There are a lot of perks that come from being your own boss — but motivation isn’t always one of them. When you’re a freelancer or a solo entrepreneur, self-discipline is imperative, and in some cases hard to come by. There’s no boss breathing down your neck or holding you accountable; you’re the boss, and it falls to you to stay on track and get things done.
Maybe that’s something you struggle with — but there are steps you can take to keep yourself moving forward. Let me recommend just a few of the strategies I’ve picked up from self-employed leaders over the years — strategies to help you get things accomplished.
Take care of yourself. First and foremost, being productive does not mean burning the candle from both ends. If you want to stay motivated, you’ve got to keep your energy levels up — and that means getting eight hours of sleep each night, staying hydrated, and getting some physical activity. Build some personal time into each day so that you can take care of you, before you try to take care of everything else.
Make a To-Do list… and a Not-To-Do list. Here’s an ingenious little productivity hack that I think more solopreneurs could benefit from. In the morning, make a list of all the things you need to get done that day — your top goals and priorities. Then, on the other side of the page, make a list of the things that just aren’t as important — the things you’re happy to drop. This prioritization can really help you maintain perspective, and it can bring a sense of structure to the unfolding of your day. Most of all, a Not-to-Do list prevents you from becoming overwhelmed.
Connect with people. You might think it’s easier to be productive when you’re all alone in your office — but sometimes, solitude can be counterproductive. You need to talk with other people, brainstorm together, and bounce ideas off each other. Have a regular appointment with colleagues, mentors, or peers, and make sure you’re recharging those social batteries at least once a week or so. Online chat programs can sometimes be helpful in a pinch.
Schedule some quiet time. By quiet time, what I mean is a few minutes where you don’t have a vibrating phone or a blinking inbox. Plan an hour or two of time every morning where you just get stuff done, and let all your notifications and electronic communications sit for a while. Learning to turn off your devices is a critical step toward self-discipline.
Say no. Working for yourself brings unlimited possibility — but that’s not always a positive thing. If you want to be productive, you’ve got to pick and choose your priorities, rather than stretching yourself too thin and getting nothing done. This takes us right back to the Not-to-Do list, in a way: You’ve got to develop your sense of the things you don’t need to do, you don’t need to take on.
Guard your time. Focus on the things that need to get done. It sounds simple — but as any solo entrepreneur will tell you, it can be tough to master. I hope these tips will help you.