Remember all those New Year’s resolutions? You had plans to take on the world and make this year a year to remember. You were going to get tons of new customers, make a load of money (and lose a few pounds at the same time)?
But, now it’s time to actually make it happen, the resolutions have gone by out the window, reality has set in and you’ve gone a bit flat. A lot flat. In fact you just can’t be bothered.
You’re feeling like you just want to curl up in a ball rather than face another pile of paperwork or come up with a miraculous marketing plan. Right?
Motivation? You might as well be speaking Klingon!
I know, it’s tricky to keep motivated when you’re running a business, seeing to the kids, working other jobs, trying to keep on top of housework and keep everyone fed and watered. It’s even worse when the weather is rubbish, and the New Year festivities feel like a distant memory.
Add in those jobs you really don’t want to do in the business, like writing that blog, doing tax returns, chasing payments, filing all that paperwork or coming up with some bright ideas to drum up more business and it’s no wonder you feel flat as a pancake.
But these things still need doing.
Without them the house would turn into something you see on the reality TV shows, where they have to send in a cleaning team to dig out the kitchen. They would find you in the corner of the dining room trapped under a pile of invoices, business at a standstill, in your pyjamas watching box sets and drinking coffee. However appealing that might sound right now, it’s not going to grow your business.
And you DO want to grow your business, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading business blogs, right? You WANT to snap out of perpetual PJ mode and back into business mode, so you can get the cash flowing and make your dreams come true?
So what’s a girl to do?
Well, first of all know you are not alone. I go through this a few times a year – mainly after Christmas and after holidays or long weekends. It seems to take me forever to wind down but once I’m wound down, I take a lot of getting going again, no matter much I love my business. I have to drag myself to my desk and try to snap my brain back into work mode, even though it feels like a giant, sluggish marshmallow.
There are a few ways to tackle motivation hibernation. Different options work for me at different times so take a look and see if any of these feel appealing or even vaguely doable. I’ve used them all at different points and although it might take me a bit longer than I’d like to ‘snap’ back into work mode, I get there eventually and so will you.
1. Be kind to yourself
If your number one motivational tactic is beating yourself up because you’re not doing what you’re supposed to, maybe stop that?
You know what it’s like when you have deadlines and you just aren’t feeling it – the more pressure you put yourself under, the less you feel like doing it and the less creative you are. Adding pressure makes it worse.
Take a step back, understand your body and brain have just had a well-earned and much-needed break and it’s going to take time to get back into the swing of things. Think of it like this – you’re restarting a cold business engine and it’s going to take time to get it warmed up again and working as well as it was before your break. So, stop being so mean to yourself and give yourself a couple of weeks to reacclimatise and fall back in love with your business. You’ll still get stuff done, probably more than you think but you’ll do it without that horrible, counterproductive stress.
2. Do the worst job first
I’m going to suggest two completely contradictory tactics now – I have used both at different times and they both work, it just depends on which feels most appealing at the time. The first is to do the worst job first.
Often the reason we can’t get back into work mode is that we have a horrible or tricky job to tackle once we get started and that immediately puts a dampener on any enthusiasm you managed to muster. It could be a tax return, stock take, filing, invoice chasing or some other job that makes you want to run away and hide in the biscuit tin.
If that feels like a huge black cloud over your business then tackle it. Now. No procrastinating, no excuses, just grab a cuppa, gather whatever tools and energy you need and do it. Once it’s done you will feel AMAZING and it’s a huge block out of the way, leaving you to do the nicer jobs you enjoy without the horrible one looming over you.
3. Do the nicest job first
If you just can’t face doing the horrible jobs first, pick something you enjoy doing in your business and do it, guilt-free. Give yourself a couple of hours or even a couple of days to do what you love (which is probably the reason you set up your business in the first place) without any of the less enjoyable stuff clouding your day.
Don’t let the mind monkeys stop you enjoying it – you will get the ‘horrible’ jobs done soon but for now, it’s time to fall back in love with your business and reconnect with the feelings you had when you started it.
Often this feels like a real treat because our time is usually taken up with business stuff we can’t avoid and don’t necessarily like. Simply spending a little time doing what we love can reinvigorate us, remind us why we do this every day and get us back into work mode in the nicest possible way.
4. Do a brain dump
Sometimes all it takes for us to unlock ‘work mode’ in our brain is to bring a bit of clarity to the situation.
Often after a break (and actually at regular intervals throughout the year) I feel that my head is full of ‘things I must do’.
It’s like when your computer gives you a ‘memory full’ message and refuses to do any more work until you have cleared things out. My brain is stuffed to bursting and I can’t see what I need to do first, or even what I need to do at all because my brain has crammed it all into one big ball of ‘THINGS YOU SHOULD BE DOING NOW, WHY ARE YOU SO RUBBISH?’.
Before I can even begin to do anything productive I need to see what I am dealing with, so I do a brain dump. That involves taking a big sheet of paper or a notebook and writing down everything that is taking up space in my brain. All the tasks. All the ideas. All the nagging doubts. All the appointments you must not forget. Everything. Keep writing until you can’t think of anything else and don’t be surprised if some weird stuff comes out too! My brain dumps include things like:
- Must set reminder on phone for dentist appointment on Monday
- I never have parking money. Why do I never have change in the car? I need to sort this.
- When did I book Chloe in for a dance lesson? Need to find out
- I must get some bulbs for the living room light, it’s doing my head in
- Phone mum
- Phone British Heart Foundation to get those boxes of charity stuff in dining room
- Buy spinach
- Get Chloe to do Latin homework
I can keep writing for ages. Those were just the little non-work bits swirling around at the top of my brain, I haven’t even started on the chunky business stuff.
Brain dumps are really useful because they achieve several things at once:
- They help to free up your brain’s processing power so you can get past the feeling of ‘brain overload’ and see what you are dealing with.
- They help you to feel more in control of what’s going on.
- They help you to see what is taking up space in your brain and deal with it.
When I do a brain dump I use my 3DS system – Do, Ditch, Delegate or Schedule. You’ll often find that several things on your list can be done right now, in 2 minutes. Others can be scheduled into your diary because they need doing, but not now and if you schedule them, you know they are dealt with for now so they don’t need to take up space in your brain. Some can be delegated, some can be crossed off altogether (I actually bought the light bulbs yesterday but for some reason they are still taking up space in my brain). If you’re struggling to get motivated, try doing a brain dump and see if it helps – it usually does for me.
5. Pick a Sticky Note
Another technique to help you break that productivity block and kick-start your motivation is the Pick a Sticky Note method – it’s great if you’re prone to procrastinating and overthinking.
Get a pad of sticky notes and write each task on your to-do list on a different sticky note (if you use erasable pens you can reuse your sticky notes many times). Then stick them all on a wall, then pick one. Don’t look at it, just close your eyes and pick one THEN DO IT. When you’ve done it, if you feel up to it, pick another one and do it. That way there is no room for overthinking, you just take pot luck and let fate decide. No swapping them out either, if this method is going to work you have to take what you get and crack on. It’s very effective and when you run out of work time, gather up those that are left until next time you have a spare hour.
6. Work on your business vision
If you can’t face ‘work’ work, then why not do some dreaming? All in the name of building your business, too! I’m talking about working on your business vision. Your business vision is where you think about where you want your business to be in 12 month, or 5 years or further into the future. It’s all about getting very clear on what success looks like to you and how you want your business and life to look in the future – if you are clear on that then you can create plans and targets to help you achieve it.
To create a business vision you can use a notebook, a sheet of paper or a Pinterest secret board. It’s even better if you can get loved ones involved in this process because what you’re going to do is dream big.
Think about what your business could help you achieve, if you really focused. Holidays? A new home? A new car? What would your family love to be able to have or experience in the next few years? There is no need to worry about the ‘how’ for now – the first step is to get those dreams down where you can see them.
Try to be really specific too – rather than saying ‘holiday’ say ‘A holiday at Disneyland, in the hotel where giraffes look through the windows and where we can afford to get those VIP queue-jump tickets’ When you think of what you want, imagine how it would be and include all the details in words or pictures that will really bring the dream to life.
Finally, and this makes it real, put a price to it. How much do you need to save for a holiday like that? How much of a deposit would you need for your dream house? By adding money/costs into the mix you can turn those into specific, meaningful targets to work towards in your business.
If that doesn’t get you motivated into work mode again, I don’t know what will!
7. Do some preparation and planning
If you’re not ready to tackle your to-do list, can you do some preparation?
- If you can’t face writing a blog or a newsletter, can you come up with the rough topics for the next few? Can you maybe come up with titles? Even scope them out?
- If you can’t face your tax return, can you stick on the radio and at least get all your receipts together and sort them into date order?
- If you can’t face a stock check, can you set up the spreadsheet on your computer or print off your check list?
Don’t underestimate the power of preparation – when it comes to doing ‘the actual job’ you will be happy you took time to prepare as it will save you time later.
8. Go for a walk and listen to a podcast
There are some days I just can’t be bothered with work but I also don’t want to waste my precious work time (these days are usually when I’m tired or getting over a bug) so I stick on my wellies, grab my phone and headphones and take the dog out for a walk. I’ve always got a couple of podcasts downloaded and in my case I usually choose not to listen to business coaching podcasts. I prefer things like The Infinite Monkey Cage with Professor Brian Cox, or BBC Business podcasts where they tell stories of different businesses or industries around the world, or History Hit podcasts with Dan Snow.
I immerse myself for a while in something totally unrelated to my business, something I can learn from and enjoy with no pressure and get some fresh air and exercise at the same time.
If I do nothing else productive all day, I have still managed to keep my brain active and more often than not, it will spark an idea or a thought that will help my business later. That’s where the Notes app on my phone comes in handy!
If I get REALLY inspired then I stop and let Meg the dog have a run around while I use my Otter app to dictate my idea. That’s how some pages in my Awesome Marketing Planner were born.
9. Watch a motivational video
If it’s horrible weather or you can’t (or don’t want to) leave the house, get onto YouTube and look for TED talks, or whatever motivational speaker you prefer. Watch some feel-good videos, raise your mood and know you are doing a great thing for your business. Creating a positive mindset is a wonderful investment that will reap rewards far into the future.
The best thing is, you don’t have to take any action. You can watch motivational videos for the sake of it, as many as you like. No pressure, just enjoy them for what they are. If you do get inspired, you can scribble a note or two to look at later but just raising your mood is enough when you’re feeling flat and demotivated. A few days of that and you’ll be making your own motivational videos as you power through your marketing.
10. Look at your Book of Awesome
If you haven’t got a Book of Awesome, read this blog I wrote about it. In short, it’s a book where you collect all the lovely, positive, complimentary things people have said about you and your business. Your Book of Awesome is something to dig out and dip into when you’re feeling flat or sad – and especially if you’ve just had a ‘bad customer’ experience that has left you wondering why you bother and doubting your ability. Reading about the joy you have brought, the difference your business has made, the lives you have improved even in just a tiny way – it makes your heart sing and it’s good for the soul.
If you don’t have one, create one now. Treat yourself to the prettiest notebook you can find or decorate a boring one so just looking at it makes you happy. Print off lovely reviews and feedback. Write down things people have said to you.
Make it a book about all the amazing things your business has done and why you matter (you definitely, absolutely matter). And when you need to, when times are tough and you’re feeling flat, demotivated or defeated, dig out your Book of Awesome and read it. Properly read it. Think about how those people were feeling when they said or wrote those words. You’re awesome.
If all else fails, come into my This Girl Means Business free Facebook group and join in. Help other people if you can. Ask for help if you want. Do what makes you happy, knowing you’re among likeminded awesome business owners who totally get how you feel. You can do this.
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Claire Mitchell is a best-selling author of the Awesome Marketing Planner and founder of The Girls Mean Business, a mum and business owner. She has been featured in Marie-Claire, The Guardian, Closer Magazine, Essentials, The Huffington Post and on the BBC.