Motivation, Part 1, Extreme: Stress

When freelancing, one of the biggest problems for you is productivity. Working in office, you always have your boss or your colleagues around, so no matter how lazy and how tricky you are, you have to work at least one hour a day. But what if nobody looks after you?

Hmm, yes, you can work naked, but that's not what I'm talking about.

This would be the first article about motivation, or in other words: How to make yourself do something and deliver required work by deadline?

Planning? Bullshit! GTD? I don't know. Haven't read Get Things Done yet. Seen results? Yes, but it's the topic of another, longer article. This one describes me in my early freelance years.



This is not an advice and should not be treated as advice or call to action. The described techniques could make you fail your work and ruin you carrier. I am no responsible for any damage you may receive following this article.

Shock Therapy, or Remember College?

Do you remember you college years when you spent semester partying and hanging out and studied only a night before exam? I remember, because I still study like that.

Try the same approach.

Do nothing until your conscience or common sense (whatever is stronger) starts crying out: “Work, bastard! You need to pay your bills! Creditors are waiting for you! Do start working, idiot! NOW!” You'll understand then how productive can you be. You'll see how easily can you set priorities and divide important things from less important.



Talking seriously, stress could be a great motivating factor. Under stress, the brain works faster than ever. It can sort things “in background”, so you won't even notice that you're doing important things, leaving less important and just forget unimportant ones. It also can make unusual (correct!) decisions and rely on intuition more (which is, as I believe, more good than bad) under stress.

This may (or may not) lead you to success once or even twice, but not every time. You can't take stress over each time. The purpose of this “shock therapy” is to show you your real potential so you'll never be satisfied if you don't work efficiently enough. Stress can also help you find some habits which help you working, like favourite music for coding, favourite tea or coffea, most comfortable workspace layout, etc.


But how to put yourself into stress? Try this only if you are ready to take risk and responsibility for it's consequences (well, freelance itself is risk).

  • Promise your client to do something that's possible, but what you are extremely lazy to do. When deadline arrives you'll have to do it anyway. Stress? Stress.
  • Be out of time. Take more work than you could possibly finish. Stress? Yes...
  • Spend more money than you can afford. Get yourself depend on work you are doing. Stress? Oh, yeah!

Pros and Cons


  • You discover your true potential
  • You teach yourself to thing unusual and trust your intution
  • You teach yourself to set priorities correctly
  • You find out your working habits.
  • You learn how to behave under stress, so you'd feel more comfortable in accidental unpredicted stress situation


  • Your are under stress
  • You may fail your project which may influence you entire carrier
  • Your failure may hit others badly, especially your family
  • You may understand that this is not for you

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Category: work Words: freelance, motivation, extreme, stress



Brilliant! I've seen your articles show up a few times on dzone, and always like them.

This in particular is timely, as I've just done exactly what you describe, take on more work than I can possibly handle, specified in ways that go beyond my comfort zone. 10 days in, and, while I can't sleep, I'm seeing that it was probably a good idea.


19.05.2007 // 04:41 [ Link ]

Reply from author

Thanks a lot. I'm trying to do my best writing about things interesting to me.

23.05.2007 // 13:27 [ Link ]


Hmmm, I'll try that technique!

Earlier I was thinking if I could trick my mind into thinking that the stuff I'm doing is for free, and I do this stuff as a hobby, I could then prevent procrastination. Usually when it comes to Web development for myself, I get the projects done fast! When it comes to working for companies, I call it "work", and that makes me feel yucky for some reason. I suppose if we could discover the psychology of why we're programmed to see "work" as a death wish by asking ourselves: "why not work right now?". An answer to the question is probably: "I'm worried". You reply yourself: "Why are you worried?". "Because the work is not fun". Then you define what work is. You define what fun is. Then you keep asking more questions. By the time you're satisfied with yourself, you understand what you're about, and you know exactly what to change in order to go on with your life. The problem is, this takes a long time to ask yourself these questions.

I tried asking myself last night, "What is an opinion?". Three pages later and 30 questions unanswered I gave up. Our mind is too complex and querying the database within our heads is only going to lead us to IDE failure and CPU overheating. By the time I was at the third page I couldn't convince myself that discovering my inner feelings towards this question is worthwhile -- it probably would be though. But "probably" isn't good enough, because that's statistics, and statistics are lies. Oh great, another opinion, aaahhh!!

21.06.2007 // 05:56 [ Link ]

Reply from author

Hi, John.

Interesting approach. The point is that when I just started freelancing and webdev was really “just for fun” (BTW, why aren't all of us write JFF instead, yet? So many time passed since Linus' book...), I was more enthusiastic and productive, than now. In terms of focus and interest, not real productivity, of course, because I wasn't experienced enough to work well then. Think, I'll try to convince myself it's hobby again with next project, thank's for idea. I'll write an article about that experiment and link to your blog (if any – think, I also have to add URL field to comment form finally).

And I'll be very grateful, if you'll write the results of your experiment with my idea, too. Here, in comments, on your site, or by email, so I'll be able to link to it or post it here.

Regards, Aleksei.

21.06.2007 // 06:32 [ Link ]