Working for yourself might seem like the ultimate dream. You make your own hours, wear sweatpants if you want to, and don’t live life dreading pointless meetings.
Your business, your rules.
But, being a model employee and running a tight ship isn’t always easy. It’s hard to stay inspired, motivated, creative, when it’s day-in, day-out, cranking out work on your own.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of seven ways to stay inspired when you work for yourself.
How to stay motivated when you work for yourself
1. Make time for reading
Adding reading to a never-ending pile of to-dos may sound counterintuitive. Where is that time for leisure reading supposed to come from anyway?
Even 45 minutes or an hour spent reading a good book can do a world of good.
For one, if you’ve ever spent days on end writing a ton of content, you know that you’ll start to sink into the habit of using the same words over and over. Reading works in a different style than your own can help you pick up some new ways to communicate an idea — even if you’re not aware of it.
Reading business books or self-help books can be great sources of inspiration, but don’t discount the power of a good pleasure read.
Emory University’s Center for Neuropolicy published in a 2013 study that found reading changes the brain not only during the activity but afterward, as well. The study found that reading promoted heightened connectivity in the temporal cortex, an area associated with our ability to process language.
In turn, reading can serve as inspiration, no matter the genre or relation to your day-to-day work.
We should mention though, the way we read on the web — scanning in an F formation — your Apple news habit doesn’t offer the same benefits as reading an old-fashioned book.
2. Spend time looking at the big picture
Focusing on the zoomed out view can help you keep your head in the game. Revisiting your mission is super important. Long term, you should look at two things: what do you want to create with your business? And, second, how far do you want your reach to extend?
It’s easy to lose sight of primary goal when you’re caught up in the weeds invoicing, editing, or putting together spreadsheets.
3. Write down goals—and review them frequently
Writing down smaller goals is a basic concept. But this is different than making your to-do list.
Instead, write down goals, along with a progress report or the steps that need to be completed.
The point is, do whatever it takes to keep your big picture items in view, documenting your progress, and making plans for your business in the long run.
4. Become a mentor
Spending a lot of time working alone can make you a bit self-absorbed.
Taking some time to help someone who is just getting started in their career can renew some of the passion that gets lost in the day to day shuffle — between to-do list items, calls, and demanding clients.
Whether you choose to hire an assistant, get an intern, or spend time with someone who needs a little extra help — this relationship can be mutually beneficial.
For them — they’re benefitting from your knowledge and experience. On your end, you’ll have access to a fresh perspective. You’d be surprised; rattling off ideas and listening to what the new blood has to say can be a powerful motivator.
5. Delegate or outsource to save time
Knowing when to delegate is a skill that all bosses need to nail. It’s essential for time management and allows you to focus on the stuff that matters.
You may have started out doing everything yourself, but you can’t be a master of everything, right?
Instead, you need to realize that growing your own business means taking the time to hire an assistant for your social media accounts. Or outsourcing a graphic design job for your new website.
By all means, do the things you love, but know that getting qualified help allows you to take your vision to the next level.
One reason that people don’t delegate as much as they should is, it’s hard to write a job description and create a system for deadlines, deliverables, and standards. As such, you should start by taking a day to create your own SOPs and writing them out — for each job type.
Things to do before hiring a helper:
- ID tasks and associated deliverables
- Who do you need to delegate tasks to? How many different people do you need to find?
- Where will you find people? Some roles may be filled by gig workers, while others may be better suited to a real-deal employee.
- Management plan — from communication to deliverables ownership, to payments, write out all of the specifics, according to each role that needs to be filled.
- Set a schedule for status meetings and updates. Communication is critical, and regular check-ins mean you have the chance to make corrections if your designer/developer/freelance writer/social media guru isn’t entirely on the same page.
6. Brainstorm/network/talk with others
When we ditch the old 9-5, we miss out on the positives of working in an office setting too. As much as it’s nice to do your own thing, there’s a lot of creativity that comes from working with other people or you know, just chatting.
With the rise of social media and all of these business tools that have made it easier to work from anywhere, we lose something in the process. Make a point of grabbing lunch with a friend, attending local Meetups or networking events, or reaching out to contacts in your industry.
7. Find a schedule that works
Some say the secret to success is waking up early. Others get their best work done in the dead of night after everyone has long been asleep.
Whatever your chronotype, your preferences, and so on — it’s essential that you find a schedule that works for you and your brain.
Set the start of the day and the end of the day at the same time and stick to it Monday through Friday.
You’ll start to understand the times of day when you’re most productive and from there, can structure your daily tasks according to that schedule. Second, working the same hours every day makes it easier to set boundaries with your friends and family, as well as your clients.
While freelancers and entrepreneurs don’t always have the luxury of on time and off time, working during the same hours each day also prevents that inevitable work-life bleed.
Inspiration comes in part by being smart with how you spend your time. For example, if you fail to delegate the tasks that are boring or hard or just not your thing, you’re sapping your mental energy before you get to the “good stuff.”
Instead, making time for networking and mentoring means you’re exposing yourself to new people and perspectives, which can help you break out of a rut. Or listening to podcasts you enjoy, reading a few chapters of a book before you go to bed each night, or even taking on a new hobby — these things get your brain working in ways that don’t immediately seem related to your work.
In the end, these habits listed above work together to save you time and help you avoid burnout.