How do you stay motivated when you’re mostly solo?

And a few ideas for groups that I'd like try out

Notes from Jenn:

  • Laser coffee (yes, you read that right) exists.
  • As a way of holding me accountable, I am telling you now that my creative coffee people series “In Focus” will begin in the next issue send with writer and all-around-amazing coffee person Ever Meister.
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How do you stay motivated when you’re mostly solo?

One of the worst things about solo project management is that no one is around to keep you motivated and on track. This is also a familiar challenge if you’ve started and never finished personal projects, attempted to develop habits, or are in a self-directed role.

I recently completed two programs and one challenge. The Artist’s Way is 12 weeks long (I made it 13 because I felt a need to “redo” a week), the Substack Grow program for developing writers’ newsletters was six weeks long, and the mini1000 challenge (writing 1000 words a day) was six days long. Looking back, I’m surprised I completed them all, though definitely at varying levels of quality.

For those interested in how The Artist’s Way went for me, I’d say that it did accomplish what I needed (ongoing generation of creative ideas) and exposed some areas of interest I’m now working towards. I would do the course again but with a small group and a few adjustments. It wasn’t very inclusive of mental health or cultural identities, and I think it would’ve been more fruitful if I felt like I was “in the same boat” with others.

The Substack Grow program was good. I think the most value I had was meeting other writers. Some parts required additional work outside the presentation hours and I found myself falling behind on the homework (my issue, not theirs). I struggled to find time outside of working hours to work on…well, work. I try to have solid work-personal boundaries in place, so it’s rare for me to move my laptop from the desk to the couch. The desk is for work, the couch is not.

Finding motivation and keeping the momentum is tough for many people, especially when solo. I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all theory of building habits, though there are psychology research studies that support specific tactics. “Habit building” is its own niche: Google it, and you’ll find books, articles, coaches, research studies, and more.

For me, being accountable for projects and building habits are very similar. The most effective way for me to get something done is to tell someone when it’ll be done. This hooks into my anxiety/social anxiety where I think, “Oh, someone knows it’s supposed to be done, so I must get it done!” regardless of whether or not that person is actively expecting it. It’s why I wrote that my next newsletter issue would be an interview, tell you when to expect this newsletter (I have never missed a send!), and give clients expected completion dates (also a good practice for setting expectations).

Another very effective method for me is gameifying with “streaks.” I’m not overly competitive, but I don’t like breaking a streak: I’m at 1267 days of learning Spanish on Duolingo. I’ve also used incentives with cash (if I don’t do X, I owe a friend $50), services (if I don’t do Y, I’ll clean a friend’s bathroom), and rewards (treat myself with a nice pastry if I can get through this week). Visual reminders, where I put post-its around the apartment or tape a calendar up with the incentives, have also been great.

I started this reflective essay thinking that I would write about motivation and habits, and now it’s evolved into some musing aloud of projects I’d like to get into but would like others to join in on. I’ve learned that if you want to try something, get it out there in the universe, and you might find that someone else is also interested in trying it out.

So here goes—

  • a writing accountability group where we’re around the same career level (peer to peer, not mentor to mentee). Having an area in common like food & beverage or culture would be helpful. You probably don’t want me in a writing group about crypto.
  • a group where we take a photography course together. An actual college or similarly structured self-directed course.
  • a creative production challenge where you complete prompts in a certain amount of time. I’ve done a year-long daily photo challenge and a weekly one, and both were effective at forcing me to create even when I didn’t want to.

I don’t want to do all the above simultaneously, but if any of it strikes a chord in you, let me know! Or add your group interest below, and maybe you’ll find someone else who also wants in.

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🤳🏻 social media

For IG & FB Reels, Meta added a conversion from stories to reels and better analytics. It’s moving away from live shopping and going for Reels.

Instagram added DM shopping features for businesses and a dual camera mode that captures both content and your reaction at the same time (social network BeReal is IG’s newest muse). It released a new overview of how it selects recommended posts in one’s home feed. And it’s testing full-screen photos.

📤 digital marketing

👀 interesting reads

artful leaf outlines on left, "plant update" immediately to the right
small zucchini in center growing out of a plant, a large yellow flower wilted at the end
The first zucchinis are coming out!