Playing the Mental Game | October 3rd, 2011

Playing Mental GamesI’m a little bit mental. Okay, actually I’m a lot mental.

What that means is that I spend a great deal of time conducting a self study on how my brain works. I examine my thought process in an effort to discover the reasons why I do the things I do. Such as why I lose my creative stride after a few days of design work; how I perceive money and the way I manage it; why I habitually leave laundry in the dryer until it needs to be ironed; how I juggle administrative tasks and client jobs; and why I occasionally procrastinate (I’m writing this Monday Morning blog Sunday night. Again.).

But it doesn’t end there. I am constantly looking for ways to do things better. So the mental self-examination is just the beginning. Once I’ve successfully identified an issue, I look for ways to resolve behaviors that are undermining my success. I play mental games.

The money game.

Money issues are always a concern when you are self employed. Many times its a feast or famine situation. During the feast, you float along happily. During the famine, you try to squelch the feelings of panic. Generally it all evens out, but nagging worries during the times of shortage were distracting me.

I’ve always been a “put everything on the credit card” kind of person. After all, I pay off my bill every month, so I never saw the harm in it, and earning points on various credit cards made it seem worth it. However, I eventually identified the monthly credit card bill as a mental panic trigger. So, I started using a debit card and cash for all personal expenses, and only use a credit card when necessary for business purchases.

Does paying now instead of later make any difference in my cash flow? Not directly, but not having a credit card bill every month makes a difference to me mentally. It alleviates some stress and allows me to focus on my work, which in turn allows me to be more productive. More productivity equals better cash flow.

The mental money game pays dividends.

The creative work game.

I work everyday. I might work less hours some days, and I might get up early to get a few hours of work done before doing something fun for the day, but I never really take a day off. Well, except Christmas. I have to take Christmas off.

I’m not complaining. I absolutely love what I do. However, sometimes my creativity wanes. I’ll plop down in front of the computer knowing I have a couple websites and a logo to design and . . . nothing. A graphic designer’s equivalent of writer’s block. In the past I’ve just plain forced it. I’ve made myself sit there until I got it done. The problem? At best it took twice as long as usual. At worst I created something that I wasn’t 100% pleased with.

My solution? Forced days off.

I might focus on one or two non-creative things for the day. I’ll do billing, clean the cat box, wash the floors, iron the laundry that I left in the dryer. Or I might answer emails, do barn chores, and take off for the day to go shopping with Mom. Whatever I do, I will absolutely not work on a creative project.

How is this a mental game? By not allowing myself to do design work, it completely takes the pressure off, and by the end of the day I am fairly chomping at the bit to get to work on that logo or website. The next day my work is effortless and quick, and I’m excited to present the concept to a client.

Creating your own mental games.

Will my mental games work for you? Maybe not. Each of us is different in our perceptions. Pick a couple things that you struggle with. Examine your habits and try to identify the reasons behind your behavior. What would make you perceive your situation differently?

Try to take a look at your actions from outside of yourself. How can you motivate you?

It may be that you have job duties that you dislike. Getting them done first thing in the morning and creating a simple reward for their completion might be a good mental game for you.

Perhaps you are starting to make sales and are not yet comfortable in that role. Pretending that each prospective customer is a long lost friend may be a good way to change your attitude.

Regardless of what mental games you create for yourself, you are sure to benefit from the process. When you take the time to examine your own habits and beliefs, you are opening the door for positive growth.

Oh, and if anyone has an idea for my little procrastination problem, feel free to let me know. I’m still a work in progress.

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