Updated: Sep 22, 2021
Keeping motivated when you’re a freelancer, or a business owner, or you’re self employed, is seriously hard. This might be even harder at the moment if you're working from home solo, but you’re used to co- working spaces or being with colleagues.
There are too many distractions when you’re working from home, at your dining room table, metres away from biscuits and pets and Netflix. How can you keep going with your work in the face of all of these far more fun activities?
Well, bear with me here, perhaps you need to give up your job and do something which you find engaging. I’m not joking- if you’re having to force yourself to work all the time, your subconscious may be trying to give you a little message. But, if that’s not possible right now, or you’re actually the most devoted business owner who’s simply prone to procrastination from time to time (especially when your tax self assessment is due…) then read on.
Here are my six best tips which keep me writing even if I want a nap.
Swallow the Frog
I know what you’re going to say. One “that’s gross” and two, “aren’t you supposed to be a vegan?” and the answers are yes, and yes, my friend. But don’t worry, you will not actually be eating any frogs.
This phrase comes from the idea that if you really did have to swallow a frog your best bet would be to do it quickly (to stop it jumping away from you), and to do it without thinking (because once you’ve got the poor frog in your grasp, you really don’t want to waste time thinking about what you have to do).
This is the same theory when it comes to doing something in your working life. Similar to “rip off the band aid”. Whatever you’re not looking forward to in your working day, putting it off is just going to ruin your day. It’s time to swallow that frog, first thing in the morning, and then you can move on to the more fun things.
Listen, I have no idea why it’s called ‘tomato’ in Italian, but it is. And the only reason I know this is because I frequently have pomodoro pasta. Whatever for the reason for the name, this system seriously works.
If I’m up against a deadline, or I’m struggling to push through, I’ll pop on the pomodoro app. The idea is that you get 25 minutes- this is ‘a’ pomodoro. You do the one task you need to do for the whole 25 minutes. You don’t look at your phone, or go off task, or check your emails. I always have a notebook next to me, because my brain is so annoying that as soon as I try to focus on just one thing it goes “don’t forget you need to call Barbara later, why not do it now”. Distraction ninja. So, in these moments, I just jot “call Barbara” on the notebook and get straight on with the task I’m supposed to be doing. At the end of the 25 minutes, the timer will go off and you get a 5 minute break. Go to the loo, grab a drink, have a stretch. Then, another 25 minutes. You do 4 pomodoros of 25 minutes, with a 5 minute break in between each one. After the fourth 25 minute pomododo, you get a full 30 minute break. Have lunch or a brief walk.
It’s up to you how many pomodoro sessions you do in a day. You’ll be able to smash through 12 pomodoros when the work is fun, and you might struggle if you’re finding the work boring, but it really keeps you going. You’ll be amazed how much you can get done in 25 minutes. The app I use- Be Focused- has a tick for each second which goes by, and it sort of gets me into a rhythm.
The place you work is a key driver for productivity or procrastination. Where are you most productive? If having a desk full of nick-nacks is comforting, great, then crack on. If all those nick-nacks are going to distract you, then do yourself a favour first thing in the morning and clear your desk.
You might be productive on the sofa under a blanket, but I can only be productive and get my work done while I’m sat in my desk. The idea of writing on a sofa is utterly tempting, but would result in me watching Homes Under The Hammer. Then, I’d be writing about rundown 70s mid terraces, and no one would pay me. I need to be completely removed from the relaxation spaces, so I can focus on the work. I’m lucky to have a spare room, but if you don’t, perhaps invest in a bureau desk so you can hide your work away at the end of the day.
Think carefully about music, podcasts, or silence too- don’t self-sabotage!
Just like a kid, you need to be rewarded for good behaviour. If the kid tidies their room, give them 30 mins on an iPad, or a cake or a pony. I don’t really understand kids. But I do understand that when you do something good, you deserve a treat. And, you’ll enjoy it even more because you’ll feel like you earned it.
So, put your grown up pants on and turn off your phone, close your curtains, hide your TV remote and knuckle down. Simply, hide all the fun things you want to do. Then, later, eat doughnuts in the bath while you watch Netflix. Or get a pony. Whatever you want.
What is your body telling you?
Listen, you are not a machine, ok? You cannot be productive if you’re thirsty, hungry or tired.
Before you start your working day have a drink ready, put on warm socks and a cosy jumper, put on your trendy blue light glasses. Take a moment to eat something tasty. Do you need to plan a nap later?
If you’re in a moment of stress, can you light a candle, or reward yourself later with a relaxing bath. Go and grab a hot water bottle. Take those pain killers. Have a break- regular ones. You deserve them!
Take a moment to think about what you need and make sure you give it to yourself. You’ll actually get more done if you’ve taken care of your basic, human needs first of all.
Have a big goal, and then some smaller goals.
Have a three month goal, a monthly goal, a weekly goal and a goal for your day. This does not need to be overwhelming. It just needs to be measurable.
There’s nothing, nothing, as motivating as achieving a goal.
Think about where you want to be in three months- how many sales do you want to have made? How many clients do you have to have? How much money do you want in the bank? How many followers do you want in three months? Write it down. Now, break it down into months, and then weeks. What do you need to have done by the end of the week? Be gentle with yourself, especially if you’re a fellow procrastinator. Aim small. All progress is progress.
It’s better to over- achieve rather than under achieve and beat yourself up. Keep checking on your goal through the week to make sure you’re on track. Celebrate each time you achieve what you’re aiming for, and reward yourself. See above.
Right! That’s it! I hope you’re productivity hacked to the eyeballs, and ready to jump into your working day to achieve your dreams. Or, ready to swallow frogs so you can eat doughnuts in the bath. Not a sentence I ever thought I’d write, but there you go.