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#15: How I Stay Motivated

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

What is UP my friends and fellow busybees. I hope you are feeling great and refreshed today, if you’re listening to this episode when it first airs then we are at a time of year that always feels really refreshing to me with the beginning of September - the kids are going back to school, and although I am never a happy camper when summer ends (and for the record, it has not officially ended, so I will continue to blissfully call it summer), I do still find this to be a really refreshing time of the year. And selfishly I do really love that all of the pumpkin spiced things are coming into the stores because I’m a basic bitch who is a sucker for that stuff, and everything just starts feeling a little more crisp.

This is usually the time of the year where the rose coloured glasses of summer start to rub off and I get a little more intentional with my routines and getting my goals on track after a summer of cottage weekends with friends, patio drinking and just generally lazing about in the hot sun. Which is a good point, remind me to do an episode on goal setting later this year because I have an approach to doing that that I’ve found really effective that I’d love to share if anyone’s interested.

But anyway, today we are talking about MOTIVATION because after a summer of being footloose and fancy free, maybe taking some vacation time off with the family or the kids, it can sometimes be hard to get back into the swing of things and get the motivation to do the things you need to do, either for yourself and your wellness or in your business. So I wanted to share some of the things that I do to keep myself on track and being productive, both in life and in my furniture painting and refinishing business.

And if you haven’t already heard, I have a FREE guide and checklist that I’ve put together for anyone interested in starting their own official furniture painting and refinishing business and just don’t know where to start- so if this is something you’ve thought about doing before or if you’re someone who just kind of fell into owning a furniture refinishing business and aren’t sure if you did all of the things you ought to have and want to double check if you missed anything, be sure to click through to the link in the show notes of this episode to download it and get you on track.

So as someone who is slightly controlling and Type A, my best way for staying motivated and on track in all areas of my life is to be organized. I have a mind that can wander and so while I’m on my way from the bedroom to the garage to go work on some pieces, I can get distracted on the way by tidying up the bathroom and then noticing that I forgot to put my hair straightener away in my Makeup Room (yes I have a Makeup Room, don’t @ me), and then on my way downstairs notice that I haven’t vacuumed the stairs in awhile so I’ll do that quickly and then when I go to put the vacuum back I’ll notice some dirty dishes left in my husband’s office so I’ll grab those and bring them to the sink and then notice a couple dishes from lunch so I might as well wash all of those and then, oh wait, what was I doing? Oh yeah, I should have been in the garage an hour ago working on something. Sooo you can see how, without the proper thing helping me focus and stay on track, I can kill a lot of time in a day doing a lot but not really getting anything accomplished.

So I have implemented some things to keep me organized, on paper or online, that gives me things every day that I need to do so I know the next step on what I’m doing and what I need to prioritize. So I have a weekly agenda checklist thing that I personalized from a template someone had made on Notion which is a project management and note-taking software. They have a web version and an app and it is a very pleasing software for me because it has a lot of functionality to set your stuff up the way that works for you and personalize it without needing to be able to do any designing or making it aesthetic.

For anyone who loves an old school notebook or agenda, I would recommend giving Notion a try and see how you like it or just watch a YouTube video or two watching someone who uses it because this has become somewhere I have integrated a lot of my things, including this agenda checklist document where on Sundays I lay out the week ahead and for each day, indicate the top 3 work-related things that I need to accomplish. Then for each day I usually add one cleaning or house-related item I want to get done and one personal thing, like booking a chiropractor appointment or whatever. This way, I have 3 things I know I will have to focus on accomplishing that day and then anything else on top of that I do is just icing on the cake, but at a minimum, I know I completed three things that will move the needle a bit in my business. I have also created and have been using a habit tracker in Notion that has also helped keep me on track and building things into my day that I know are good for me or make me feel good, as a way to intentionally build happiness into my day. Highly recommend.

Another project management software I use is Asana, and I started using this before I tried Notion which is why I still have this component in there, but I might move it over to Notion soon. Asana is great and also has a free option, but I feel like I should just have everything in one place but anyways.. This is where I make sure I am staying on track for any custom projects I am working on or have upcoming! So I create basically a drop down item for each client I’m working with, prioritize them based on the dates I’ll be working on the pieces, and then within each drop down I will create a separate task for every step needed to complete that custom project and I’ll mark them as completed as I move through the project. So for example, tasks could be things like: arrange drop off date, deposit received, piece cleaned, piece scuff sanded, piece primed, piece painted, piece top coated, pick up date arranged, outstanding payment received.

Setting this all up might seem like a waste of time for some people, I totally get that, but for me and my brain, this is the way that I feel like I am accomplishing something and really making an impact when I do these smaller, seemingly insignificant tasks. It helps to remind me that I am working towards a larger goal, the completion of the custom project, and it helps me to feel productive within the project by being able to tick off those smaller tasks as I go. And ultimately, this makes me feel more motivated because I’m tangibly seeing myself get closer to that goal, and thus, to the money that will come from it. Because let’s be real, money is a great motivator too.

I also input any relevant due dates within the software so if we are approaching a due date and I haven’t marked the task as Completed, it sends me an email reminder. So that’s helpful to automate that piece instead of having to consult it every single day to make sure I’m not missing anything, but I also love using an online software for this because it’s much quicker than always hand writing it all out because I can create templates and then just Copy/Paste them and edit to fit the project each time, which is a time saver.

And this kind of leads into, honestly, my best recommendation for staying motivated: just stay consistent. Regardless of how much time you have available in a day, make sure to do something every day that you can that is furniture painting and refinishing- even if it’s only for 5 minutes. Sometimes that’s all you need to do the next step in one of your projects, and the more you do this, the less you will need to rely on motivation to get you into your workshop because you will be building the habit and over time, before you know it you will find yourself ending up there without even having to tell yourself to get out there or to have to work up the motivation to go out there. Now, even if I have a busy day of running around or doing a bunch of different things, I still find myself instinctively going out to work in the garage when I have that free time in my day- whether it’s going out to plug away at some things while I sip my morning coffee or when I was working my 9 to 5, I would go out during my lunch breaks after shoving some food in my face quickly to get the most out of that hour.

Regardless of the amount of time you have in your day, you do have enough time to get SOMEthing done. Maybe you can’t put a full coat on the whole furniture piece, but can you at least paint the body? Or maybe just the drawers? Or maybe only half of the drawers? Whatever it is, it’s better than nothing! Get into the habit of getting out there and getting something accomplished, and eventually you won’t wait for that feeling of motivation (because yes, it’s a feeling, not a verb).

Another thing that could happen from that practice of just getting out there and working on it every day is that you might not have been in the mood to work on your piece when you were inside sitting on your butt scrolling Tiktok, but once you got out there and were like “okay, I’m going to work on this for just 15 minutes”, after those 15 minutes are up you might find that you’re really into it and in a state of flow and want to dedicate some more time to it… even better! I know for me personally, with most things, it’s just the getting there that’s hard to get me to do- whether it’s going to the grocery store, going to the gym to workout or getting into the garage to work- but once I’m there, I’m happy to do the thing and end up being really satisfied afterwards that I did it.

For whatever the reason, my brain just stubbornly is like ‘ehhh, we can probably skip that today and it would be fine”. So if I push back on that a bit and am just like, let’s just show up. Let’s show up and give it 10 minutes, and if by that point I feel like I’m done, I can leave. But show up and see what happens– I bet you’ll find that you end up creating that motivation and that feeling of wanting to continue and do more. So that’s a sneaky way of reverse engineering the motivation when you aren’t instinctively feeling or creating it beforehand. Again, work smart, not hard!

And because I do have that stubborn brain that I mentioned, I have another approach to staying productive and motivated to work on my furniture makeovers that is a way to let myself feel like I’m the one in control and making decisions, even if it is within the confines of the reality that I WILL, in fact, be working on my pieces today even if I’m not really feeling it: I work on multiple pieces at once. Typically I’ll have anywhere from two to, maybe four or five pieces at different stages of being worked on at a time. Currently I have a hutch, a chest of drawers, a corner shelf unit, a console table and a little entryway unit all in the works in one way or another… so that’s 5, and that’s a mix of 3 custom projects and 2 of my own projects, plus I just finished a set of matching coffee table and side table today that I’ll be listing so I guess that would technically make 6. And that sounds like a lot, and some of them will take longer than others to complete in full, but why do I do this?

Because when I walk out into the garage, I feel like I’m in control of what I want to do. I have those 3 non-negotiables in my day so that limits me a bit, but if I’m really feeling like doing some painting, then there’s probably a piece that is at that stage or requires some touch ups or finer detail painting. If it’s a time of day that sanding would be appropriate and I feel like blasting some music and doing some sanding, chances are there’s a piece that could use either a strip or scuff sanding. And if that doesn’t appeal to me at all, maybe there’s another piece in my inventory I know I will be starting next that I can start working on cleaning. And if all else fails, there’s always supplies around the garage that could maybe use some tidying to be put back into their place, so maybe I do some of that to get myself into the groove before jumping into those other things.

It allows me to have options, so that gives me some semblance of control so it doesn’t feel like I have to do anything. And if I’m behind honest, there is never a day that I’m just dragging myself into the garage… I love doing this, I feel so grateful to be able to call this my job and I truly haven’t felt like I’ve had to work for one minute since I’ve left my 9 to 5. But some days there’s more resistance than others, just out of pure laziness. So that’s a great strategy if you’re someone who has a pesky brain like mine. Please tell me there’s at least one of you out there… I can’t be the only one, right?!

Another foolproof way for me to get motivated to work on my pieces, either when I’m feeling lazy or am just not feeling very inspired and maybe don’t know what direction to go with a piece, is to look to others for inspiration and motivation. I am totally someone who feeds off of the energy of others (good or bad), so when I see other people doing awesome shit and accomplishing hard things and being creative and bringing a vision to fruition, I’m like hell yeah let’s go get some of that. And it’s an important distinction and sometimes a deliberate mindset shift you need to do and a muscle you need to work, because for some, you can look at people doing that kind of stuff and feel lesser than or like you aren’t doing enough in comparison and it could make you feel shitty about yourself.

But if that is the case, that is a decision that you are making.

And if that is the case, remind yourself of that. Think, “woah, who’s thought was that? Don’t know where that came from, but wow! Look at this awesome project so and so did, that must have been hard, I’m so proud of them and this inspires me so much. I can’t wait to take on a project of my own and motivate someone else like they are motivating me right now!”. It sounds corny, maybe it is corny, but it’s science and it works, guys. Neurons that fire together, wire together. So be intentional and catch yourself in those negative, yucky thoughts and turn it around.

So anyways, YES, if I know I have a lot of time that I ought to work on pieces in a day but am not feeling like it, I’ll turn on a YouTube video (or sometimes watch Instagram stories, but that can turn into a rabbit hole if I don’t keep an eye on the time and limit myself) with a set timeframe and typically that will motivate me to get going because I am inspired by what they are doing, and appreciative of them sharing their knowledge and educating me, so I want to pay it forward and share what I know. It’s always a great reminder to serve my community, whether it’s on my Instagram, TikTok, YouTube or Pinterest account, or on the podcast or blog.

Another thing that I’ll do sometimes instead of just randomly scrolling through those platforms to find inspiration, is to turn to the things that previously inspired me and I saved. On Tiktok and Instagram, I have collections that I’ve saved (and if you know me well enough by now, you know I have a ton of them and they are all intentionally named collections like Inspo, Fitness, Fashion, Life Hacks, Recipes, Business Knowledge, and that kind of thing) and I’ll go back and look through the ones I’ve saved in the past when looking for inspiration. I don’t just willy nilly save things into those folders, so I know that anything that I deemed at the time important enough to save, is something worth revisiting and reminding myself of. So if you don’t already do that, I highly recommend- on Instagram, you just click the little ribbon at the bottom right of a post and then you’ll see Save to Collection pop up, you click that and you can either create a folder and name it or choose one you’ve previously made, and on Tiktok the icon looks the same but the word Manage come up and then you do the same thing.

The people around you can also be huge sources of motivation for you, so don’t forget that, and be sure to surround yourself with people who inspire you and pump you up. And even better if they can understand what you are going through when you’re feeling a bit blehh and having a lull, which is why I always recommend putting together at least a couple people in your tribe who are fellow furniture painters or refinishers. Even if you’re just internet friends who never meet and only chat about furniture and paint and laugh at relatable memes, they are someone that can help to motivate you when you need it and vice versa. They’ll understand the feeling and encourage you to give yourself the grace that you knew you needed and already had in you, but it’s nice to hear it from someone else. So DEFINITELY recommend, and I absolutely love the group of furniture refinishers that we have for our area that I discussed in Episode 10 talking about Community Over Competition.

Also, sometimes you just want to commiserate with someone who understands the reality of just how annoying it is to have put 4 coats of primer on a piece of dark wood furniture and still be getting bleed through so… having those Go To’s in your back pocket is really handy when you need someone who can just let you bitch and vent for a sec before you pick yourself up and move on and address the issue, you know?

And one thing that I do want to say alongside my advice to work on your pieces every day, because I know that sounds a little hardcore, but it comes with this caveat: know when you need to take a break and let yourself adhere to that part of your brain that tells you when you’ve hit that point. Don’t let those days be more frequent than the ones you’re working, but you’ll know it for yourself if you are nearing the point of burnout, whether it be emotionally, physically, creatively, spiritually or otherwise… and take some time away when you feel that coming, BEFORE everything explodes around you and it’s harder to bounce back. Because sometimes that bleh feeling is an indicator that you need to change things up a bit and fill up your cup in other ways before returning to the project, and that’s totally okay to do.

Did you hear that? It’s OKAY to do, so consider this me giving you permission to do so, if you were waiting to hear it from someone.

Do what you need to do to be well, and then hop back on the horse when you can, and of course, evaluate if there’s anything you can shift or try out differently to ensure you don’t reach that point again. Like I always say, you are in charge and so if you aren’t able to work your magic on those furniture pieces, it doesn’t do anybody any good. Put yourself first and the rest will come.

And lastly, you are well aware by now if you’ve been listening to the podcast for any amount of time, one thing that really gets me motivated… going back and reading the little motivational messages that I keep in the Notes app on my phone. They literally always get me fired up, so I’m going to end every podcast episode with one of those that I have noted down over the years, in hopes that you leave our time here each week feeling inspired, motivated, and ready to take on whatever comes your way that week.

So before I get to Mel's motivational message... do this!

If you hear messages, whether it's here on the podcast, when you're scrolling through Instagram and you see a quote or a meme, when you're reading a book or talking to people or you see a billboard and there's some sort of message or sentence that speaks to you and really hits home and resonates and makes you think about things in a way that you haven't before, and it motivates and inspires and just makes you happy... write it down.

Write it down, and then put it somewhere you see it often.

Whether it's on your bathroom mirror so you see it before you go to bed every day or on the fridge or put somewhere so you can see it where you stand waiting for your morning coffee to brew, put it somewhere that you will see it all the time. If that message is impactful to you, your brain will register it if you're seeing it often and you'll start to live it, and live by it.

So keep that in mind. So this week’s Mel’s motivational message is: The secret to getting ahead is getting started.

So often we can get stuck in that paralysis by analysis and overthinking things and letting that become something that is on a pedestal and feels almost insurmountable. When you're thinking about something too much or planning it out too much -- you might have all of the supplies ready, and you've done all of the research and you have a game plan, but something is just keeping you from getting started-- but something is still keeping you from getting started, that could be a sign. If you're finding all of those little things on your way out to the garage that you *should* do, thinking you need to clean the whole house first top to bottom, scrubbing the floors with a toothbrush on your hands and knees... just stop yourself, and remember that the secret to getting ahead is just getting started.

All you need are those 10 minutes to get you out there, kick off the project, start plugging away, and it doesn't matter how long it takes you to complete-- but just get started. Get started today.

And that goes if you're looking to start a furniture refinishing business too-- if you've done a few furniture flips for yourself and you're thinking you might want to give it a go, just get started. There's no way you can screw things up, and you can learn and make changes as you go, but take that first step in the right direction and just s t a r t.

Again, if you're going to do that, I highly recommend checking out my Free Guide and Checklist for Starting a Furniture Refinishing Business that I've put together... but just get started.

I can guarantee you down the line once you've put that time and effort in, you've learned more, you've fine tuned some things... you're going to wish you'd started sooner. You're going to think, "I remember 2 years before I actually started when I first started thinking about that thing, because now 2 years after I actually started I could be twice as far in my progress as I am right now".

So that goes for anything, just get started. It might be sloppy at first and you might feel like you're a baby deer that's learning to walk but in the long run, you're going to appreciate your previous self who just took that leap, held their breath and was a little extra courageous that day, and got started.

Alright, that’s it for now, I appreciate your time, and I’ll catch you guys next week!

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