By Rieva Lesonsky, CEO GrowBiz Media & SmallBizDaily.com
When you’re a sole proprietor, freelancer, or other type of independent contractor who works alone, it can be hard to stay inspired. Many (myself included) find it harder to focus on work without the camaraderie and stimulation of being in an office. If you work at home, the difficulty is multiplied by the temptations of the refrigerator, the TV, and your cozy couch.
How can you boost your motivation when you work alone? Here are eight strategies to try.
1. Set a schedule.
Do you rely on a to-do list? While that’s a step in the right direction, you’ll get more done if you actually block out specific times on each day’s calendar based for that day’s tasks. (Be sure to leave some wiggle room in your schedule, so if a meeting with a client runs long or a project takes more time than you expected, it won’t throw your entire schedule off.) And using time tracking software will help you monitor how closely you’re sticking to your schedule. By regularly reviewing your time tracking records, you’ll develop a better sense of how much time to allot for specific tasks.
2. Reward yourself.
Use a carrot-and-stick approach to self-motivate by building rewards into your schedule. Rewards can be as simple as taking a five-minute break every hour, or as big as a three-day weekend or vacation at the end of a big, hairy project.
3. Change your scenery.
It’s easy to go stir crazy if you spend all your time in the same space, especially if you work from home. Changing your venue occasionally will re-energize you and bring a new perspective to your work. Grab a cup of coffee at a nearby coffeehouse, meet a friend for lunch, or just take a quick walk around the block.
4. Try a co-working space.
Co-working spaces are springing up in cities across the country. These office locations provide desk space, meeting rooms, and business equipment (such as copiers) for members. Because you’re surrounded by other freelancers and entrepreneurs, a co-working space can provide the camaraderie and stimulation you’d find in an office. You can even find co-working spaces devoted to specific industries, such as technology or graphic design. Co-working spaces charge a range of fees, depending on whether you plan to work there all the time or just drop in as needed.
5. Create a peer group.
Human contact is key in keeping solo entrepreneurs motivated. Go beyond social networking and online business groups to set up some real-world interactions. Create a “buddy system” by pulling together a group of local freelancers with complementary businesses. Meet once a month for lunch and discussions. Share problems you’re facing in your business and solutions that have worked for you.
6. Fit in fitness.
Get your energy pumping by making exercise a part of each day. Whether you start your morning with a workout, take a long walk after lunch, or hit the gym at the end of the day, exercise can revitalize you and boost your stamina.
7. Mix it up.
As an independent contractor, you have the freedom to make your own schedule. Take advantage of that by building a mix of activities into each day. For example, try working at a local coffeehouse part of the day. (Use a mobile time tracking app to make sure you keep accurate tabs on your projects even when you’re out of your office.) Or devote the morning to intense, focused work, then use the afternoon for administrative tasks like filing, sending invoices, and updating the books.
8. Cut yourself some slack.
Some days, you just can’t get motivated no matter what. If you find yourself in that situation, try stepping away from your work and taking a break. No one can work on all cylinders 24/7.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.