Even when you love your work, it's a rare person who is motivated all the time. Avoiding burnout can be a challenge, especially for solopreneurs who have to take care of every element of running a business by themselves.
Here are some tips to help you avoid burnout, stay motivated, and keep growing your business.
Respect your internal clock.
Setting your own hours is a big perk of entrepreneurship. If you’re a recent entrepreneur, however, or you’re surrounded by family and friends who still work a 9-to-5 job, it might be challenging to buck the standard definition of “working hours.”
Learning and respecting your internal clock helps reduce burnout and increase productivity. Night owls might find they get their best work done between 11pm and 2am, and then sleep in until 10am. Morning people may check a bunch of things off the day's to-do list by mid-morning, calling it a day by 2pm.
This kind of alternative schedule means you're more apt to be focused, creative, and engaged when you're working, which in turn means you'll get more accomplished.
Work ahead to put time in the bank.
Make the most of that productivity by working ahead when you can. Take advantage of any downtime in your schedule to complete tasks in advance of when they actually need to be finished. Solopreneurs don't have the luxury of calling in sick or handing a project to a coworker, so working ahead means you won't be so stressed when life doesn’t go as planned.
All that “time in the bank” helps ensure you get to take time off without negatively impacting your bottom line.
Delegate, delegate, delegate.
The words “solopreneur” and “delegate” probably sound like they don't go together, right? You can save yourself money and hassle if you learn to rethink the word “delegate,” though, to include hiring experts to tackle things that would eat up your valuable time.
Outsourcing things like web development, copywriting, and design makes sense—you can't be an expert in everything, after all.
When your business has grown enough, you may even benefit from hiring a virtual assistant to handle some of your everyday tasks so you can turn your attention to marketing or furthering your education.
It's easy to get buried in your to-do list when you don't have an officemate to remind you that it's time for lunch but resist the urge to work straight through the day. Set an alarm on your computer or phone to remind you to get up from your desk and stretch regularly to avoid fatigue and stay focused. Set another alarm if you need to be reminded to eat lunch—and take those lunch breaks away from your desk or workspace.
Incorporate exercise or intersperse household chores or errands into your day to keep feeling productive while still taking a break from your work. Taking breaks can help save your sanity and may make you even more productive.
Disrupt your routine occasionally.
Work from the coffee shop or library if you can. Make lunch or coffee dates with friends to decompress and talk about something besides work.
Make self-care an appointment you keep—a massage or manicure, a personal trainer at the gym, a book club or other social gathering.
Remember that having a flexible schedule is one of the biggest perks of being your own boss, so take advantage of that. Go see a matinee of that new blockbuster. Celebrate an unexpected sunny day with a hike.
Playing hooky once in a while keeps you motivated when you do get back to work.
Set boundaries between your work and home life as best you can, shutting an actual door to your workspace (if you have one) when you're done for the day, or shutting down the computer to close a metaphorical door.
You may find getting “dressed for work” helps the mindset of separating work from home—it may be as simple as having a certain pair of shoes you only wear when you're working.
To keep from checking work emails on your phone during your non-work hours, use different email apps for your personal and work accounts—and be disciplined enough to not tap on the work account until the following workday.
If you have a separate phone number for your business, consider setting a “do not disturb” notice on it during whatever you've decided are your non-work hours.
Reward your hard work.
Solopreneurs always know how much more work there is to do (no matter how much you've already done), and there's no one else to pat you on the back for your achievements. Which is why you'll need to learn to do all of that yourself.
Set quantifiable goals—a specific number or something else you can measure—to track your progress on a daily or weekly basis. When big goals may take weeks or months to accomplish, set daily milestones to stay motivated in the short term. That could mean identifying one major task at the end of each workday that you want to tackle first on the following day. (Setting the goal the day before helps you hit the ground running.) When you hit your milestone, celebrate it. Reward yourself before you get back to work.
Think about what inspires you to work so hard. Why do you do what you do? Find something that represents your answer—a photo of your family if you're inspired by providing for them, a travel souvenir if you're saving for a trip—and put it in your workspace where you can see it regularly.
Perform your own version of an employee review with yourself on a regular basis—monthly, quarterly, whatever works for you—to review your progress, set new goals, assess whether you need to make any changes to your business plans, and reward yourself for your achievements.
Find your people.
Office gossip around the water cooler gets a bad rap, but socializing with coworkers is sometimes necessary to stay productive. As a solopreneur, you've got do to a little legwork to find or create your own water cooler.
You know the eBay seller community is vast, and luckily there are some easy ways to connect with your fellow sellers, both online and in person. There are more than 30,000 members worldwide in the eBay Seller Meetup group, many of whom meet regularly in person (and they're learning a great deal from one another).
Online, eBay for Business community on Facebook and the eBay Community's discussion board are excellent places to share information with fellow sellers. You can also connect with fellow sellers on Facebook by searching for eBay seller groups, and on Twitter, and Instagram by searching for relevant hashtags.
Your colleagues can include people outside the eBay community, too. You might be lucky enough to have a group of small business owners in your community who meet regularly or network online. You may find people with whom you share interests and solopreneurial struggles on Twitter or Instagram. There is strength in numbers, in knowing you're not alone, and finding your people is an important tool in fighting burnout.
No matter how good we get at what we do, there's always something new to learn. Education can take many forms, and can be motivational as well as enlightening.
Identify a few people whose work you respect, either in your field or because they're especially good in their own fields, and invite them to coffee or lunch. Informational interviews aren't just for job applicants, after all, and nearly everyone likes to talk about themselves. Talking with someone who is in the position you want to be in is a great way to learn how to make the next steps.
For even more accountability, find a mentor with whom you can check in regularly. If you can't find a mentor right away, you can make an agreement with a fellow solopreneur to be “accountability buddies.” Set up recurring meetings, either in person or virtually, to talk about the goals you set in the last meeting and what you've done to work toward them.
Remember that learning doesn't just come from being the student, either; being the teacher means constantly learning, too. As you're looking for a mentor, endeavor to be one yourself. Talking about your own work trajectory with someone else is a great way to review your accomplishments and see how far you've come.
Keep in mind that while learning from others is almost always a good idea, constantly comparing yourself to others—and berating yourself for not measuring up—is not. Do your best to achieve your own goals and meet your own measures of success. That's the only comparison that matters.
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