Making Motivation – Tips for Thoughtful Progress

I’ve seen enough #motivationmonday posts to know that decorators can sometimes hit a wall when it comes to getting themselves energized to take on a new week. Now that it’s Tuesday and the fervor of Monday motivation mania is behind us, let’s make this a #thoughtfultuesday and do some serious thinking about motivation. With the amount of time I’ve spent helping decorators with difficulties, it’s not surprising that I’ve counselled many a decorator who found their will flagging after a hard day or a sales slump. The first thing that anyone should know when facing such a down day is that it happens to all of us. You, reader, are not alone if this is your day to do battle with the doldrums. To the end of helping you come out of your tough time ready to take on the next challenge, I’m going to share a couple quick tips for doing important work, even in an energy downturn, as well as how to regenerate some of the juice you need to jolt yourself into action.

Make Space to Reflect

It can be hard to evaluate your progress when you are down, but if you take a conscious look at where you are and where you want to be, and take care to do so without imposing judgment on yourself as you do it, it can be quite helpful. Take this time to examine your current operation, processes, and direction. Your entire business is made of Purpose and Process; purpose is the goal you aim at over the long term and process is the day to day way you do your work and make progress toward your goals. You live in the latter and for the former; spending time on them may be the best way to break out of a slump.

It could be that the reason you aren’t feeling engaged is that you’ve lost sight of your company’s overarching purpose or you’ve fallen into the trap of working in your business without working on your business. Start by restating the reason why you are doing what you do; if it’s nothing more than ‘to make money’ you might want to spend some time thinking about what your shop can specifically offer the industry and why it is you want to be involved. Your purpose statement can serve as a guidepost when you start to feel like your are lost or drifting, take the time to give it sincere thought.

As it comes to your processes, you might find that you’ve let the daily work of running your shop pull you away from efficient operation; walk through your workflow and talk to your crew- follow a job through your system and look at where time is being lost, mistakes are happening, or things simply aren’t working as well as they could be. Fixing small inefficiencies may seem unimportant, but over the course of thousands of jobs, little leaks in productivity and small annoyances in the way things work can add up. Make things easier for your crew and more efficient in the workflow wherever you can; you make up gains in time and profit, and the reduced stress alone is worth the trouble.

Bonus Tip: Ask for self, shop, and workflow assessments from your crew; you never know when a small change in process, shop layout, or a cheap repair or addition to your equipment might be the only thing standing between you and a huge increase in productivity. Leave it to the people on the front lines to give you feedback on what causes their pain points, and engage. It makes for more efficiency and a happier, more engaged crew when they feel like they are being listened to.

Embroidery Machine acWorkstation Aisle
Workstation ergonomics or the flow of garments can make more difference than you think.

Clarify your Goals

Some decorators find themselves down in the dumps because they believe a task at hand is so massive that it’s impossible to make progress but they are often facing a very different problem. Either they have defined their goals so vaguely that there’s no obvious action to take, or they really have set a large goal but without thinking about the steps between beginning and succeeding. If your goals are vague or poorly parsed, it can make it very difficult to translate ideas to action. When you are busy with the day to day, the goals will slip out of mind, but the instant you have a slowdown in production, you’ll be paralysed to change that down-time into development time. To the end of fixing this habit, you should set clearer goals that are measurable and make sure to parse them down to a set of actions, even if you can only figure out the first couple of things you need to do.

When the time comes that your energy is low or you have experienced a setback, ‘contact three potential customers and introduce my business today and set follow-up reminders for next week’ is a much easier thing to take action on than ‘increase order volume’. The same is true for large tasks. ‘Add two new football tees to my school store for X County High today’ is much more likely to get done than ‘Update X County High Website’.

Bonus Tip: Plan when you have energy for the times that you don’t. If this is a high-energy day for you, come up with a list of things that you need to do or want to do in developing your business and break them down into actionable tasks. Hold on to this list so that when your motivation flags, you can pick something off this list and take action. It’s amazing how even a simple action can build momentum in your work.

water soluble backing patch creation
Playing with patches on water-soluble backing became a cottage industry of short-run patches for my shop.

Take time for Play

It sounds completely counter-intuitive when you aren’t getting things done to stop and ‘play’ but there are multitude benefits to taking some unstructured time to for what I’ll call ‘exploration’. I don’t mean for you to hit Netflix and forget about your shop, however; this is all about development. Let yourself take an hour each week to do a project that’s within the realm of what your shop does, but has no customer explicitly attached to it.

Try something new with a technique; make a cool sample for a kind of work you’d like to do, or try something unrelated to decorating that you’ve always meant to do for your business, but make it something with an element of fun. If you choose to do something with decorating, the chances are you will recapture some of the feeling that made you want to start decorating in the first place. An injection of that zeal for learning and trying goes a long way toward reinvigorating your practice.

If you choose to do something outside of decorating, it can provide a welcome respite and help you develop talents for the business that you might not otherwise have examined. Imagine the immediate benefits from a learning to place social media ads, having a go at podcasting, crafting a display for your showroom, learning how to do an elevator pitch, or how to use the tools you’ve neglected in your ecommerce site. Allow yourself to play with anything that tickles your fancy as long as it has something that could help your business in any way; you never know when the next big development in your shop might arise from a moment of free association.

Bonus Tip: Allow your entire staff to engage in this kind of play and encourage them to present the ideas that arise to the team- there’s no telling what kind of creative resources you might be missing in your own crew! Many a niche market might be revealed in the communities to which your workers belong.

In the end, the best thing for any motivational slump is action; whether that comes in the form of taking thorough stock of your company, a round of goal-setting and re-processing your most troublesome tasks,or just taking some time to play with equipment or to learn something entirely out of the usual, there’s no wrong way to get started. You can’t steer a parked car; turn the wheels in any direction and no movement comes until you press the accelerator. No matter what you feel about your current direction, the best thing you can do to change it or reinforce it is get underway, even when motivation isn’t coming naturally.

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