The life of an entrepreneur can be challenging. Despite the idyllic perception that most people have of being your own boss, the reality is often a series of difficult days occasionally interrupted with one wildly successful day. For some entrepreneurs, that one rewarding day is enough to motivate them to keep pushing forward. However, many find the day-to-day challenge of “keeping at it” difficult. Is it possible to maintain your focus and drive, even when success seems elusive? What are the secrets to persevering during the downtimes?
Listen to your customers.
Did you start your company hoping to make a difference in the world? Often, despite the worthwhile ideals that spurred your entrepreneurship, work can still become exhausting. To fuel your motivation, look for tangible evidence of the difference you’re making. Find customers who are using your product, seek out stories of how your services have improved another’s business, or ask for feedback from clients about the benefits of working with you. Use these stories as inspiration to continue striving towards your goal.
Science has shown that we are motivated by rewards; it’s why we work so hard for a promotion and why bonuses and sales quota goals are so effective. For the entrepreneur, rewards can be few and far between, primarily because we are often hesitant to reward ourselves. Instead of waiting for a big reward, set smaller goals and then reward yourself when you reach them. Finish a big project? Treat yourself to a nice dinner. Land a new client? Upsize your drink at the coffee shop. Using small, incremental rewards can help you stay motivated between the big moments.
Celebrate the small wins.
Not only is it important to reward yourself frequently, it is also important to celebrate consistent achievement. The human brain is wired to feel good with every win, which makes us want to repeat the behavior. Breaking down large goals into smaller, more manageable steps allows you to train your brain to look for wins more frequently. As you accomplish each step, you feel good, and your brain encourages you to repeat the process. By dividing goals into smaller pieces, you celebrate more wins and develop a habit of achievement.
Although it may seem counterproductive, one of the most important methods of staying motivated is to take a break. Try working for 50 minutes and then rest for 15. Even the simple act of getting up and walking around for a few minutes can recharge you and help you to stay focused on the tasks ahead. Feeling particularly burnt out? Spend a few hours doing something non-work related. Read a book, take in a movie, or go for a walk on the beach. Allow your brain to think about something different for a short time and then get back to work. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it can make.
Form new habits.
Realizing your dream of self-reliance requires dedication, determination, and sacrifice. A good way to “find” extra work hours is to get up earlier. Focus on the positive: tell yourself that you’re gaining two hours every day and adding an entire day to your work week, thus giving you an advantage, over your competitors. Establishing a habit of getting up early can prove difficult, but don’t give up. An effective way to retrain yourself to become an early riser is to set your alarm 15 minutes earlier every day.
Take care of yourself.
Your health affects your motivation; when you feel better, you perform better. Take care of yourself by ensuring that you get regular exercise, make good food choices, and take steps to maintain your mental health. Sometimes, you will have to be creative in looking after yourself. Ways to do this include parking in the row farthest away from the door when you go to the store, avoiding bringing snacks to your computer table, and scheduling a run or other exercise first thing in the day so that you don’t skip it. By maintaining good health, you will find it easier to stay motivated at work.
Consider the future.
It is easy to get bogged down in the minutia of the present. Today’s struggles and worries can seem overwhelming and crowd out any thoughts of the future. By realigning your focus towards a future goal, you will be able to see more clearly the path you need to take. Studies have shown that when people visualize their future selves, they are more likely to work harder and prepare for the future.
Even the most determined entrepreneurs can find themselves in a slump. Don’t despair if the fun of working for yourself gets lost in the drudgery of daily tasks. Find a new way to motivate yourself and keep moving forward!