“As a startup CEO, I slept like a baby. I woke up every two hours and cried.” [source]
The day-to-day realities of business ownership can be the antidote to unbridled enthusiasm. You have the autonomy you craved when you cast off the shackles of a day job, but that also means you must do all of the things, and make all of the decisions, all of the time -- while simultaneously hoping those are the right things and decisions, and that you will not end up in a trailer park on the outskirts of town listening to Lana Del Rey on loop and drowning your sorrows in mac + cheese.
Yes, being a business owner and entrepreneur is not easy. We salute you.
Some may say the future you envision for your business and personal life should be enough to keep you motivated, but what do they know? They ain’t you. Motivation is way more complicated than that, and sometimes you need a little help. Here are a few ideas to reboot your motivation and get excited again.
Create a Plan and Pat That Back
It’s hard to feel like you’re getting anywhere if you haven’t planned to go anywhere specific. Setting goals that are realistic, yet require self-discipline and determination, lays the groundwork for success.
But a meaningful goal can also turn on you. Without a clear strategy for reaching it, it can start to feel less like a cheerleader at the finish line and more like a sour-faced overlord constantly reminding you that the clock is ticking.
Now that’s just depressing.
The solution is to structure your journey so that you can see the progress you’re actually making. Break bigger goals into dopamine-triggering baby goals, and connect those with daily and weekly (yes, even daily) business-boosting activities you can trust to move you forward.
For ongoing motivation courtesy of your very own brain, be sure to show those small wins some love. Highlight them (literally--put them in a spreadsheet, talk about them, write them in Sharpie on your forehead) so that when it feels like you aren’t getting anywhere, a quick status check will prove you wrong.
Want an app for that? The Milestone Motivator app, created by Tako Agency (speaking of back-patting…ahem) especially for Shopify merchants, will help you set goals for sales, products, and traffic, and even automatically reward customers who help you reach your milestones.
Open Your Eyes
Start reading, every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. (Try an audiobook while you walk the dogs or do chores if you can’t find the time to sit down and read.) You’ll be in damn good company: top business leaders devote an average of five hours per week to reading.
Reading is good for our brains, reduces stress (by up to 68%, y’all), makes us better speakers, and helps to develop “theory of mind:” your “ability to predict behaviors of others in terms of their underlying intentions.” (Marketing and sales goals, anyone?)
Open Your Ears
Boost your eCommerce IQ, creativity, marketing savvy, and more with a podcast from Shopify’s Top 21 Business Podcasts for 2020. Then, step outside the business section and find shows that expand your horizons.
Somebody Stop This Thing
If overwhelm is killing your mojo, pay close attention to how you’re spending your days. How much time are you investing in tasks that don’t directly advance your business? If you notice a lot of things that feel more like busywork than productivity, reduce accordingly.
If you are spending your time in all the right ways, but interruptions are throwing off your game, don’t feel bad. Your struggle is supported by data:
“People in interrupted conditions experienced a higher workload, more stress, higher frustration, more time pressure, and effort.” [source]
Avoid the interruption trap by creating boundaries around your time — and defending them. Schedule set times to read and respond to email, make phone calls, and respond to texts. Turn off email, text, and definitely social media notifications when you’re working.
For example, Team Tako schedules client calls only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This allows us to be laser-focused on the needs of the person on the other end of the line, without interruption by the heavy task stream of our projects-in-progress--and vice versa!
If you’ve done all you can to streamline your workday and you still can’t keep up, it may be time to reassess your expectations and either change your timeline or outsource tasks you don’t need to do yourself.
Maintain Your Ride
If you aren’t feeling like yourself, showing your body some respect will help. A lot.
Both regular exercise and eating well have been shown to boost the capacity to think clearly, problem-solve, and recall details. Exercise alone improves stress tolerance and anxiety, and even enhances creative thinking. Water carries essential nutrients to your brain (which is, after all, about 75% water and probably likes to stay that way), which in turn makes it possible for you to think all those things you think.
And then there’s sleep. Exhaustion is like a badge of honor for many entrepreneurs, but it shouldn’t be. A good night’s sleep allows the brain to commit things to memory, improves concentration, attention to detail, and problem-solving, strengthens your immune system, and allows for cell repair.
Bottom line: if you want to give your best to your business, you have to invest in the machine that makes it all possible.
Most of the time you love what you do, and it can be difficult to see the line between where your work life ends and your personal life begins; but that doesn’t mean ignoring all the things that add dimension to your existence and keep you mentally healthy.
Put all your eggs in the “work” basket, and you’ll have nothing to help sustain you when work is kicking your ass.
Making your work-life and life-life play nicely together takes some practice, but a great place to start is including several breaks to weave that “life-life” into your day. (We know, “LOL.” Stick with us.)
Pay attention and discover where breaks would work for you. Try scheduling break times in advance, or stopping every 60 to 90 minutes, or making it a habit to get away from your desk each time you wrap up larger (or several small) tasks.
Tinker with a hobby, do some burpees, meditate, play with your kid or your dog, call your mom, or just daydream -- anything that’s the opposite of hustling.
People Who Need People (Yes, You’re One of Those)
If you weren’t strongly independent, you probably wouldn’t be an entrepreneur. While that self-reliant streak is key to your success, it’s best to get some voices outside your head who motivate, challenge, and inspire you when that self-reliance finds itself toe-to-toe with self-doubt.
Openly share your ongoing experience with supportive, positive friends and family.
Join a local or online networking group for entrepreneurs to gain a sense of community, share ideas, swap horror stories and successes, and gain accountability and support.
Think of creative ways to build relationships with your customers, so that you have a tangible connection between all that slogging and the positive effects of your work.
The Big Takeaway
Entrepreneurial life can be a bear. But with a little creativity, curiosity, and the right tools, that bear can become a little less Grizzly, a little more Teddy.