commnet is: “In the late 90s and early 00s, we focused more often on web standards (and on the kind of articles that would generate excitement about web standards) because somebody had to. Those battles are not over, but history (and best practices) are now on our side, allowing A List Apart to once again broaden its coverage of professional web design and development.” btw. I want to thank Kevin for really great article (I like the ideas You write for me some of them are really brilliant!) and I’m waiting for another one from You!

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  10. Thanks, Tomek – glad to lend a hand :D

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  11. All these tips are all well and good, but lets not lose sight of ACTUAL motivational rewards…  Money + Babes.

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  12. I found this article inspiring.  I guess somehow most of us know a lot of self motivating techniques but we don’t apply them and seeing those techniques in one article as well written as they are here is a very fresh re-start for some of us.

    I have the ALA RSS feed since a while now and never really paid attention to it (even though i work making websites), this article changed that and i’ll be following the site from now on.

    Best of lucks for you guys,

     

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  13. @Richard: So true. I can’t tell you how many women made out of 24 carat gold I’ve dated.

    @Juan: Thanks Juan – For myself, this list of techniques was always helpful in keeping me focused. So much of this article was compiled from sticky notes on my desktop :D

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  14. Some very sound advice. Keeping a notebook or sketch pad to hand is definitely very important. 90% of all my design work starts as a scrawled sentence, doodle or sketch.

    I think making a definite boundary between work space and living space (if you work at home or live at the office), is especially important. It’s a way to “trick” one’s brain into working.

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  15. Personally I don’t care whether the articles relate to web design specifically or not, as long as they’re interesting and well written.

    What I particularly like about this one is that while what I do for a living is web “stuff”, what I consider I am is a writer. Not a successful one, but that doesn’t mean I ain’t one.

    Simply because for a long period of my life I’ve enjoyed writing and write regularly. A lot of it is simply my thoughts on news events and such like (scoff now and dismiss as simply another uppity blogger if you like – but make sure to sound just the right amount of derision), but the key point is I write regularly.

    I write, on average, at least 1500-1600 words a day, normally at least 5 days a week. The more you do it, the easier it gets: and that applies whether it’s writing, illustrating, or cutting code.

    So ideas and thoughts that other people have used to keep their creative juices flowing are interesting (particularly when I note I already use many similar techniques myself) and well worth listening to.

    Thank you Kevin for this.

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  16. Thanks for this article.

    To add on to Kevin’s list: if I can’t force myself to fill up that blank page, sometimes it helps to have music (played at a decent volume).

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  17. Your most welcome, Jack. And you touch upon an interesting point. While the article provides new options and techniques for some, I think for most people it will simply provide confirmation on techniques that they’re currently using, or have considered trying out. Hopefully it will help some tentative creatives commit to trying a new path.

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  18. I am a web designer.  I am also a pianist and composer.  I found this article incredibly useful for my design work, but even more useful for my music.  Thanks, Kevin.

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  19. The advice about the importance of work environment is spot-on, but let’s not forget our internal environment.  My body is a crucial support system for my brain.  I think and create best when I am well-fueled, and for me, that means having some protein in a recent meal.  For others, it may be having a glass of juice or milk at hand, or a slow but steady stream of carbohydrates to maintain blood sugar level.  Similarly, sleep.  I usually hit peak creativity and productivity at night, but if I haven’t slept well the night before, I won’t ever hit it.

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  20. Good point, Robert :D

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  21. This is my first time on ALA and I am immediately impressed, this was a fantastic read! I am feeling a bit unmotivated and not very inspired at the moment, and this had given me many tips and much which I hope to put into practice. Thanks for the great article! ;)

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  22. First, thanks for this very well written and interesting article, Kevin!

    Most of these “techniques” are well known to most of us, but as some have already said, we just like to forget about them.

    For me, if motivation drops down or something gets too complicated, it works best to just put things down and change location/take a walk. And one point — already suggested by Robert Mohns —, maybe most important but yet unvalued, is to keep yourself strong and healthy.

    Get some sleep, eat breakfast!

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  23. I really enjoyed reading that and it’s especially apt at this time of the year when everyone is thinking of holidays, (either with regret or longing). I’ve been a bit lax with my notebook keeping of late but you’ve inspired me to start up again: you certainly make a very compelling argument for keeping one. Also, like you, I find my morning time is best: but it never occurred to me to before to set it aside for the more creative tasks and do the mundane stuff in the afternoon! Finally, one thing I would add to your list is “Sleep on it”: I often find that when I can’t solve a problem, it can be useful to stop thinking consciously about it. When I wake up the next morning, I will often have the solution I was looking for.

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  24. Definitely another good suggestion, David. Brains are funny like — sometimes the subconscious seems to want to try and figure things out without the conscious mind butting in!

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  25. All I have to do is set goals, not set goals, work in my creative space, work outside of my creative space, study my peers and not study my peers. I’ll make sure to remember or not remember this advice.

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  26. Haha – yes, a lot of these tips are contradictory. But the way to stay motivated is to zig when zagging isn’t working, and zag when zigging no longer cuts it. The goal of this article was to emphasize that particular aspect of staying motivated. There is no infallible 10-step plan for getting creatively charged, and writing an article where I only shared tips that work 100% of the time would have been impossible.

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  27. Seems like noone has mentioned the most important part of staying motivated—staying HAPPY!

    If you graph these two variables, you’d find they’d be almost on top of eachother. Causation people! :)

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  28. Thanks for the nice reply Kevin. I went and re-read my comment from yesterday, and I must have been in a crabby mood, ‘cause I sounded totally negative. Sorry about that. I think your article was well-written, and I agree with most of your points. I just had a chuckle at some of the contradictory headlines, but like you said, it’s about the zig and zag. Good work.

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  29. No problem :D

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  30. Thanks for the strategies for keeping on track. I find also that just relaxing and listening to music gives me the time I need to find fresh approaches to whatever project is trying to kick me off its back.

    Arleigh Cee
    http://hompreneur.blogspot.com

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  31. Thank you for a excellent article with a lots of useful ideas! Buy the way the illustrations true the whole ALA are amazing. I hope to see more design professionals talking about their skills and habits in the future. Keep the good work.

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  32. This is a very good reminder if nothing else. Excellent, solid advice. Motivation is the key to success in many ways.

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  33. Excellent article and very timely. One question: What about pushing through when one is under the influence of too much creativity and too little time/resources to handle it? Frequently I find myself in that situation—too many ideas or directions to choose which one to follow and I end up following none.

    I love your illustrations too, by the way. You do an excellent job catching the spirit of the article.

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  34. I hear ya, Patricia. Sometimes you have so many voices with so many creative ideas all blaring in your head at once, it feels like a mistake to put one aside when they all could be masterpieces!

    But what it comes down to is that you have to choose the creative idea that’s most important to you, execute it, and ignore the others. In any creative endeavor, a lot of excellent possibilities will have to fall to the wayside for the good of that one idea that’s most important to you. You have to edit your efforts in the same way an author edits a story.

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  35. What if it’s the clients who are killing the design and motivation? What if every single link, copy, etc. gets over analyzed and watered down? How does one escape that (besides looking for a new job because your current gig pays killer)?

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  36. I’d love to say there’s an escape… but I’m not sure there always is one. The best you can do, if finding another job is not an option, is pick your battles and defend the 2 or 3 things most important to you in any design. A project you share with your team, and the client, will always have to be full of compromises – some of which you won’t agree with.

    But if you what you REALLY yearn for is complete creative freedom, then perhaps you can develop a side project of your own. When I was working at an agency, my personal website became an important place for me to stretch my design legs. I usually came into work an hour or two early to work on it, and did little bits throughout the day when I had a chance. Every little bit counts, and probably helps stem the tide of creative frustration.

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  37. Kevin, thanks for this article. Honestly, all I’ve ever heard regarding motivation is “c’mon man, you just gotta be disciplined and push through it!” That never helped. You gave 17 alternatives which really takes off the pressure. Somehow, I don’t feel as incompetent.

    Also, as others have mentioned, your illustrations are awesome.

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  38. Thanks, Don :D

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  39. I recently moved-in with my girlfriend and lost my “big ugly (IKEA) glass top desk” (Creative Den). While it did get messy, I was able to spread out. Now, I have this very consolidated work-space (“cleaner”), but I have nowhere for my post-it notes and piles. We’re now meeting at a compromise with a new, bigger desk (not from IKEA).

    My point: This article reminded me how important that space is to me. Thanks, Kevin!

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  40. It really does help especially when trying something for the first time not to expect too much from yourself.

    I try to focus on making simple things work when learning new web technologies wether its CSS, Regular Expressions, Javascript, PHP or just trying to combine things together.

    Don’t try to build a perfect website in one day. Rather start with a single element of what will later become part of that perfect site.

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  41. Personally I thought this article was great.

    Sometimes when your motivation is a bit low, all it takes to get you back up there is to read an article which reminds you that this happens to the best of us at some point or other.

    Thanks for taking the time out to write this Kevin.

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  42. creative thinkers, the doodlers of the lecture hall/ meeting room. most of us have the attention span of a small child in harrods toy department and yet some of our projects seem to flow for years…so easy to lose the big picture.  to have someone just put it down just seems to affirm what we already know (and yet need to read because like the 3 year old we are now too busy playing with something with sparkly coloured lights that moos.  thanks for the heads up..time to refocus..but the lights are so pretty

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  43. Excellent “fluffy” (love that) article.
    I call lack of motivation Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday usually between 9-5.
    To coin a quote from freelancers blog…
    “Your worst day working from home is pretty much better than any day at the office”

    Its always easier to stay motivated when you’ve not got to justify a design to 30 people, most of which stem from print design and still think the Internet’s a fad.

    WOOHOO

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  44. It never would have occured to me that motivation was an issue.  Motivation is that damn blank sheet of paper (screen, whatever).  For me, what I used to think of as writers block in fact was idea block.  After a lifetime in the business of ideas (advertising), bringing a fresh perspective to the party was sometimes more easily done than others.  When I struggled, I had to purge the hackneyed, the trite, the obvious for the unexpected, fresh, original.  Exercising your inner child, endless digging, discovering new insights is and was the key. For a list of 241 links to ideation, visit www.ieclectic.com

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  45. Really good article, it’s nice to read on something ‘not so technical’ once in a while.
    And I found this one really useful!

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  46. Thanks for writing this! I’ll be sending this to friends and also bookmarking it! Great advice for beginners too!

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  47. Stuff is simple,practicle and very useful.Best thing is, it does not require too much of extra effort(which would need great deal of motivation… again).Thanks.
    -Harsh

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  48. Cruising ALA for both some creative solutions and “inspiration”, I stumbled upon this article in the recent postings.  Thanks!  Sound advice to both a “web generalist without a job description” and “aspiring writer”. 

    Now I just need to create my work area, i.e. excavate my desk from my “in” pile.

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  49. I often read articles on ALA, but this one doesn’t feel me indifferent. So I decided to post my first comment, although my English is so bad.

    I read right words here, and in the moment when I seek creative idea, I learn how to learn find out myself. Indeed, I think that take my pencil, put it in boudaries of my paper before to “keep an eye” on my peers.

    I will again trust on myself, and I will launch (and note) my project…

    Thank you for advices!

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  50. Kevin,

    I really appreciate your article, now I feel that I have a tool to work around those times when I feel lost.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    You just gave me back my hope. And I’m going to use each word from your article from now on.

    Thank you.

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  51. What an great Article!, thanks so much, as im a lazy ass sometimes this will help me stay more motivated, you got a reader more.

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  52. Hey , thank you very much for this great stuff! Keep up your great work! Greetings Daniel

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  53. motivation can be my biggest enemy at times…thanks for the great article

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  54. yeah.. totally true, I find that motivation is just one of the hardest things to get right.. also since there is other requirements in life to distract you from the task at hand.. the comments on setting up a place is sooo important.

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  55. Very useful, that changed the way I thought about myself!
    Thanks! I will recommend it with pleasure!

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  56. That’s a very good article about motivation and how you can be successful in your job, especially when you are a freelancer. Thank you very much!

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  57. It’s funny. But out of all of those, carrying a notebook was a big turning point for me. I’ll be out with friends on a Friday night or and the gas station buying my daughter a Bug Juice and suddenly something will hit.
    I have always been that kind of person. I really wish I had done something about it when I was younger. I have seen a lot of great ideas come into fruition over the years that I never had a notepad around to scribble it into.

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  58. Things will always evolve and people will always reminisce to the good old days, technology is doing rather well right now and rather inspiring I think!

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