Finding it difficult to motivate yourself is reasonable, particularly if you have no direct help from anyone else. Even if I was being paid to do my ideal job and had fantastic management there would still be times when I would find it difficult to motivate myself to do the next thing on my to-do list.

For a long time I believed that I should be able to motivate myself because I was in a privileged position: I wasn’t reporting to anyone and I was free to work as and when I chose. I felt that I should be grateful for this and be able use it to my advantage. It took a friend asking me ‘how to you get anything done without someone to tell you what to do’ for me to realise that there were pitfalls (as well as advantages) to working on my own and that it was reasonable to struggle some of the time.

Most of the advice that I have seen about starting your own business, or being your own boss, has emphasised the need to be able to work all hours, dedicate yourself to your idea, and that it may involve loss of family life and time with friends. I firmly believe that this is not only bad advice, it is specifically harmful to you and your business (new or otherwise), not least because of the unrealistic expectations that you are likely to set for yourself. I believe that it is better to work reasonable hours – unless there are exceptional circumstances – and to make time for yourself and others around what you are trying to achieve.

Main sources of de-motivation

  • Stress and Anxiety
  • That’s the end of this list

Main sources of Stress and Anxiety

  • Financial worries (see: Admin)
  • Seemingly impossible tasks (see: Planning)
  • Trying to perform multiple roles at once (see: Roles)

Sources of motivation

Would you apply for your job?

  • Define your job
  • Define the ideal version of your job
  • Write down the changes that you need to makes to get from your current job to the ideal version of your job
  • Are you prepared to make those changes?
  • Are you prepared to do your current job regardless of whether it eventually becomes your ideal job?
  • There’s little point using what you want to be doing in two years time (or two months time, or next week) as motivation for doing your job today because you don’t know what you’ll definitely want to do this afternoon, let alone next week or next month (or next year, or the year after that).

Financial motivation

  • If nothing else is working then I find having daily, monthly and annual targets for the money I need to earn to pay for all the basics (see: Financial planning) can be useful as a last resort for motivating myself
  • If it’s getting towards the end of the day and I feel I’ve got very little done then picking something that I know will only take 5 or 10 minutes, and knowing how much that will earn my organisation, can sometimes kick-start some momentum and if this works then I can get a couple of hours done with little apparent effort

Ongoing motivation

Have as many different tools as you can to motivate yourself. I have daily targets for hours that I try to work as well as monthly and annual targets. I have aims and objectives (see: Vision, Planning, Expectations) that I use to motivate myself at different times. Sometimes none of them are effective and I make up new ones.

If something that was helping to motivate me yesterday is not working today this does not mean that I have failed, it means that it’s time to try something else.

I think there’s little point in sitting staring at a screen or a bit of paper and getting nothing done, even if I’m thinking about what to do. I recommend getting up and walking around the room, or the house, or the block, or the park, or going for a swim, or a run, or a bike ride, or having a snooze, or planning something I enjoy. I can keep thinking while I’m doing these things and I believe that movement and exercise can unblock my thought processes and help to inspire solutions and creative ideas.

If I’m not getting anything done I have a day off, or a morning off, or an afternoon off. Or I designate today as a planning day and make things easier for my future self. Or I have an admin day and take my time doing something that I’ve been putting off for a while.

Success and Failure

Distance yourself from your business / organisation / idea. You are not your idea. You are not your business, even if you are the only employee of your business. Even if your organisation is based on an idea that was yours and yours alone.

If your business / organisation / idea doesn’t succeed in the way that you hoped it would you have not failed. There are many reasons why it might not have worked out. Rates of failure for new businesses are extremely high:’s nothing personal. You are not your business.

If you can identify why things didn’t work out then you can adjust your plans and try again, if you want to. If you don’t want to or you can’t identify what to do differently, maybe try something else.

If your business succeeds it is unlikely that you are solely responsible for that success. Share the praise for your success and the proceeds of your success with those that helped it to happen.

Next: Vision

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