How to get stuff done when you really, really don't want to get stuff done
What is motivation?
Motivation is the drive that is within us all. Motivation is what pushes you when your legs fail and your lungs burn. Motivation is what makes you pick yourself up after you’ve fallen, even when you’re covered in dust. Motivation is what gives you the courage to continue even when you don’t want to.
So, how do you find this magical substance called ‘motivation’? Is it a mythical idea, like the fountain of youth?
Luckily, it’s not. We all have infinite motivation inside us, although sometimes it may be difficult to find. Working in a small business is very challenging. Because you often lack the customer base and stability that a large company provides, it can be nerve-wracking to go-it-alone.
I know that I have struggled immensely in my business. On days where business was slower, I wondered if there was even a point to it. Feeling like I was putting so much time and effort into something that wasn’t always being appreciated was tough. So how do you keep going when you feel like giving up?
(I’m sure you’ve guessed it by now)
There are heaps of little things that you can do to help you stay motivated on days where you’re struggling a bit. In my research, I struggled to find out real ways to combat the procrastination demon. It was full of people saying ‘Change your mindset’ or ‘Focus on what makes you different’ and other airy-fairy sentiments. I definitely understand that mindset is a big part of things, but what are some actual things I can do to help? This is where I realised I was just going to need to pull things from my own experiences and those of people around me. And thus, we have arrived at the ‘Actual Things You Can Do To Get Things Done When You Don’t Want To’.
Don’t beat yourself up for needing a break. There is no denying that work culture can be toxic in many ways. This can be even more true when you’re working alone, and at home. The fear that you need to be working 24/7 otherwise you aren’t trying hard enough is valid, but wrong. Taking a break when you feel overwhelmed or burnt out is the best thing you can do. Having something to eat, or sitting outside for half an hour will completely change your perspective. After switching off for a while, your brain will be reset when you come back to work. This often means that you can look at it with fresh eyes, and see it differently from before.
Lists are a man’s best friend. This might not be true for everyone, but lists have changed my life. On a day where I’m not sure what to do, I’ll get up and make a list. On days where I have so much work it’s coming out my ears, I’ll make another list. Often, I’ll break them down into really little steps. If I need to write a blog post, that might be six steps. (1. Research, 2. Create a plan, 3. Write intro, 4. Write body paragraphs, 5. Conclusion, 6. Final proof-read and edits). This might seem a little overkill, but I’ve found that being able to tick something off every half hour keeps me motivated. Having everything broken down into tiny manageable steps also makes it seem like less work, and then I feel less stressed.
Keep a running note going. I have a page on my notes app that is titled ‘Things to do when I have nothing to do’. If I’m working on a client’s work, and get an idea for a blog post, I’ll quickly add it to my note. If I’m making dinner and I think of a good post for my social media pages, I’ll add it to my note. This note will accumulate ideas and things I can do to improve my business. Then on a quieter day, I can go into the note and pick one of the things to work on. This gets rid of the eternal ‘I-don’t-know-what-to-do-right-now’ thought process, which normally leads to procrastination and You Tube. Oops. This then means that I don’t spend time lazing around, unmotivated, and unable to think of tasks.
Interacting with people. One thing that will always make me feel like I’m making a difference is helping others. Sometimes that’s spending half an hour scrolling through my ‘groups’ tag on Facebook, and answering questions/giving advice related to websites, social media, or anything else I have knowledge on. Not only is this helping others and building relationships, but it makes me feel like I’m contributing to things. The satisfaction that I get from helping some understand or overcome a problem gives me a real dopamine boost. You could do this in other ways, like donating a small percentage of sales to a charity, or going to coffee with other business people.
Understand that you always have options. Are you stuck doing something you hate? Then change it! The amazing thing about life is that you can always change and evolve. When I first began my business, I was building websites. I didn’t enjoy it very much and found it a bit boring and tedious. I felt unmotivated and actively procrastinated doing work because I didn’t like what I was doing. It was tough, because I felt like I was going to be stuck in a job I didn’t like forever. But guess what? I started writing blogs and found that I really enjoyed it. It was easy to pivot and move into the copywriting side, which I love doing now! You have the power to change what you’re doing at any time, as long as you’re prepared to put in a bit of extra work.
Realise that almost no-one knows what they’re doing. Imposter Syndrome is very real, and it affects most people. I’m predominantly self-taught, and sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t be writing for people because I haven’t spent ten years at university. In reality, most people are self-taught. It’s actually widely acknowledged that hands-on practise is way better than theory anyway. I spend a lot of time and effort writing, and my customers are always really happy with what I produce. Why should I be unable to do the work I love, just because I’m not as qualified as others? This whole idea is completely ridiculous. There will always be someone more qualified, someone that has more experience, someone that knows what they’re doing more than you. But you can’t let that stop you. The more you try, the harder you work, the more experienced you will become. And one day, you’ll stop feeling like an imposter, and start feeling like the real deal.
A lack of motivation is normal, and nothing to worry about. It’s often our body’s way of telling us ‘Hey, you need to take a break’. Sometimes, a whole day off is really what is needed, to rest and recharge while doing other hobbies. (Yes, I am aware that days off don’t exist when you’re in a small business. It’s more of a 21/7 kind of gig). However, these are some small things you can do to get you back into the zone when you’re needing a pick-me-up. In time, you will find the things that work for you, and the things that don’t. This list is just a starter pack to help you on our journey to becoming a motivated, dedicated business person.