Working alone as a start-up, home based business or freelancer can mean that motivation doesn’t come easily.
You have no co-workers to bounce ideas off of, no boss checking that you’re delivering on time, and too many distractions, like the dog wanting walked and the laundry pile beckoning. So how do you stay motivated in your business when working conditions are less than perfect?
Training for a half marathon taught me a lot about motivation, particularly as I only started running at the age of 39.
Here are 5 tips that I used while training for my half marathon that you can use for motivation in your business:
1. Goal setting
As someone who had only just started running 6 months prior to my half marathon entry, and having never run more than 5K, I didn’t have the first idea how to go about setting a running plan for a much longer distance.
I downloaded a beginners training plan that instantly gave me motivation in the form of specific actions. Distances, speed work, rest days, different types of workouts – all was mapped out for me. Without such clear goals, my early motivation would have quickly diminished and disappeared.
Having goals in your business is a huge motivator, as goals move you into action. Knowing where you are heading and why, gives you a clear roadmap to your end goal. Large goals, like your overall vision for the business and the service you provide, can be broken down into smaller monthly, weekly and even daily goals. Like training to run 13 miles, business goals will show you how each day will lead you to the end result.
2. Monitoring performance
I use a training app that records how far I’ve run, how fast and even how many calories I’ve burned. I can see on a day-to-day basis how my performance has been affected by the weather or the time of day I’ve gone out.
In your business, you should have a weekly check in to figure out what has worked and what hasn’t. Not only will this show you the successes that you’re having on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, but over time, you’ll also get a sense of what isn’t working. That means that you can ditch these activities rather than relentlessly plugging away at them for months on end.
3. Motivational music
I can’t run without music. Well, obviously, I can run, I just don’t run particularly well. I focus too much on my breathing. Is it too heavy? Too shallow? I worry about my gait – too long, too short? And I just can’t get into the zone. In short, other things distract me.
So, my running soundtrack helps to motivate each and every training session. I have fast paced dance tracks when I want to focus on my speed, rock music that helps me to focus on that finish line and not the pain in my lungs. And a few tracks that are nice and slow for those recovery runs.
A motivational soundtrack – be that tunes, a podcast, a regular radio show or even whale music – will help you to get in the zone, particularly on those days when you’d rather be anywhere than at your desk. You might prefer music with no lyrics, or you might like some opera. The whole point is that you need to figure out the soundtrack that works best for you. HINT: It should lift your spirits, and help you to work better.
4. Get accountable
The first time I ran a half marathon I was terrified. What if I couldn’t run further than 5K without collapsing? What if I got halfway and seized up? Fear kills motivation. It stops us from taking action. One way to overcome fear is to become accountable to others. I decided to train for a half marathon not just to challenge myself, but like thousands of others, to do it for charity.
I signed up to raise money for a cancer charity, then sent all of my Facebook friends a link to my fundraising page before I could even think about it. I had expected that the fear of backing out after all my friends knew about my half marathon goal would be too humiliating. What I hadn’t expected was to gain 100’s of virtual cheerleaders. Friends and family sent messages of support. ‘ You can do it.’ ‘What a fantastic idea.’ And, my favourite, ‘You’ve inspired me to do it too.’
You can do this at every stage of your business or freelance career. From when you start out by telling people what you’re planning to do, to when you are making important goals for your business – such as changing direction, earning more profits or gaining more clients. TIP: choose wisely. Don’t pick negative people.
The aim is to gain motivation and, while you don’t want people who think everything is wonderful either, those who are persistently negative will not help to motivate you. (Unless it’s to prove them wrong, of course). Making yourself accountable to others is a powerful motivation technique. It broadcasts your intention – giving you the motivation to show that you can do what you’ve set out to do; while also giving you a strong set of supporters for when your internal motivation needs a boost.
5. Put one foot in front of the other and just do it
My final point was going to be ‘just do it’ but Nike beat me to that tag line. The first step to my half marathon was setting out the door on that first training run and just putting one foot in front of the other. Again and again. Training for a half marathon is a big time commitment compared to a 5K. It requires persistence.
The first training sessions were tough, but by half way through, I had stopped gritting my teeth every time I headed out and started looking forward to runs. I was keen to see how much I could challenge myself. And how much I’d improved.
Every successful entrepreneur started out one day with nothing but an idea. Instead of being crippled by judging yourself against those who are already successful, just start. Take the first step to get your business idea into action. And the next one. Then the next one. And pretty soon you will start to see the fruits of your labors.
“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” – Thomas Jefferson
You’ll win that first client. You’ll get that 5 star customer review. Action leads to motivation. Motivation leads to action. Keep the circle moving and you will stay motivated throughout your business life.
What motivational exercises have you learned from one area of your life that you’ve used in another? Do you use any of the techniques above – or do you have suggestions to add to the list?
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