Working for yourself comes with many challenges but finding ways to stay motivated can be one of the difficult to overcome. Sometimes it can be too easy to take a day off from working when we’d rather just spend the day with kids at the beach, or ditch the business for a day to catch up on housework.
My husband and I both currently work from home and so we alternate work days and childcare days to maximize our productivity. It’s a schedule and a system that works great for us. We get to stay flexible and accountable to our businesses and to each other.
Last week my work day fell on the day that I like to take my daughter to preschool open gym at the rec center. She has a blast every time we go (and I’ll admit that I may even have more fun than she does sometimes) and so it’s sad to me when I miss out on an opportunity to take her.
My husband suggested that I take her anyway, and while I did consider it for a brief moment, I declined because I knew I had to take advantage of the uninterrupted time I would get to work while they were gone. It was especially hard because there was no one to tell me that I couldn’t go and I had to make that decision all on my own. But I stuck to my schedule and told myself that I would be the one to bring her next week instead.
Some of the mom entrepreneurs that I work with tell me that they sometimes wish they had a “boss” to report to. Why, you ask? Isn’t that the point of having our own businesses and not working for someone else?
Because it helps foster motivation and accountability. It’s easy to push a project to the sidelines when you are the one creating the deadline.
Don’t become a victim to your lack of motivation. Do something about it! Here are the top seven ways I stay motivated to get work done, even when I’m tired, frustrated, don’t feel like it, or am simply just burnt out.
1. Go through Pat Flynn’s Airport Test exercise from his book, “Will It Fly?”.
I’ve been a huge fan of Pat Flynn and his work on SmartPassiveIncome.com for a long time. He’s educated me on how one can truly live the life they want by creating passive income streams and he’s inspired me to branch out on my own and do it myself. So last month when he came out with his book, “Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea so You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money”, I ordered it as soon as it was available to ship out. And let me tell you, it is amazing, insightful, and packed full of useful strategies and exercises to get those entrepreneurial juices flowing. It’s an incredible actionable guide that I highly recommend if you need help validating your next business idea.
For this exercise, he sets you up with a story that makes you look five years into the future. Imagine you’re at the airport and you run into an old friend who asks how life is going for you. Your response is “AMAZING! Life couldn’t get any better.”
The premise of this exercise is for you to write down, “what’s happening in your life five years from now that makes you respond like this?”
Pat credits this exercise as an adaptation of a hiring technique created by Gary Keller (owner of Keller Williams Realty Inc.) and Jay Papasan (VP of publishing at Keller Williams Realty Inc.). He explains that “it’s a way to make sure Keller Williams can support the vision and goals of a prospective employee.” Totally genius, if you ask me.
Here’s how you do it:
Step 1: Take a piece of paper and fold in half twice so your paper is split into four quadrants.
Step 2: Determine what four categories are the most important in your life and label each of the four sections of your paper.
Step 3: Now list everything that would be happening five years from now in your life in each of the categories. Think about anything you want to be your reality in the future in regards to the categories you’ve chosen and write them all down.
This exercise puts my entire life into perspective and reminds me why I’m doing what I’m doing every day. It never fails to kick my motivation up a level when I reread this sheet of paper listing out what my realities will be five years from now. Especially because I’m the only one who is going to make the things on this list happen. This makes me excited to get down to business and keeps me motivated to get through the daily grind.
Take a look at my Airport Test worksheet if you need some inspiration:
2. Get an accountability partner.
Find someone else to connect with who has similar interests and goals. Do you know other moms who work from home or have their own business?
Get yourself an accountability partner. Jason Zook wrote a great article on Inc.com explaining why it’s so important to your success to have one. He also lists out what kind of qualities to look for when choosing someone, which include:
Keep in mind that you must also possess all these qualities for a reciprocal relationship to occur. The more you give to your accountability partner, the more you are going to get.
Also consider joining an accountability group or a mastermind. Stay motivated by telling your partner or group your goals and update them with your progress and new goals every week. This helps keep you motivated, on task, and on the road to ultimate productivity and success. I personally am a member of multiple accountability groups and a mastermind. They have no problem keeping me on track and I enjoy telling them about my progress and hearing about theirs.
3. Create a NEED to-do list:
Listing out tasks to do is easy. Especially because there are always so many of them to do. But the trick is to identify what things on your list you absolutely need to do and what items can wait.
List the tasks you NEED to complete and then choose the order in which you do them. This method helps us to prioritize our goals and still feel in control of our ability to choose what to get done first, second, third, and so on.
I keep a running list of tasks I need to accomplish every week on my computer and then designate each task to a day of the week based on that week’s priorities. I then write out a list of my daily tasks in my weekly planner:
I put a check box before each task (some people prefer to put it after) so I can physically check off the box after I finish the item listed. Checking boxes helps keep me motivated and gives me that awesome feeling of accomplishment.
Side Note: I personally use Amy Knapp’s Family Organizer to write down my weekly to-do lists. I love this organizer and it’s by far one of the best I’ve seen out there. It incorporates a monthly calendar, to-do list, grocery list, and even a daily menu section. Plus, each “To Do” page also includes a motivational quote for the week. You can buy your own here.
Now that you are ready to sit down to work…
4. Pick a place to work with no distractions.
Whether this is your home office or the coffee shop down the street, you need to physically put yourself in a place where you cannot be distracted by kids, pets, other family members, friends, or anyone else.
Furthermore, if you’re the type of person who needs things neat and organized, be sure to remove anything from your workstation that could potentially lead to distractions. Ever heard the saying “a clear desk means a clear mind?” Clutter can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress, which of course can be a distracter for anyone. I personally like to work with just my laptop, to-do list, and a glass of water on my desk when I know I really need to get things accomplished. Anything more than that can easily get me off track of what I’m working on.
Please note that studies have shown if you want to be creative, it’s better to have a messy desk. A messy desk can enhance creativity and promote new ideas. It is recommended that once you’re done with the creative part of your project and it’s time to keep your focus in line to follow through, you then should move to a clean workspace.
So basically, work at your desk when you’re tackling the creative side of your business and move to a coffee shop when it’s time to focus and finish up a project.
5. Turn your phone on silent.
This one seems obvious but I cannot stress this one enough. When my phone is on silent, I forget about checking to see my updated sales numbers for the day or whether or not that editor got back to me about guest posting on their site.
This, of course, only works for a period of time for us parents. We do need to at least be in range of our phone for the most part because there is always the potential for an emergency to arise that we need to be available for. But you know your kiddos are in good hands when you’re working and if something comes up, your sitter or partner knows where they can find you. Plus, what are the chances, really? You can’t worry about that right now. You have to stay motivated to get that work done.
6. Stay off social media and instant messengers.
Social media can be both wonderful and terrible all at the same time. Unless you’re doing research or directly working within Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc., do not under any circumstances open those pages on your computer or apps on your phone until you’re done with the task you are working on.
Instant messengers like Skype and Gchat act in the same way. Don’t log in unless you want to open yourself up to be interrupted at any point throughout your day. These can be great resources for communication, but if you’re having trouble staying motivated to get a particular project done, just stay away.
I used to work for a company where every employee was expected to be logged onto Skype during work hours. This made sense for the most part, since half the staff worked from home and it made it easy to communicate when people were out of the office and get answers quickly. But it didn’t take long for us managers to learn to despise Skype because we were constantly inundated all day long with requests from other employees and questions they’d send via messenger just because it was easier for them to ask us than to figure it out on their own.
To this day, I only log onto Skype very rarely and prefer other forms of communication instead. I’d prefer that you send me an email or a text and then I can get back to you when it’s a good time for me to respond.
7. Remind yourself who you are doing this for.
Whenever I need some extra motivation to get down to business, I think about my husband, my daughter, and my baby on the way. I can always look over to my left and see the pictures I have sitting next to my desk and am instantly motivated to do great things.
I work hard at my businesses so that I can support my family financially while still being there with them at home almost every day. For me, that is the greatest motivation of all.
What do you do to get motivated when you just don’t feel like working?
Please share your motivational tips in the comments section below.