The worst thing about working for myself is I’m pretty sure my boss is shagging my girlfriend.
The second worst thing is, just like with any job, there are things I have to do that I really don’t want to. Sometimes those things are not just important, but urgent…and yet the call of procrastination is so strong. In a regular job, that’s what the boss is for. You see her walking around and it reminds you to get your ass to work.
Working for myself means I don’t have a boss to kick my ass when I’m struggling to get the grunt work done. So I have to be my own boss. I have to kick my own ass.
And so will you.
My own autoasskickery system came from years of experimentation, reading, and trying different things out until they stuck. Your system will be different from mine because you have different needs, different habits, different tastes, and a different ass. To help you out, though, here are six different techniques for getting your scut work done when Netflix, adorable children, or the great outdoors are whispering sweet somethings in your ear.
Go Bribe Yourself
You see this advice in every diet blog or Lifehacker article, but it’s popular for a reason. Letting yourself watch a show on Netflix, or eat a favorite snack, or go out with your friends for beers, after you get your work done is time-honored and effective. Captain Malcolm Reynolds said it best: “We work before we play.” The only trick is finding the rewards that motivate you best, and the motivation to not pay yourself early.
Go Pomodoro Yourself
The Pomodoro Technique means cycling your work in half-hour chunks with 25 minutes of focus and a 5-minute break. Every 4 cycles, you get 15 minutes off instead of five. My brother, a coder, swears this helped him improve his attention span at work immensely. I use a similar system of cycling work, but under a results-based metric rather than a timed metric. If you’re interested in trying it out, there are plenty of apps for iGizmos and Droid to get you started.
Go Ground Yourself
If the siren call of social media, streaming video, flash games or reading advice blogs is just too much for you, take a page from your parenting handbook (or your high school days if you’re still footloose and child-free). Play the part of the kid with bad grades, or who got caught skipping school and was punished even though it was for a very good reason. Let a productivity nanny program like LeechBlock, Pocket or If This Then That play the part of your parents. These will shut off your access to your favorite distractions for a set period of time, or until you give yourself permission to go in and disable them – hopefully once your work is complete.
Go List Yourself
“The system is the solution” says The E-Myth: The Gospel According to Saint Michael Gerber. You might be surprised how motivating it is to have a list of things you get to cross off, check off, or wipe off a whiteboard as you get them done. I was bloody amazed. Beginning each day with a detailed list of my tasks is absolutely central to how I get my work done. Ending each day by reviewing that list and patting myself on the back for crossing everything off is still immensely satisfying years after I started. Don’t ask me why. Ask this guy. I just know it works for me.
Go Cut Yourself
Sometimes you won’t want to do something not because it’s unpleasant, but because it’s intimidating. You promise yourself you’ll clean the garage this weekend, but one look at the scale of the mess and suddenly it’s beer-thirty. Cut that shit into smaller pieces: clear your work bench, then pick up the trash in one corner, then the trash in the next corner, etc. This also works for projects you really don’t want to do. I’ve had assignments I forced myself to write a paragraph at a time, with breaks in between. Smaller chunks make the work feel easier, even if they do sometimes break your flow and take longer than sustained effort.
Go Fuck Yourself
Excuse my French, but this is the most important option on this list. When all is said and done, you need to sit the fuck down, shut the fuck up and get it the fuck done. No excuses. No distractions. No points for effort or good intentions. You have a job to do. Go do it. It may not be as easy as I’m suggesting right here, but it’s exactly that simple.
If none of these work for you, you pretty much have three options. You can give up and go get a job where somebody else kicks your ass. On the plus side, there will be other people to do a lot of the stuff you don’t like, and you’ll get a steady pay check. And vacation and sick time. You won’t be allowed to get naked on Casual Everyday like you would working from home, though. And that’s not nothing.
Your other options are to either (a) figure out another system of selfasskickery that works for you, or (b) get an accountability buddy to kick your ass for you. A lot of folks get good mileage out of meeting a couple times a week to make promises about their business and hold each other responsible for keeping those promises.
What are your favorite ways to kick your own ass so you can later kick ass in general? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.