a blog by J.M. Cottle
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Pay yourself when you aren’t getting paid

Do you respond better to fear, or praise? Punishment, or encouragement? When you’re having a hard time getting your important work done — especially if it’s work you’re doing for yourself, with no boss or external deadline keeping you on track — how do you stay disciplined and make it happen?

One thing that has been working for me is to turn my writing work into a part time job. I’m a pretty frugal person, and I agonize over spending money on things that I want but that I technically don’t need. To encourage myself to write, I decided to give myself $9 to spend on whatever I like for every hour I work. I’m an entry-level writer when it comes to discipline, so I get minimum wage.

Once this idea occurred to me, I thought it would be even better if I added a few more pieces to turn writing into a job. 20% of my “salary” goes to “taxes”, i.e. my savings account. For every hour I work I earn five minutes of paid vacation, which is a very generous rate, but I am a very generous boss. If I work on my scheduled weekends I get overtime pay. At the end of the month I will review my performance, and if I think I’ve done well, I will get a raise.

This system may seem a bit ridiculous to you, but one of my greatest struggles is with discipline and motivation. Anything that gets me past my great big mountain range of internal resistance is a winner in my book.

This post has earned me about $6, before taxes. What do you think? A reasonable rate? Should my boss give me a raise?

5 Responses to Pay yourself when you aren’t getting paid

  1. Struggling with this so much right now. I break it down into the smallest tasks possible (brainstorm, draft, write, edit, pitch) and check off each one.

    (PS Nice to see you blogging here again.)

  2. Hey, Jay – particularly like the idea of earning paid vacation – having a bit of a work-a-holic nature (Warren side of family), we tend not to even consider that. But then again, maybe loving what you do negates the desire? I’ve always thought a get-a-way at the end of wrestling would be lots of fun, but now with sugaring, it extends quite a bit further! As always, thanks for the things to think about! <3

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