I am probably the world’s most inconsistent person. Does it freak you out for me to admit that? It is a little strange… Some days I love having a morning routine, other days I ditch it to just make my coffee and sit down at my desk first thing (ahem, that was today). Sometimes I live and die by my to-do list, and other times I just start hammering away at what I know needs to be done first, and then next, and next, no plan in mind.
It’s the beauty and blessing and also the curse of working for yourself. I’ve read all the things about time blocking, creating structure for your day, and managing time strategically. Heck, I’ve even written some content surrounding time management tools and how to stay motivated for my clients.
And don’t get me wrong — I absolutely think structure and having a plan is important, especially a big-picture plan. But it’s not more important than feeling fulfillment and progress in the work I’m doing every day. So I just want to share some of what works for me, and also how differently I approach staying “motivated” than I used to even a year ago.
Because it’s not something that finds you, this motivation friend. It’s not something that hits or strikes or is this sneaky, unpredictable thing we often make it out to be. Motivation is really about you and your choices, more than it making its way to you. It’s about how you choose to dig into it (emphasis on you being the chooser).
For me? When I first started working from home, I thought it still meant I needed to be at my desk from 9 to 5. I felt guilty running an errand in the middle of the day or going to the gym at 2 p.m. I thought that people wouldn’t take me seriously — both my clients and my family and friends — if I didn’t keep “normal” work hours. It took months of feeling guilty if I didn’t adhere to the regular workday structure until I finally realized: I am working FOR myself to have this freedom to do whatever the hell I want. To build my own business according to how I thrive, not based on others’ opinions.
That realization was so pure and powerful for me because I could finally shake free the idea that I needed to do anything the way anyone else was doing it. I don’t have to look like my friends who work corporate office jobs, and I also don’t have to look like the entrepreneurs I know, either. It’s all up to me, and that is the most freeing thing ever.
It opened me up to exploring what actually works for me, rather than reading all the professional growth books and listening to a hundred podcasts about best time management practices — which I do still enjoy, if nothing else than to get other perspectives. But instead of taking on what I think I should be doing, I can play with what I want my days and weeks to look like according to what works best for me in this moment.
And now, I love that every week is different. I don’t start work at the same time every day. I work some evenings and some weekends, if I want to. I take breaks throughout the day to check in with how I feel or to get non-work things done. (The horror!)
And I stay motivated a few ways. First off, by realizing motivation is completely up to me. If I don’t want to work on a particular client’s projects consistently, there is normally a reason. It’s either our communication is off and needs tweaking, or they actually aren’t the right client for me to serve. I’ve had to have a few tough conversations and part ways with clients who I was consistently frustrated with or kept missing the mark with. And the craziest thing is it has always, every single time, opened up space for clients to find me who I connect with so much more compatibly.
(P.S. I just finished a book called “Attracting Perfect Customers” recommended by a favorite client of mine that really dives deep into this topic. Whether you offer a product or a service, or even if you work in a corporate job, this book will help you hone in on exactly who you need to be working with and serving, and how to attract your dream clients. I got a few of mine as I was reading it! So wild.)
Another motivation tip that might seem counterintuitive, but I swear it works: If I find myself procrastinating work I know I enjoy doing, I give myself a time limit for procrastinating. Yes, that’s right… I allow myself to procrastinate. I don’t force myself to jump back into the project right away. I allow myself the space to wrap up whatever I’m exploring and create a deadline to get started on the work. It can be 15 minutes; sometime I’ll take an hour break or more before jumping in.
The magic of working for myself is that I can choose where I spend my effort and energy, and when. I know I love what I do, and I know I’ll get everything I need to get done, done. Trusting that, and leaning into the outside-work things that one might consider distractions allows me to enter my productive time with way less judgment and baggage. I can say, “That was a nice break, and now it’s time to focus. I feel good about that!”
And finally, the biggest thing that keeps me organized throughout the week is just an old school notebook where I write lists, specifically an every-week, over-arching to-do list with every single project for every client of mine due that week. I sometimes add to it throughout the week if I get last-minute assignments, but for the most part, it’s a steady roadmap for what I need to accomplish and by when every week.
I keep it next to my laptop, and sometimes I create a daily to-do list based on the next most-urgent projects. Other times I just work straight from the master week’s list itself. Like I said, I don’t follow the same plan every week. I felt the need to for so long, and felt embarrassed if I didn’t, but this process of having a weekly list and chipping away consistently, though not in any particular order or routine, all week long has allowed me to be more productive than ever. And inspired. And motivated to keep going.
I’m not saying my way will work for everyone. In fact, I’m saying it is so, so okay if it doesn’t! Some people really do thrive with every minute of the day planned out. I always *thought* that’s how I was because I felt like I needed to be that way. It was guilt that was motivating me, not my own excitement for what I needed to do next.
Motivation to me is solely about focusing on what you need in order to check off your responsibilities. I need flexibility and the independence to choose what to focus on next. That is the sweet spot for me. And it’s shown in the way I’ve been able to build my business and grow with my clients over the past few months. So just find what works for you, and then be unapologetic about pursuing it.
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