How to keep motivated when you work for yourself and work alone
I have been self-employed for about six years. I work as a research consultant, and my commute to work takes about 10 seconds - I work out of the master bedroom in our house.
The key to working for yourself is to create structure and accountability. In a job for a regular employer, that's already created for you - you have hours you're expected to be at work, you have a boss, abd you have a certain number of vacation days. Most importantely, you have key metrics to work towards - measurable, quantifiable goals.
If you work for yourself, you have to create all of that yourself. Here are a few things you can do to get rolling:
- First, determine the work environment and culture you will thrive in. How long is your work day? How much time is OK to take at lunchtime? Figure out how many days off your "company" gives you per year, and track them.
- Reduce distractions. Multitasking has been shown to reduce productivity, not increase it. Turn off your phone for extended blocks of time if your work allows. If you can, only read and reply to e-mail at designated blocks during the day. And work on one task at one time, building in breaks between them.
- Identify some key performance indicators (KPI's) and track them. These might be income, revenue, deliverables, or anything else that reflects on your progress or success.
- Write up a performance contract, and do a "performance review" every quarter. Set goals for the quarter, and give yourself constructive feedback at the end of the period. What's working? What could you do better? What were your key ‘wins"?
- Find a "mastermind group" or other group of people doing similar work to you. Meet regularly to share goals, successes, and challenges.
- Give yourself rewards when you've achieved your KPI's. These might mean giving yourself a "bonus" you can spend on anything you want - or taking yourself out to lunch, going on a vacation, whatever motivates you. Sometimes, though, it's small, every day rewards that keep you moving. When I win a new contract I get to crank up Aloe Blacc's "The Man" and dance around the living room. Create checklists and check things off, taking a moment to savor each little checkmark.
- Finally, be patient. Work steadily, focusing on the task at hand. Give your own work time to grow and thrive.