When I left corporate life to start my own firm just about seven years ago, the hardest part of the day to day was something I didn’t expect. I have always had a fantastic work ethic (for the most part!) and didn’t think setting out on my own would be any different than a “normal” job. I knew I had to be better about staying organized, reporting, and keeping track of my projects, as well as staying on time and on budget. The one thing I didn’t anticipate was the reality of being the only source of motivation for myself. I didn’t have coworkers to give me dirty looks when I was slacking off, or managers and directors giving me deadlines. I was the one deciding when things were due and keeping myself focused during the day. It was shockingly difficult in the beginning.
It is actually a pretty common thread with many of the business owners and entrepreneurs I know – having that constant need to prod oneself to stay motivated. When you answer to no one (besides your clients, of course!) you find yourself having to pump yourself up to get moving. It takes a lot of discipline, and there are days when you just “can’t” – whether it be because you are distracted by life, or feel like things are “slow” or you just have a ton of projects that you have been putting off and now they seem insurmountable. They are all motivation killers that can be hard to bounce back from. In an effort to help others stay motivated as small business owners, I polled a few of my business owner friends to see what words of wisdom they could share.
There are five common themes that kept coming up in everyone’s answers:
- Self Care – Taking care of oneself is such an important part of being a business owner. You need to be at your best to do your best, and making space for yourself is key.
Mallika Malhotra, a Brand Photographer & Strategist shares: “I wake up early everyday at 530 AM and enjoy my morning ritual of reading. I make a coffee, light a candle and before my kids wake up and the busy day begins, I spend time reading fiction or business book uninterrupted. This fills my tank and keeps me motivated.”
Christine Chapman of Personalized Educational Solutions and Education Station Hopkinton shares that her secret to staying motivated is: “Self care. Balance is key and I have to be at my best to serve others.”
2. Productivity Strategies – There are so many ways to stay organized and on task, and using those strategies keeps your energy high for the long haul. I am a huge advocate of the Bullet Journal and am #TeamAsana, so I know the key for me is to be constantly aware of my deadlines, steps I need to take to get things done, and always be aware of small tasks I can do to ramp up to bigger tasks. I even have an “if you are bored” section on my Asana task list so that I am never for want of anything to do if I need to “procrastinate” to give myself a break.
Chris Emmer, Owner of Sweaty Wisdom shares: “A daily priority list breakdown helps me stay focused on what’s important instead of getting overwhelmed by the big picture.”
Beth Reigger of Key 2 Success Marketing shares: “Some days it’s easier than others! My 2 suggestions are 1) the 5 Second Rule’s countdown launch method and 2) a timer. I set a timer for 20 minutes-or sometimes even less-and pick two small goals/tasks and get them done.”
3. Find the Fun – Business is much more fun if you connect with what is good. Staying motivated oftentimes means staying positive. Keeping that high-vibe in your business is a great motivator and makes the work day a little more fun.
Alanna Ti’a of CalligraTi’a, paper & design approaches work with a great attitude: “I simply love and am excited about what I get and have chosen to do!”
Danait Berhe, Lead Designer of Heart & Vine Creative shares her strategy: “ I find one thing to get excited about each day and connect it to my bigger goal/vision in life. Most days that’s the work I’m doing and knowing it’s making a difference. On the days when I can’t get excited about work, I’ll schedule something fun in the middle of the day or end of the day like lunch out with a friend, an extra long lunch break to do something fun, or plans for the evening. This was I have things to look forward to even on the full days.”
4. Keep Things In Perspective – As business owners, we tend to get stuck in the day to day – the little stressors or the things that don’t really matter in the scheme of things. Keeping a clear head and understanding that so much of what we do is just a small piece of the overall picture is invaluable in staying motivated to get through the hard stuff.
Lynn Swords, Founder of Ink & Key definitely knows how to keep things in perspective: “Just like life, a business is comprised of seasons. It’s important to recognize what season you’re in and focus on doing what needs to be done during that season. As an almost 2-year old company, we are still in a season of building and growing. I have found that I can easily lose my motivation if I compare myself to business owners who are further along than we are and pressure myself to do EVERYTHING that every other business out there is doing. I completely lose focus if I try to juggle every single thing that the latest articles are telling me I need to do. I stay motivated by focusing in on one aspect of the company that needs to be planted, watered and nurtured. Narrowing my focus creates results. When I see the fruits of my labor, I’m motivated to stay the course and work on the next thing.”
Althea Wiles, Owner of Rose of Sharon Floral Designs keeps herself on track by keeping it real: “I imagine what it would be like if I worked for someone else. Owning the business, being the one to make the decisions, and having the choice of doing this for someone else or for ME makes it much easier to choose to continue even when it’s hard. The alternative is just not worth it.”
5. Remember Why You Started – This goes hand in hand with keeping things in perspective but also helps you reflect back on your goals and also ground yourself in what is truly important. Talk about a motivator!
Kenyetta, Virtual Assistant at The Trusty VA shares: “I just keep thinking about what I want in my life and what it will take to get there. I want to actually be doing this work for clients. And it’s like I feel antsy when I’m not.”
Nacondra Moran, Tax Accountant at Exceptional Tax Services puts it best: “I stay motivated because I know I am making a real difference in the lives of Business Owners. Taxes and Bookkeeping are a huge pain point in growing your Business and I know that I am helping people save money, reduce stress and be proactive in their Business by helping them with this. Helping them save taxes allows these Business Owners to do more! Give back to their Business, take their kids to Disney World for the 1st time…or even a vacation with their spouse. I am constantly motivated by this and it inspires me to show up 100% in my Business!”
As you can see, there are different ways to connect with these strategies, and I think you might have to call on one or two different strategies on the “hard days.” I hope these 5 strategies to keeping motivated as a small business owner help you keep up that high energy, productive vibe throughout the day!