Motivation, Discipline, and Focus

Motivation works as a drive. Discipline keeps you going when curiosity and excitement wear off. But only with focus, there is real progress.

When working as a freelance web developer it's important to get things done. I'm working 100% remote and I'm traveling a lot, which means that I'm constantly pulled away from work. This lifestyle is great for a healthy work-life-balance but I still need to make sure the job gets done.

When distractions are everywhere it's key to find joy in the work. To accomplish my tasks I aim for three things: motivation, discipline, and focus.

Fortunately, I'm very passionate about web development and really like what I'm doing. So most of the time motivation is not an issue for me.

But nobody is constantly motivated, particularly when working on side projects or open source projects over a longer period. When curiosity and excitement wear off, discipline keeps me going, even if I don't feel like it. Persistence and consistency are the gatekeepers.

Get back on track

Start by defining a small and manageable goal and commit to working on it. Start with an easy task and reach for the low hanging fruits, to celebrate a quick win. Making any kind of progress, however small, really helps me to get back on track and more often than not the motivation returns after a while.

In software development, I usually follow the Commit Message Driven Workflow and start by writing out the commit message. With the commit message being written down (the goal), I'm in the mindset to write the code.

Priorities are key

Though, for me, the most important gatekeeper is focus. Without focus — without the right direction — there is no meaningful progress.

In his post How to Be Successful, entrepreneur Sam Altman wrote on the importance of focus:

Focus is a force multiplier on work. Almost everyone I've ever met would be well-served by spending more time thinking about what to focus on. It is much more important to work on the right thing than it is to work many hours. Most people waste most of their time on stuff that doesn't matter.
Once you have figured out what to do, be unstoppable about getting your small handful of priorities accomplished quickly. I have yet to meet a slow-moving person who is very successful.samaltman.com, How to Be Successful

Focus is probably the most underrated gatekeeper. If your priorities are not clear — if you do not know what your goal is — it's hard to make any progress at all. Make sure to be clear about what you are working on and say no to everything else.

Conclusion

It's never been a better time for self-motivated people, wrote James Clear, the author of the book Atomic Habits. To make progress you need to start. A lot of options reveal themselves after starting. Prioritize high-impact tasks. Define a goal. Remove distractions. Stay focused. Make it a habit to work on it every day. Find joy in the work. And from time to time, take a break.


Further reading

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