Q: Dear John (no it’s not a Dear John letter) and Sherry. I’m begging you (on bare knees in front of laptop now) to write a post that teaches the following: HOW… HOW, I beg you, do you find the motivation and… ENERGY to take on such things after work?! Or even a whole weekend cooped up in a bathroom? I BEG you, please, how do you get that mind-set to get things done?! And after work! It’s incomprehensible to me but I would love to be that person. If you bottle it, I’m buying ten. I know this isn’t a motivational/self-improvement blog but I think your attitude to get things done so consistently does have a place. Please? Purty please? Luv luv LUV your blog. -Anna in Sydney
A: We’re not going to lie. Fitting in our constant DIY undertakings is definitely is a challenge. We know all about being short on time (I’m usually tethered to the computer from 8am-8pm and John has a full time job downtown) so we do almost 100% of our projects on nights and weekends (and many of them over holidays as well). Sometimes it just comes down to making the decision to put off the fun stuff like going out to dinner and hanging out with friends in the name of crossing things off of our to-do list.
But of course, just like any strict diet that won’t work for the long haul, we’re all about rewarding ourselves with outings and vacays when we finally finish something that we’ve worked hard to accomplish. We’re just super passionate about our home, so we’re weird enough to think that painting or demo-ing sounds like a good time… but we know it’s not everyone’s idea of fun. And sometimes we dread projects like you wouldn’t believe but we tell ourselves that we have to do it sometime, so we might as well bang it out and then go out to dinner the next day to celebrate (instead of dragging it out and having it hang over our heads for months).
Working in these little “accomplishment rewards” can definitely keep things feeling more balanced and keep you feeling motivated- and of course you’ll be full of self-congratulatory pride for a job well done- so that also comes into play (once you paint one room you’ll feel so good it’ll be easier to embark on the next one than it was to pick up that paint brush the first time).
And sometimes setting a goal and working towards it is easier than you think- especially if there’s something oh so sweet waiting for you at the finish line. For example, declare that if you complete five things on your list you’ll treat yourself to a mini vacay in a nearby city for the weekend or that you’ll finally order that pretty Etsy print that you’ve been drooling over. I guess it’s sort of like doing anything else that takes time and effort (losing weight, studying for finals, etc)- it really takes drive and motivation to stay at it. So anything you can do to push yourselves forward and encourage each other along the way can really make all the difference.
We also have another idea for ya… maybe you should start a blog. We find that we’re motivated to do more and work harder just so we can share our results with people who are chomping at the bit for pics and details. Maybe that will help motivate you as well? Not that anyone really has “extra time to start a blog” when they’re working on their home, but we didn’t think we did either (two years ago when John started this whole thing I was completely uninterested) and just look at us now!
Or maybe you can find another way to motivate yourselves by sharing your progress- like creating a super easy Flickr album with before & after photos and sending the link to friends and family once a week to share your DIY hardships- and all the glory that comes with them once they’re blissfully completed. Even privately documenting your process just for yourself can be hugely motivating. For example, you can take “before” photos of your entire house and put them in an album with a blank sleeve after each one that’s just waiting for an “after” picture. It definitely won’t happen overnight, but as you slowly start adding after photos and seeing exactly how far you’ve come you’ll be amazed how empowering, motivating and rewarding it can be. Heck, we’d even call it downright addicting.
And a lot of times when you head into each project your attitude can make all the difference. Just like if you’re training for a big tennis match or going to a job interview, if your internal monologue is saying things like “I’m going to fail- this is going to be a disaster- I’m so bad at this stuff- this will take me forever…” then you’re probably setting yourself up to fall on your face from the get-go.
We like to go into each project in a positive and optimistic state of mind. Just the act of putting on some music, having full bellies, and generally embarking on our next home improvement adventure in a good mood can make all the difference. Of course we’ve also learned that having unrealistic expectations is the fastest way to never want to pick up a hammer or a paint brush again. So even when we take on a should-be-simple task, we never say things like “this should only take a second” or “we can totally bang this out before our dinner plans in an hour” because those assumptions can really amp up the stress of the situation and make any small ten minute snafu seem like a major disaster since you went in with such unrealistic ideas about how the process would go. Instead we like to set aside large blocks of time when we know we can really dive into something (again with full bellies and some good music playing to rally our spirits) and then we often find that we’re pleasantly surprised by how smoothly things can go (instead of expecting everything to be effortless and being disappointed when things don’t magically happen in a matter of seconds).
In short: you definitely have to put in the time to get things done, but don’t forget to reward yourself and document your achievements along the way. And having realistic expectations and going into each project with excitement instead of dread can really make all the difference! Plus tackling one room at a time or breaking projects down into nice little manageable “bite-sized tasks” can definitely take the fear out of something that seems way too huge and ominous. Does anyone else have other secrets to staying motivated and keeping their to-do list in check without going crazy? Do tell.
Psst- Learn more about keeping your house sprucing projects more manageable by decorating in stages – and check out some of our biggest-bang-for-our-buck upgrades that were surprisingly simple to accomplish.
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