How to stay motivated when you work for yourself

More and more people are working from home these days. Some people run online businesses, some are freelancers and some are studying. No matter what form your at-home work takes, you are bound to run into some roadblocks along the way. Procrastination, lack of motivation and a feeling that everything is just too overwhelming are all barriers that can get in the way of accomplishing your goals. I’ve been working for myself for about eight years now and  I’ve picked up some useful strategies along the way to help you to stay motivated when you work for yourself.

Set goals.

Having a goal to work towards can be a great motivator. When you’re planning your goals, make sure that they’re measurable, so that you’ll know when you’ve achieved them. For example, rather than setting the goal, ‘Get better grades”, plan to “Get an A on my next exam”. I find that it also helps to make several smaller goals to compliment each big goal. Make a yearly or monthly goal, and then plan out what steps you could take daily or weekly to help you to work towards it. Write your goals somewhere prominent and check over them often to track your progress.

Identify your partner in crime, and then cut them out.

A partner in crime is a person who aids and abets your procrastination. If you have someone in your life who seems to always be distracting you from your work, then you need to address this. Explain to them that your work  is important to you, and that you need to be able to work on it without disruptions. Make it clear to them that it’s nothing personal, and plan to do something fun with them once your work is done.

Take smart breaks.

Taking breaks when you’re working for yourself can be tricky.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of sitting down for a ten-minute break and spending the next three hours watching cat videos on Youtube.  Plan at least one ten-minute break for every hour of work you do. Even if you don’t feel tired, taking a short amount of time away from your desk will refresh you and help you to work better for longer. If you don’t think that you can trust yourself to stick to your allotted break times, set an alarm for the end of your break and put it on your desk. Make sure that the sound is loud and obnoxious, so that when it goes off, you’ll have to walk to your desk to switch it off. Then, make yourself sit down and get back to work.

Be realistic about the number of tasks you can complete in one day.

I’m often guilty of overestimating how much I can achieve in one day. I set myself a mountainous to-do list and then lament over the fact that I rarely reach the bottom of it before the day is out. Instead, choose the three most important tasks and make these your priority.  Once these are done, consider any additional work you do a bonus.


Get out of the house.

Cabin fever can start to sink its itchy little claws into you when you’re stuck working within the same four walls all the time. . If you can, set up a workspace in a room other than your bedroom. If you don’t have the space to do this, take your work outside occasionally. Head to a library or a quiet café for a few hours to stave off the cabin fever.


Be tough, but not rough on yourself.

Sometimes, you’ll need to be a bit strict with yourself in order to meet deadlines. You might need to give yourself a swift, metaphorical kick up the backside every now and again so you can get shit done.  However, there’s a difference between being tough on yourself and being rough on yourself. You’re being tough on yourself when you have genuinely been slipping up, and really need a shot of self-discipline. You’re being rough on yourself when you’re punishing yourself for making a tiny mistake, or forcing yourself to keep working when you’re exhausted. It’s good to be tough on yourself once in a while. It’s not OK to be rough on yourself. Treat yourself kindly, always.

Do you work for yourself? Are you currently studying? What stumbling blocks do you run into when you’re setting your own schedule? Do you have any motivational tips?

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