I am often asked about motivation, particularly when it comes to personal projects. How does an artist or designer or photographer maintain the interest and energy to balance client work and personal work? How does he or she find the time? The answer is both simple and complicated.

The Simple Answer

You either do it or you don’t. That’s all. The greatest creators in our society aren’t necessarily more brilliant than anyone else, but they are the ones who conceive an idea and follow through on it regardless of obstacles. They work all night, on the bus, in the back of the kitchen, and when the baby is crying. They follow through no matter what.

The Complicated Answer

Of course the ‘follow through’ is a challenge itself. You cannot simply make the change from inaction to action without following certain rules and laying a foundation in your daily routine. Here are a few ideas that I have found to be beneficial:

  1. Be the Job. If you’re a designer, be a designer all the time. Think like a designer. Do you love the craft? Then you should always be doing it, thinking of new ideas, and viewing the world through the lens of a professional designer. Vanity compels us to be complicated individuals. Yet, our idols are rarely viewed with complication. They are glorified and simplified as the embodiment of their particular craft. Hold to those expectations in your own career.
  2. Say Yes. Go outside, see new places, meet new people. Don’t be shy or lazy. Listen to that small guilty voice inside of you that is pushing you to leave the house and explore the world. It is amazing how many new doors are opened from being at the right place at the right time.
  3. Be Prepared. Bring your camera, book, sketch pad, business cards, or demo reel. Whatever you need to create or capitalize on a new opportunity, have it on you at all times. As a photographer, some of my best work has been the people or events I didn’t plan on seeing. Conversely, I have missed opportunities in my life because I didn’t feel like lugging my equipment around on that particular day. My solution has been to scale down my equipment by using small mirrorless cameras with equally small lenses. The whole arrangement easily fits in my jacket pocket, making the set-up both unobtrusive and still professional in quality.
  4. Monitor Progress. Whether it’s a formal chart or a quick review in your head, keep track of how productive your days are. Pay attention to the aspects of your day that slowed you down and try your best to avoid them. Does your productivity decrease when the television is on? Do you waste a lot of time on social media? Does a big lunch make you sleepy? Do certain people in your life take away your focus or enthusiasm? Keep track of these factors and adjust accordingly.

Motivation is cultivated, not endowed through birth. Through a daily commitment, a creator can build a far bigger and better body of work, and have a much more satisfying career and life.