Thriving on the deadline: Motivational tips and tricks

No matter who you are or what you choose to do with your life, motivating yourself is always going to be part of the challenge, although sometimes this seems especially true for freelancers. Sure, some days you’ll spring out of bed and gnaw away on the projects you need to finish with the intensity of a hungry beaver, but most days you’ll have excuses. Lots of them. Never fear, procrastinators! Here are some simple things you can do to keep your attention focused when deadlines are looming on your horizons.


Motivation in a cup, coffee is the original freelance writer’s trick to getting things done. Whether it’s a fancy-pants espresso or just an ordinary cup (or seven… although apparently the optimum number for brain protection is five) from the never-ending pot, drink an extra cup of the black stuff and get on the case. Alternately, if you don’t like to get twitchy while you work, you can bribe yourself with the thought of a trip to your favorite café once you finish up the snooze-inducing reports you’re working on.


While cranking the tunes and getting into a pattern with speed-metal on high volume can certainly pave the way to work getting done, some may find this a bit too distracting while they’re actually writing. Instead, use music as an additional incentive to get those fingers flying and listen to it as a break from your desk. As an added bonus, you can say you got in a bit of exercise as you rock out while doing the dishes. Multi-tasking at its finest!


If you’re anything like me, you hate feeling chained to your desk, particularly on gorgeous sunny days. Living in Austin, Texas, where there are approximately 300 sunny days per year, I’m even more motivated by the prospect of sunbathing in my free time, or simply getting out to the park with a good book or a frisbee. The trick to keeping yourself on track is to remind yourself that if you finish up early, you can take the afternoon off to drink in all that sun. (Don’t forget your sunscreen!)


Oddly, money isn’t as big a motivator as you’d think, but this trick comes in handy when you’re right on the edge of the poverty line, or feeling the pressure from a few extra expenses. Remember that money isn’t the goal, in and of itself, but the freedom that it can buy. You’re a good American who loves freedom, aren’t you? Then stretch those pennies by writing an article that will win you a paycheck before the day is done!


Dying before you complete your life’s work is a completely horrifying idea. Especially if you’re still young enough to not quite know what that work entails, or how to get it done. Harness this fear to get your lazy bum in gear by tell yourself that if you don’t finish that article tonight, you’ll never amount to anything and die without gaining the notoriety you so richly deserve. Who’s motivated now, baby?

If all else fails…

Tell yourself you didn’t really want to be rich, famous or successful anyway and crawl back into bed to wallow. Tomorrow’s another day with another chance to prove yourself, and a good night’s sleep is the best way to kick-start your thoroughly researched plan of attack.

Photo credits: “Black Coffee” by Flickr user Professor Bop, “sunbathing” by Flickr user DanielaNob, “Minifig Characters #6: Death” by Flickr user minifig

This article was originally published, in slightly modified form, in the now-defunct SAVFAIRE Magazine.