How to Stay Focused and Disciplined When You Work for Yourself

Starting your own business can be one of the most exciting experiences of your life. You finally get to chart your own course. You can work build something that’s all your own, possibly making a lot of money in the process. Maybe you’re even getting to do the thing you’ve always wanted to do for the first time in your life.

One of the upsides of working for yourself can also be one of the downsides: You don’t have to answer to any boss, and you make your own schedule, working as you please. If you want to call it quits at 3 in the afternoon, you can. If you want to check out for a few hours so you can log some time at the gym, you can. If you want to take the day off so you can take your daughter to the zoo, you can. However, all that freedom can go to your head, and it can be easy to spend far too much time checking e-mail or doing house tasks or watching TV and not enough time doing actual work.

Staying focused and disciplined when you work for yourself can be challenging at times, but the right planning can help you make sure you stay on track:

Work during Your Most Productive Hours

Do you feel like a zombie until you’ve had at least a few cups of coffee? Trying to work first thing in the morning may not be very productive since you’ll likely spend a lot of time staring at the computer screen or mindlessly clicking through web pages. Maybe you feel the most energetic in the morning, but hit a huge slump in the afternoon after lunch. It is probably a good idea to schedule your work time in the morning and then plan for a break in the afternoon – maybe even a nap.

Identify your most productive times of day and plan to work during those times, even if they aren’t traditional business hours.

Do Work that Motivates You First

When you start work, the tasks you do can set the tone for the rest of your day. Most people start work with the least pleasant tasks on their list or the most time-consuming tasks. However, for many people, starting with these tasks can sap their energy and drain their motivation. Work quickly feels tedious, and it can take much longer than necessary to complete even basic tasks.

Instead, start your day with tasks that are motivating, fun, or easy to complete quickly. You’ll feel energized by your work and your progress, and the momentum will carry you through more tedious or difficult tasks, helping you to complete them more quickly and to be more productive.

Work in Chunks

No matter how interesting or inspiring the work you are doing is, you can get burnt out after working for long stretches of time with no breaks. Plan your work in chunks, and schedule regular breaks to give your mind a rest. Every few hours, put aside what you are doing and go for a short walk, watch 10 or 15 minutes of your favorite show, call a friend or listen to some music. You’ll be able to return to your work feeling refreshed and better able to focus.

Focus on One Activity at a Time

In our time-crunched world, multi-tasking seems to be the answer to getting more done in less time. However, multi-tasking doesn’t actually help you get more done. Instead, it dilutes your focus and makes it take longer for you to get each task accomplished. Focus on one activity at a time, and you’ll get more done in less time.

Set Short- and Long-Term Goals

When you’re in the thick of taking care of small, daily activities, you can lose sight of your larger goals. Yet when you’re focused on everything you want to accomplish for your business, you can become overwhelmed, making it hard to focus on the daily activities that need to be done. Instead, establish both short and long-term goals to help you manage your time. Each day, you can complete tasks that meet short-term goals that can be completed within a few hours or by the end of the day. You can also work toward a larger goal, putting in a little time on a larger project and making progress each day.

Using this method, you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something each day while also making progress toward larger goals, which can feel abstract until you reach the finish line.

Create a Productive Workspace

Working on your couch might be more comfortable, but it can also make you feel like you’re playing hooky from work, which will sap your productivity. You need to have a dedicated work space in order to set the tone for your day and make you feel ready for work. If you work from home, you should have a dedicated office space that is set up with everything you need to do work. Make sure your space is organized to help you find what you need and to work more productively.

If working from home is too distracting for you, it is worth looking into renting an office space in which to work each day.

Announce Your Goals to Others

Telling others what you plan to accomplish can help keep you accountable and keep you on task. For starters, you have publicly declared your intentions, which makes them more “real” to you. Also, when you tell others your goals, they are likely to ask about your progress, which will make it more difficult for you to make excuses. You are more likely to finish your work to meet your deadlines so that you have positive news to report when you are asked.

Meet Regularly with Other Entrepreneurs

Working for yourself can feel like you are working in a bubble. It can become easy to lose your focus or to forget why you started your business in the first place. By meeting regularly with other entrepreneurs, you remind yourself about the things that got you excited to start your business in the first place. You may leave the meeting feeling inspired and excited to start some new projects or try out some new strategies for your business. You might even pick up a tip or two for how to land new clients, make your business more efficient or take your company to the next level.

Working for yourself offers a freedom that many people dream of having. Yet that freedom requires great responsibility in order to be successful. These tips can help you to stay focused and disciplined so that your can meet your goals for your business and enjoy the eventual freedom that financial independence can offer.

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