Staying Motivated

Business guru Michael Gerber notes that the people who want to be in business for themselves are often the least qualified people to do so.

It seems the traits that make you unhappy working for the man are the same traits that make it hard to run a business or contracting service effectively. One of these traits is the ability to stay motivated.

If you’re strongly self-motivated in a regular job, your boss rarely has to come provide that motivation for you. This means you don’t clash with your boss, and you have less reason to go out on your own. If your boss is always riding you, one possible reason is that you’re not as self-motivated as he would like.

Without your boss, you have less stress in that department — but there’s nobody to motivate you but yourself. If you’re not great at self-motivation, you’ll need to find an outside source.

  • Set deadlines, even when your client hasn’t provided you with one. Meeting your deadlines is a valuable skill on its own, and gets you in the habit of staying motivated.
  • Finish the day with notes and planning. This will mean you occasionally think about your work over the rest of the day — and leaves you excited about sitting down to write in the morning.
  • Find an accountability partner, somebody who you report your progress to and who ride you if you fall behind. In general, your spouse is the worst possible person to fulfill this role.
  • Give yourself time off, whether it’s a day in the week or a week every quarter. When you have a job, your vacation time burns a hole in your temporal pocket. As a freelancer, it’s tempting to work all the time.
  • Write down your goals someplace visible — such as a piece of paper at your desk, or in dry erase marker on your bathroom mirror. When you feel unmotivated, look at your goals.
  • Remember why you’ve set the goals you’ve set. I’m lucky enough to have a 21-month old reminder crawling about underfoot right now. Maybe your reminder is a photo of your next big vacation, or simply a dollar amount.
  • Schedule your workday. If you wake up with a general idea of “write,” you’ll have little motivation to get started and no benchmark to celebrate success. My workday gets broken down in 2-hour chunks, each with its own specific assignments. I get a charge out of crossing off each item in turn.

There are plenty more. I’d love to see a comment or two on how you all motivate yourselves.

While you’re at it, check out this interesting video on motivation.

Thanks for listening.

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