When I first started freelancing, I had a seemingly infinite amount of motivation and energy that allowed me to work for 12+ hours without any breaks. How to stay motivated wasn’t exactly a problem at the time. I’m sure my family was a bit concerned, but when you’re freshly delving into your business, it’s exciting! It’s exhilarating! You’re on top of the world and can do anything! And then reality hits.
Every business has its ups and downs, but when you use all your energy during the ups, how can you find the energy during the slower times? Staying motivated when it doesn’t feel like you’re going anywhere can be difficult. I always tried waiting for motivation, but I quickly learned that you have to CREATE the motivation.
Here’s 7 tricks I learned that keep me going when days feel impossible to finish.
1. Figure out why you’re unmotivated
The biggest thing I’ve learned from freelancing is that I become unmotivated when I dread a task. Break down the reason why you feel that way. Are you afraid it’ll take a long time? Try recording how long it actually takes you (spoiler: it’s usually not as long as you think!) Or are you worried you won’t create something *amazing* enough? Remind yourself that you’re doing your best and are constantly learning. Facing these fears head-on will help put you in control of the situation.
2. Make a small list of to-dos that you can cross off
Start with a weekly schedule that charts your main objectives for the week. Creating your “big picture” schedule in advance is such a time saver. When you sit down for work, you will know exactly what’s coming up and don’t have to spend time figuring it out—half the work is already done for you! Now for each day you have planned out, create a small list of manageable tasks (around 2–3) that you can cross off as you go. Don’t make it a mile long, or else it will look intimidating! Being able to cross something off a list is incredibly satisfying because you can actually see all the progress you’re making.
3. Find your productive times
Find the times when you have the most energy and use that time for your more ambitious tasks. I recently switched the times I photograph from the mornings to the afternoons. My mind seems to be more awake in the morning, so I reserve that time for doing things such as writing blog posts or brainstorming work for clients. That way by the afternoon, all the hard work is out of the way and I can focus solely on shooting. Experiment with what activities you do during certain times of the day and see what works best for you!
4. Step away from social
Just because social media isn’t face-to-face, doesn’t mean it won’t tire you out! Minimize your time on social media, or even take a few days off—it’s okay, the world won’t end. I’m definitely an introvert at heart and as much as I love interacting with everyone, it wears me out from time to time. Stepping back from social media will also help you stay focused on your bigger projects. We tend to spend a lot more time scrolling the ‘gram than we think we do. By having more time to work on other things, it will allow you to get more done which will then fuel your motivation some more! It’s a win-win.
5. Remind yourself of your strengths & achievements
Too often we get caught up in the day-to-day that we don’t realize how far we’ve actually come in our business. Take a few minutes after each day and write down some things you’ve accomplished that day, or what you’re proud of. We can be tough on ourselves when we feel we haven’t done EVERYTHING that we wanted to do and end up crushing our own self-esteem. Write down some positive qualities you possess and remind yourself that you ARE great. Putting everything into perspective will help bring clarity in your purpose and will show you all the progress you’ve been making.
6. Keep it positive
Negativity will sabotage your ability to stay motivated. Keeping a positive mindset will set the groundwork for motivation. Believe you can accomplish anything and turn the negatives into positives. For example, say you have a few things on your mind:
1. This client is a pain.
2. I suck at being organized.
3. I should have went to bed earlier.
Turn them into:
1. I have a better understanding of which clients are right for me.
2. I am doing my best to become better organized.
3. I want to go to bed earlier tonight so I feel better tomorrow.
It may feel silly at first, or difficult—but by laying that foundation of optimism, you’re creating a positive atmosphere that will allow motivation to develop.
7. Reward yourself & take a break
Taking breaks as a business owner can be surprisingly difficult. We always seem to have a million things to do and no time to rest. We end up working ourselves until we’ve reached this zombie-like state of mind and become uninspired and stressed out, which only inhibits us. Don’t be afraid to take breaks, and often. Try working an hour, then taking a 15 minute break. Whenever you feel stuck, or frustrated, just step back and take a walk or grab a snack to clear your mind. That way, you come back refreshed and ready to tackle more of that little to-do list of yours.
At the end of the day, reward yourself with something you enjoy. Being able to give your mind a break and having something to look forward to can be one of the simplest, yet greatest motivation drivers.
Remember, motivation starts within. It’s not always going to come to you, it’s kinda like a beast you have to summon with your mind powers. By creating a structured day with breaks and rewards, you’ll know what to expect from your day which makes conquering your goals that much easier. Keeping a positive mindset will put your mind in a better place that will help you stay motivated and give you the energy to complete your goals.