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Archive for November, 2007

Less than 24 hours – time to panic

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

[This post is part of the Evil Election Eve Blog Carnival]

It is less than 24 hours until Australia’s Federal Election. And I’m about to start panicking.

The same thing happens to me every time an election is called. I start with good intentions – this year I’m going to pay attention to the issues, figure out who really deserves to get my vote, learn how the voting system works and vote very deliberately.

But every time, as the time approaches, I get more and more overwhelmed. The media is saturated with crap that immediately makes me avoid it. Stuff ends up in my letter-box that is full of rhetoric and no substance. Advertising features people’s faces (which I have a chance of remembering), but I have to vote by name (which I have no chance of remembering). Pretty soon into a campaign I’m so over it that I block everything out.

Then there’s the overhead of trying to figure out the voting system. I’ve lived in NSW & ACT. State elections have a different system to the Federal Election. I’ve never gotten it straight and haven’t a clue how it works.

So I get to this point. It is 4.50pm, I have to leave the house in less than an hour to go to dinner, then vote early next morning. So I have less than an hour to figure out who I want to vote for and how to make my vote count. Oh, and I have to figure out where to vote, given I’m registered in NSW and live in ACT.

Given this marvelous thing called the internet, that should be OK. I’m sure someone sent me email this week about how to vote. I’m sure there is some good information out there.

But, really, I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to spend the mental effort of figuring out where to start, finding what I want, cross-checking it for bias, absorbing it, remembering for tomorrow morning.

So I’m going to do what I always do. Walk into the polling booth, looking like I know what I’m doing. Ignore all the people thrusting how-to-vote cards at me. Get inside, wish I had a how-to-vote card. Vote for the same party I always do.

Staying motivated

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

I wrote last night about my experience of having a settled day in a fairly unsettled period, and a few of the things that helped me do that. This was a good plan for a day, but it raises the bigger question that every freelancer faces – how to keep going day after day, with only you to be the motivator.

Motivation is the killer skill for any freelancer. I know that I’d prefer to be hanging out with my daughter, being with friends, reading, weaving, or playing in the garden. Heck, sometimes I’d even prefer to be doing hard exercise instead of working. But I don’t. I knuckle down and work, often to the point where I don’t do any of the things that I’d prefer to be doing.

How do I stay motivated? I’ve spent a bit of time self-analysing, and here is some of what I’ve learned about myself:

  • I love what I do: With occasional exceptions, I choose jobs I like. That in itself is the biggest motivator.
  • I love being good at what I do: I’m good at what I do, and love being good. Part of my motivation is to do everything better than last time and improve on every project. That keeps me going even on things I don’t learn a lot from.
  • I teach what I do: I take every opportunity to teach other people. That does two things for motivation – makes me think about how I work and how to teach it; and rewards me when someone else does a great job.
  • I like people: I’m in a service job. If I don’t enjoy working for and with people, I won’t do good work. But I do like people, so I’m motivated to do good work for them.
  • I know what I need: I keep my own books, including a spreadsheet that shows my yearly outlays and exactly how much I need to work every week to meet the minimum costs (including my salary). That helps me to remember how much I *do* have to work.
  • I keep track of financial health: Every month I analyse what I’ve done and how financially healthy the business is. I always know where I’m up to.
  • I expect crap to happen: I know how healthy my business is, but always have a buffer for a child with tonisillitis, a client who doesn’t respond on time, an illness. When I’m feeling comfortable, I don’t slow down, because it could happen at any time.
  • I take time out: I don’t panic about working all the time. During the last fortnight I went to a conference overseas (I taught and presented, so it was work) then got home and did some fun stuff. It wasn’t really a holiday, but a mini freelance break. It recharged me for a full week this week.
  • I love what I do: Yes, I already said that. But it is so important it is worth repeating.

How do you keep motivated to work when life is so fun?

Settling back into work

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

The last couple of months have been a bit strange. I’ve had changes to my personal life, moved house and been overseas to a conference. I’ve also been lugging my computer around more and sitting for longer hours in a bad chair.

My usual work pattern is to figure out what I want to do, sit down and concentrate for a couple of hours, burning through work. My colleagues know how much I can get through in a short time and often comment on it. I like being able to work like this. I love the feeling of flow, and love feeling my brain work hard for extended periods.

In the messiness of the past few months, my work has suffered. I’ve been feeling incredibly unsettled, haven’t been able to concentrate and straightforward work has been taking much longer than usual. I hate this feeling. I’m still doing good work, but it is slower and I’m not as happy with it. I’m not getting satisfaction out of working.

But today was different. For the first time in ages, I sat down, wrote my to-do list and *worked*. I stopped a couple of hours later, and knew I had achieved. I felt good.

It wasn’t just a fluke. I did some things to make this work:

  • I had a massage Monday, for the first time in a long time, and am finally not stiff and not in pain. I hadn’t realised how much the back pain was affecting my brain
  • I woke, had breakfast, showered, dressed…then turned the computer on (I usually check twitter and mail before anything)
  • I wrote my list of things to do
  • I turned off mail, twitter and distractions
  • I turned on music
  • I started at the top of my list
  • When I felt like being distracted and checking mail or doing something trivial, I just stopped myself. I just didn’t allow it to happen

Ahhhh…back to normal. That’s nice.

How do you keep going in times of unsettledness?