I’m not going to lie – living the freelance life is pretty awesome.
I make my own schedule, work where I want, and can make things like exercising, spending time with my family, and meditation a part of my daily life without issue (all things that I struggled with while commuting two hours a day to a 9-5!).
But in spite of all this awesomeness, I confess that sometimes I find it hard to keep up drive and momentum. At times, motivating myself to sit down and submit that article, design that online product, or upgrade that widget is just plain hard, even though I am an ambitious person.
Keeping the entrepreneurial fire burning – that spark, passion, and drive to get up, get out, and make it happen – is a challenge that all career entrepreneurs struggle with. Over the years, I’ve had my share of down seasons where just checking my email seemed like a Herculean task. But I’ve learned some tricks along the way that help me ride out these periods of reduced drive without capsizing my freelancing career, and it’s my pleasure to share them with you here – if you have other suggestions of how to keep momentum up when motivation is down, please share them in the comments section with your fellow Entrepreneurs!
Whenever I think about motivation as an entrepreneur, I always think about a quote from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Evita:
“Sometimes it’s very difficult to keep momentum if it’s you who you are following.”
Unexpectedly great insight from a man who wrote a musical called “Cats”…but for me this quote has always rung true and made me think about my entrepreneur’s journey in a physical way: my career is about following the leader, and the leader is me – so I need to lead and follow simultaneously. And that can result in a lack of motivation when the leader in me needs to take a coffee break or the follower in me just needs to sit down and zone out for a while.
When your internal leader or internal follower loses focus on your goals as an entrepreneur, you start to lose momentum. One thing that has helped me keep my leader and follower on track and heading the same direction is making my goals visual.
I keep pictures, words, and phrases of my immediate goals and long term goals around my home workspace in a very visible and borderline intrusive manner. Why? Because when I start to lose momentum and my internal leader isn’t keeping things in line, I have an external back-up system ready to take over. I like using big, bright, eye-catching visuals, but I know some people who utilize little post-it notes or little symbols strategically placed to keep momentum up when drive is down.
Whether you are designing a product, writing a book, or building an affiliate marketing empire, keeping your goals visible in front of you can act like a proverbial carrot on a stick – it can lead you forward when your own drive is running low on gas.
One thing I’ve learned about myself is that losing drive is often synonymous with getting stuck in a routine rut. Sure, I have the capability to pretty much do what I want when I want, but that doesn’t mean I am immune from getting caught in a routine that can be as monotonous as a 9-5…the only difference is it’s a routine of my own making (and something I have power to fix!).
When I first started freelance writing, I confused routine with discipline. I agree that there is definitely some overlap, but following the same set of steps every day, day after day, doesn’t make you accomplished or successful. It just makes you predictable.
Part of the fun of being an entrepreneur is that life opens up for you in ways it just can’t when you’re chained to a desk – but in my early days of working for myself, I basically emulated my old 9-5 schedule in a effort to be disciplined. It didn’t take long before I was dragging myself to my desk every morning with the same ennui that had characterized my employee days.
A friend of mine suggested I try working somewhere else for a day, like a cafe or library, to switch things up a bit. I took the advice and immediately felt refreshed and reinvigorated, and all I’d done was just adjust my daily routine minimally! Now I purposely build variety into my weekly routine to keep energy, joie de vivre, and drive up.
Variety stimulates creativity, and creativity stimulates entrepreneurship. If you’re batteries are feeling weak, try making a small change to your routine – work in a different location, exercise at a different time of day, or break up your work blocks into different size chunks. It doesn’t take much adjustment to make a difference!
I’m a detail-oriented worrier (can anyone say “Type A”?), and my first instinct when I start to lose momentum is freak out and stress. I worry about failing, I get down on myself for not being driven or disciplined, and I imagine my success crumbling under my laziness. The more I try to bully myself into kicking up momentum, the more disheartened and demotivated I get.
In the life of an entrepreneur, there are seasons of high momentum and seasons of reflection, recharging, and re-centering – and that’s just the way it is. Sometimes all you can do is accept that you might not be as productive or motivated as you want to be and then let it go. Stressing about being driven won’t make you any more motivated, it will just make you more frustrated. Letting go of the need to be in overdrive all the time allows you to replenish the vital and often unconscious resources that keep you achieving and succeeding.
What do you think, fellow entrepreneurs? What do you do when you start to lose a little drive? How do you get back on track and keep from wandering off the path?
Here’s to your Entrepreneur’s Journey!