How to Stay Inspired When You’re Slogging Through It Day After Day
Photo courtesy of Jon Fife.

How to Stay Inspired When You’re Slogging Through It Day After Day

Written by Emilie

Topics: Productivity

This post is part of the Multi-Focus Maverick Series. A series about how to split up your time effectively so that you can focus on many things and make progress on all of them.


Sometimes my multipotentialite days are super fun. They might consist of some writing in the morning, a little violin in the afternoon, an adventure with a buddy and a Bollywood dance class in the evening.

Other times, my multipotentialite days are… less fun. These days may involve replying to endless emails, politely declining to work on amazing projects that I’d love to get involved with, but have no time for, and battling with resistance to get a post written.

On some days work is a pleasure. All your scanner parts work in synchronicity and you feel like a burning furnace of productivity. Other days… Well, other days are simply a bitch to get through.

Every Inspiring Goal is Made Up of Day-to-Day “Annoyances”

I’ve read countless times about how writers routinely sit down and bash their heads against their desks, stare at blank screens, slave away endlessly in isolation. I recently read a book on television writing, where the author admitted to hating the actual process of writing. However, seeing his script come to life on television made the whole thing worthwhile. Over the course of those 23 minutes, all the hours of pain would melt away from his memory and he’d be rejuvenated and ready to do it all over again.

How do you have fun and stay inspired when the immediate work on your plate is less creative and more, shall we say, “maintenance,” in nature?

You need reminders of your big-picture visions.

Remember those core projects you defined for yourself– the few priority projects that you chose to focus on in Focus Mode? (The other interests get thrown into Scanner mode, where dabbling/multitasking is allowed.) Well, for those core projects that you want to make real progress on, you need daily reminders.

Your reminders can be written descriptions, an image board, drawings, sticky notes, whatever. You just need to see them and be instantly reminded of your core projects– what your working towards and why.

Your Reminders Need to Be In a Spot You’ll Notice Regularly

Most people set New Years resolutions, file them away in a (physical or mental) drawer somewhere and forget about them for the next twelve months. Do most people achieve their New Years resolutions? Uh no.

The key to staying on track and making it through the less inspiring work is keeping your vision in mind at all times. Reminders help you do that.

Hang your goals on your wall. (Do it, no matter how lame you’re afraid it makes you look. Oh and fyi, if you choose the right kinds of friends, they won’t find this lame at all!) Turn your desktop wallpaper into a vision board or some other image that reminds you of what you’re working towards.

Do whatever it takes. You need reminders in prominent places so that you can’t miss them.

To Achieve a Goal, You Must Know what that Goal is and You Must Think About it Daily

Not a day goes by when I don’t think: “Renaissance Business, Puttylike, coaching, building a social life/home in Portland.” These are my core projects right now (in no particular order). They’re in the forefront of my mind and I think about them all the time.

I dabble with my other passions (violin, design, etc.) when I’m in scanning mode. But when it comes to focus time, I know exactly what “time well spent” looks like. I also know when I’m goofing off. Hanging out with a new friend, for example, is not goofing off because it’s completely in line with my “social life” goal. I know that, so I don’t have to feel guilty for blowing off work for a bit.

Reminders Help You Assess whether an Action is in Line with a Core Project or Not

Clearly defining your priorities is important for assessing whether an action is really worth doing now, or whether it can be pushed to a later date.

Whenever a new possible action arises, just think about whether it will further one of your core projects. If not, jot it down in your notebook and return to it when you’re in scanning mode.

Have Your Reminders Illicit “Juicy Visions”

(Note: best heading ever.)

When you look up at your core projects on your wall, you want to get inspired. Try to feel the end result. If you’re goal is to make 5K a month, don’t just imagine an abstract number, take it further and get in touch with the emotions.

What does that number feel like? Would it mean freedom? What kind of experiences would you be able to have? Embody that feeling. Who would you be able to help with this kind of money? Would you take any trips? Imagine them.

Knowing how to reignite the emotion behind your core projects is the secret to making it through the less inspiring work. It takes reminders that are located in a spot you notice regularly and it takes reminders that illicit juicy, inspiring visions.

Having a visualization ritual also really helps with this process of remembering and embodying your goals. I’ll get into that in the next part of the series.


How do you stay on track during the less inspiring work? What are some of your core projects right now?


  1. Tim Webster says:

    I absolutely agree that *feeling* that swell of happiness is a key element to pushing forward and progressing.

    Another element that helps me move forward through those ‘dry spells’ of un-motivated-ness is my network. When I’m feeling bummed, feeling like I should just can a whole project, I reach out to someone in my network who shares the same aspirations and goals that I do.

    When I reach out, chances are the person I’m reaching out to is not bummed out over the same project I am, so they lift me up and re-inspire me to keep moving.

    The ‘master mind’ mentality really helps!

    • Emilie says:

      Great point, Tim. That’s one of my favourite things about this little digital world we’re a part of. Everyone’s so positive and encouraging. We’re all in this together.

  2. James says:

    I have an Internet video show that I stalled out on a while back but I want to bring it back. It is a core project. I’m also working on my own music. I’m not sure if that’s a core project but I enjoy creating music. Songwriting is just as hard as writing blog posts.

    I like the suggestion of having your goals visible and somewhere you’ll see it. I’m going to do that.

    • Emilie says:

      Sweet. I too have a podcast that’s on hiatus right now. We’re bringing it back in full force in the new year though, and it’ll go back to being a “core project” of mine. Well actually, it’ll be part of my broader “public speaking” goal, but yeah.

      Oh and funny coincidence, I’m starting to get back into songwriting too! Definitely a side project right now, though it may move up the ranks in the new year too. :)

  3. Wow. I woke up this morning and thought “I need to focus my shit.” I did two things: I wrote down my current sources of income, my goal income amount, and then how I am going to make up the difference. I also made this bullet point list:

    “In 2012,
    – I am making $70,000/yr including $20k from products and $15k from big-picture consulting services. I do this work from anywhere I want.
    – I have six-pack abs, good stamina, and general strength and health
    – I have a lead role in a short film and a supporting role in a feature length movie
    – I rock a sexy hairstyle and a fabulous wardrobe”

    When I put it down, in a short, simple, understandable way, I know exactly what I need to accomplish my goals. I tacked it up on the wall next to my computer. And I resurrected a cheesy vision-board-esque desktop wallpaper. It makes every decision that much easier: if it’s bringing me toward my core goals, do it; if not, don’t.

    It was so refreshing to get around to reading today’s post and see that it’s exactly where I’m at. Positive reinforcement #FTW!

  4. Denise says:

    Ohh.. I love bollywood! Good times :)

    I’ve thought about hanging my “vision” up, but haven’t done it yet.

    and I know of this “head bashing” you speak of.. def. worth it, haha. I experience that with pretty much any creative project I’m pushing through.

    • Emilie says:

      Cool stuff. Yeah, it’s definitely worth doing. Even just scribbling your goals on a piece of paper and sticking them to the wall. It doesn’t need to be fancy.

      Bollywood is the best! :)

  5. JR Tschopp says:

    Sometimes, I don’t wonder if I have too many core projects. The big one being “Dark Highlands Anthology,” a bi-annual collection of horror/supernatural/dark fantasy/dark sci-fi art/poetry/fiction that I edit and contribute to while managing its social media tools. On days where the day job and housework consume a lot of time, Dark Highlands is my only core project that gets any attention paid to it, leaving my short fiction, fantasy novel, and unfilmed movie ideas sitting by the sideline. I need to figure out how to better balance it all, and still have time for my scanner projects (art, music, etc.). Or maybe acknowledge that until this particular core project starts making enough income to replace the day job, the others may have to wait (yet, I am impatient).

    • Tim Webster says:

      I saw this update show up in my email and I had to stop in.. The part about balance struck a chord with me!

      BALANCE. Oh man. Wanna talk about something I struggle with every day? Let’s talk about balance.

      Here’s what I can offer to help you out:

      – Google Calendar – Make appointments! ONLY for things that need to be done at a certain time.

      – Google Tasks (In Google Calendar) – This is where I keep my ‘ToDo’ list. The Top Tasks for a day typically go on a calendar.

      – Set deadlines! – (I can’t remember when I picked this up.. it may have been in a past post on this very blog!) Without a ‘due date’ your ‘To Do’ items will just live on your To Do list FOREVER. I have unfinished items that have been on my list for months. Set a date. Either finish the item by that date or kill it off and stop thinking about it (and wasting mental energy)

      Maybe you’re already doin’ this stuff but these are the things that helped me tremendously. I hope they help you, too! =)

      • Emilie says:

        Ou yeah, that is the challenge, isn’t it. I tend to be very strict with myself in terms of working in small chunks on multiple projects each day, prioritizing, and so on. I’ve also gotten better at the being more realistic with my time and not overbooking myself.

        But it’s definitely tough, especially when you’re excited about working on a project but that project might not be as urgent as something else. Sometimes you just wish there were more hours in the day.

        Thanks for the comment, JR. And thanks for sharing your tips, Tim. (Feel free to jump in anytime. I dig the community interaction. :)

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