When I started working, long ago in 1998 at Internet Vision, motivation wasn't a problem: work was something I did to cheer myself up. This held when I moved over to Frontwire; but when the company abandoned its offices, sacked all of my department apart from me, and I had to work from home back in 2002 or 2003 or so (IIRC), I started to find it hard to get up and start working in the mornings; I realised that working on problems with other people was more of a motivation for me than the fear of being reprimanded for not getting enough work done!
Well, I left that company before long, and freelanced for a while, then got together with some others and formed a company, GenieDB. I can now combine the best of both worlds; I can work from home, in my own environment, while being in contact with my colleagues in our company IRC channel, and working together on problems. I find it hardest when we're all working on unrelated projects, so there's little daily sharing of issues and triumphs, but the level of de-motivation I feel then is small fry compared to how it was when I worked alone!
Nonetheless, since my Frontwire days, various other stresses have appeared in my life, so my base level of motivation is nowhere near what it once was. Carefully managing my morale in order to keep my head above water is an important concern.
Luckily, I made a breakthrough some months ago; for some reason or other I had to be up much earlier than usual, so was up at 8am one day. When I had dealt with the business that required the early morning, it was about 9am, and I didn't need to start work until 10am - so I used the extra hour to go and tinker with stuff in my workshop. It was good. Having had an early morning I was tired that night and fell asleep easily, and having had an hour of "me time", I didn't have my usual restless urge to go and do something fun rather than going to bed.
And I forgot to turn the alarm clock back to its usual time. So the next morning I awoke again at 8am. Except this time, having been to sleep earlier, I wasn't dog tired. So I got up and enjoyed two hours of me-time before starting work.
I was hooked.
Previously, I would wake up knowing I had to get out of bed, get Jean ready for preschool, deliver her there, then start working, spend my lunch break mowing the lawn or other domestic tasks, eat at my desk, work until it was time to go and collect Jean, bring her back, cook dinner, take Jean to bed, then try and catch up on domestic matters (while tired) before going to bed and having trouble sleeping. This not being a particularly delightful prospect, I would often lie in bed far too long, cherishing the ability to just lie there and think, knowing that getting up meant stepping onto a virtual treadmill.
But now I was waking up at eight in the morning, and positively leaping out of bed at the thought of going and doing something fun. I made a rule that, from 8am to 10am, I'd do whatever I wanted; I wouldn't accept requests. I'd get to my desk at 10am, lively and happy. I'd be more tired in the evenings (that extra two hours didn't come out of nowhere), but much less depressed, so I'd get the domestic stuff done sooner and end up spending more time with Sarah once Jean was in bed, then be off to bed in good time as I was getting tired.
My two hours in the morning even gave me time to do things like having showers, which I had previously had to try and fit elsewhere in the day, often ending up going several days overdue!
Even when I'm in London, I woke up at 8am and spent two hours pottering about on my laptop, or going for a walk.
Now that Jean's started school, it's not quite so good - I have to be up at 7:30am to start helping Sarah to get her up, and fed, and dressed, and leave the house at 8:15am to get Jean to the school for 8:45am, but then I'm back home at 9am for an hour of my own before starting work at 10am; I still find it hard to get out of bed knowing I have to do the school run before I can do fun things, and I don't fancy getting out of bed at 6:30am for an hour to myself before doing that 🙂 When Sarah's healthier she might be able to cope with the school run on her own, though, so it might improve yet; she doesn't seem to benefit from starting the day with her own time as much as I do, so that might be a fair trade.