Working for yourself can be rewarding and fulfilling; you have the freedom to pick your productive time, your hours, your work and even your office. Routines are crucial for entrepreneurs. But what about when motivation is waning and you can’t find your focus?
In The Story of Philosophy (a quote often misattributed to Aristotle), Will Durant writes
We are what we repeatedly do.
Freelancing, or starting a business from scratch, can lack structure, financial security and social interaction, often leading to a lack of motivation. However, it doesn’t need to be that way. We asked a few entrepreneurs what keeps them motivated in their day-to-day.
Make time for connections
If you feel like what you crave is social interaction, make plans with fellow freelancers or business owners.
Let’s face it, working from home can get lonely if you don’t speak to anyone for a good 8-10 hours of the day. Arranging face-to-face meetings with your clients, going to work from local cafes or even signing up for a co-working space can help. A change of scenery and some human interaction can work wonders for your motivation.
Making plans with friends, family, and partners on an evening and weekend will also give you something to look forward to and get you out of the house.
If struggling to make the time, minimise distractions throughout your day, especially emails. For example, Liam Quirk suggests you don’t respond to emails as soon as they come through.
He is the Managing Director of Quirky Digital, and he was 22 years old when he founded the business in his mum’s box room in May 2020. Now Quirky has six full-time staff and is a finalist for Young Businessperson of the Year in the Echo Regional Business Awards.
He usually sets aside half an hour just for emails, either first thing or in the early evening. “The rest of the day is task-focused and keeps me proactive instead of in reactive mode. “
Create adaptable morning routines
A 2018 study showcasing the morning routines of over 300 successful people showed that one of the essential pieces of their days is an adaptable morning routine.
We aren’t always in control of our surroundings or amenities, especially when we travel and have unpredictable schedules. Start mapping a few activities you’d love to add to your morning routine and mix and match them depending on your needs and availability.
Yoga, meditation, journaling, reading or a quiet walk. Focus on the outcome, not the practice. Get the most out of this particular time where you can focus on yourself and centre on your heart’s content.
Liam suggests putting in place a morning routine that incorporates wellbeing and “early wins“.
“I try to get up before the sun is up, as it feels like a productive way to start the day. I always make my bed because it’s like a small win. Exercise is next. I have a goal that I set the day before that I need to meet every day,” he shares. “Once I’ve ticked that off then it feels like another win. I then have a good breakfast and listen to a self-improvement audiobook on the way to work.”
Entrepreneurs on evening routines
Many entrepreneurs write critical actions for the following day, the night before, just like Kenneth Chenault. This method taps into psychology as we have a limited amount of willpower and decision-making ability every day.
The thought of making too many decisions in the morning will slow you down and drain your brain for the rest of the day. Subscribe to the concept that an AM routine can start in the PM: Pick out your outfit. Pack your lunch and your backpack for work.
Copywriter Lucy Bedewi shares her love for evening routines: “I love journaling every night before bed. I get TONS of stickers, make tea and reflect on my day. I also use this time to revisit my yearly, monthly and weekly goals. This way, I’m always staying on track gently. The trick to building a routine is making your activities something you enjoy. It makes the whole ritual way more rewarding.”
Similarly, Lucy Jeffrey, founder of Bare Kind, set up a simple routine at the end of every day: “I review the top 3 things I’ve delivered and decide on the top 3 things for the next day.”
Arianna Huffington focuses on creating a relaxing evening routine. After suffering a painful wake-up call in 2007 when she fainted from sleep deprivation and exhaustion and hit her head on her desk, breaking her cheekbone, Arianna has put her sleep front and centre in her quest for greater sustainable productivity.
First, I turn off all my electronic devices and gently escort them out of my bedroom. Then, I take a hot bath with Epsom salts and a candle flickering nearby — a bath that I prolong if I’m feeling anxious or worried about something.
Another example of a powerful evening routine comes from Liam Quirk. Try planning your day the night before and “timestamp” each task.
“This is something I’ve done all my working life. I sit down and plan my to-do list for the next day to wake up knowing what I’m doing at each time of the day,” he recalls. ” I have a schedule in place, sets time boundaries for maximising productivity (e.g. reply to all emails by 9.30) and gives me little room to deviate from what I need to do.”
What athletes can teach us about routines
Athletes are another excellent example of repetition and routines.
Daniel Cormier, the current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and former Olympic wrestler won multiple gold medals as a wrestler. And in MMA, he has won 20 of his 22 fights in total.
What is his key to success, according to himself? Focusing on the basics.
You don’t get to the highest levels of the sport without having the basics in order.
Today, we know the true extent of those words. According to research, habits power up to 40% of our daily actions.
Lucy Jeffrey has a simple practice if you want to learn how to balance your energy when setting new routines.
“I spent two weeks mapping my energy levels hour by hour to understand when I’m at my best and what causes me to have the right energy,” Lucy shares. “I know I need to exercise first thing and then crack on with work, and I start to lose energy in the afternoon so take a break then.
Each time you repeat something, you notice something different. Each time you repeat something, there’s some piece that comes easier. By creating powerful routines to guide your day, you can gain more clarity about your goals and direction.
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