By Jerry Mooney
It's the last push before the Christmas holidays, and for lots of us, that can mean that our focus is at a low ebb. With the year on its way out, the weather much drabber and the feeling of slowly freewheeling downhill towards the festivities, motivation becomes a much more elusive beast. And if you’re self-employed, or running your own start-up business and starting to build a team, that can be a real challenge.
How do we push procrastination to one side and step towards our goals in the last months of 2017? How do we keep momentum rather than waiting for a new year to kick in?
The good news is, a few simple steps can really help you to carry your motivation right through until the close of the year. Just the simple fact of getting on with things can be hard, but it's easily overcome once you get in motion.
In fact, you may even be procrastinating reading this article...if so, get reading and get to work!
Name the Issue
Often the problem stems from the fact that we don’t allow ourselves to realise we’re putting off getting to work. In the hyper-connected, digital space we inhabit, everything is designed to grab our attention, and to feel urgent. We can easily convince ourselves while we’re checking social media updates or responding to every email alert that pings into our inboxes that we’re doing something vital. So the first step is very much to acknowledge what’s exactly is going on - and become accountable for it. Don’t waste time in guilt - accept that procrastination is something that happens to us all from time to time.Make a conscious resolution in your head ‘I am now moving forward with an action’ and redirect your thoughts. Naming the issue allows you to see if for what it is and move on from it.
Start With the Biggest Challenge
Instead of leaping straight into emails, filing or some other form of busy work, begin by tackling the biggest and most challenging item on your to-do list. It could be looking at accounts, writing a long report or even writing a tricky email you’ve been putting off, but you’ll never get into your flow if you don’t address that elephant on your task list. If it seems too momentus, take a moment to break the action down into manageable chunks. Items like ‘draft annual report’ have no place on a functioning task management system. You need to name small, individual elements, such as ‘plan out index’ or ‘produce Year On Year comparison table’. By taking a few of these smaller actions and establishing an initial progress, momentum will build.
Learn What you Can Outsource
Most of us get into business because we have a passion - be that design, photography or web development- but often running a startup means becoming a jack of all trades by necessity. The paradox is that the more focused and talented you are in one area, the more likely you are to want to start your own company, to bring a particular vision to life. Which means that a lot of small businesses founder being run by a specialist who finds themselves unhappily bogged down with the administration and processes of getting a business off the ground. The secret here is to recognise your own value. You are the creative engine of the business, and without that, nothing else works. So the earliest profits you bring in should be focused on taking the pressure of by outsourcing the worst elements of business life. Nowadays, tech based solutions mean virtual accounting or PA support are cheap and only a few clicks away. Knowing when you aren’t an expert in something is vital.
Try Mini Breaks From Your Desk
If you work alone, you can often be faced with long stretches of time alone, and for a lot of people that situation doesn’t put them at their creative best. Yes, you do need focused time to go deep on certain projects, but try to achieve a balance by breaking up the monotony of a long day alone. Every 30 minutes, make sure you get up from your desk and do some simple stretching - this keeps the blood pumping and helps you to zone out less often. Also, make sure you try and take a walk outdoors at lunchtime. Look for local networking events in your industry too. Making contacts can be invaluable as you build your business, but it can also give you a fresh injection of enthusiasm for what you’re trying to achieve, which is vital for feeling continually inspired and ready for work. Break away from the email and make sure you’re calling business contacts to talk through your latest developments - simple things can reinvigorate you and help shake off any creeping ennui that saps productivity.
Create Your Own Deadlines
When creating work for clients, there will always be deadlines attached, but sometimes these are so looming and far ahead, they don’t have much of an impact in terms of motivation. So for each project create a scheduling using a collaboration tool like Trello and set up milestone goals along the way. This series of mini deadlines can keep things moving along, they can be helpful in terms of framing the project to outsiders and even in helping you know what to charge if the business is new. You can also stack them with personal perks. For instance, promising yourself that if you achieve this deadline, you’ll take the afternoon off. Your time is your own to manage when you work for yourself, and you should take advantage of that. Many of us use the lack of outside boundaries to spiral and drift, and end up working longer but being less productive. Use time to motivate yourself and provide a reward and you’ll find it seems a lot more valuable - making you tick those tasks off faster. Whatever interests you’ve always wanted more time to pursue, you can now do so - as long as your time at work is truly spent working.