It doesn’t matter how amazing your idea is or how well-received your product has been – all entrepreneurs suffer from lagging motivation at one point or another.  There will be times when productivity comes easily and times where it’s a struggle to even open your email account.  At the end of the day, what matters is how you handle both the highs and lows of business motivation.

I’ve been running Single Grain for about five years now, and I’ve definitely had my own ups and downs.  But at the same time, I’ve been able to overcome my motivation challenges and grow the company into a seven-figure business that I’m incredibly proud of.  A big part of that success has been my ability to fight off procrastination and to get out of the motivation slumps that threaten all business owners.

With all that in mind, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I get motivated and what inspires me to keep going when things get tough.  The result is this three-part “Master Guide to Getting Motivated.”  I hope you find it helpful, whether you’re at the top of your game or the seemingly-endless bottom of a productivity pit.

Finding Your Motivation

You can’t get motivated if you don’t know what you’re working towards.  Sorry, but it’s true.  Vague ideals like “I want to make a lot of money” or “I want people to think I’m sexy” just aren’t going to get you off the couch!

To find your motivation, I want you to answer the following three questions. Be sure to come back to this exercise periodically, as you may find that your answers change over time.

What do I want out of life?

I’m big on giving back, but this isn’t a time to be self-sacrificing!  Instead, put on your greediest “little kid at Christmas” mentality and let your mind wander to all the different things you want out of life.

Think big and think small.  If your burning desire is to be able to pay off your credit card statements each month, that’s fine.  And if you want to own a private island that’s staffed by attractive workers who fan you with palm fronds while you drink strawberry margaritas?  That’s fine too.  Spend a few hours brainstorming your every desire.  When you hit on something that really gets your blood pumping, write it down for future reference.

What do I want from my business?

Next, apply this same brainstorming exercise to your business.  Think back to the reason you started your company and envision all the different ways you want it to grow in the future.

Do you want to see your product go worldwide?  Would a front-page mention on Tech Crunch make your year?  Is your ultimate dream being chosen for an incubator program like TechStars?  Whatever your visions might be, take the time to fully experience them in your mind as if they were happening in real life.  Then, make a note of each goal you envisioned and how it made you feel.

What makes me happy in my life right now?

Both of the first two questions in this series focus on future possibilities.  And while these are important, it’s also essential that you have a few “real life” motivators in order to keep your list grounded.

So the last thing that I want you to think about is what makes you happy right now (or, what in your life right now drives you to succeed).  Do you have a family that you need to succeed in order to support?  A hobby that fills you with the kind of passion that bleeds over to your business activities?  Add whatever gets you excited about your current life to the list of motivators you’ve been building.

Now, one thing you might have noticed about these exercises is that none of them involve creating step-by-step action plans that’ll give you a realistic path for turning your visions into reality.  That’s because motivation is almost entirely a mental game.  There’s a time and a place for devising detailed strategies – but it’s just as important to fan the flames of mental and emotional desire that’ll give you the strength needed to carry out your plans.

What Motivates Me

Hopefully, by the end of the first exercise, you should have a list of all the different things that get you motivated.  If you’re still struggling to come up with your own list of motivators, check out all the things that get me pumped up for inspiration:

My morning run

I hate running, but I still do it every morning because it helps me to clear my mind and gives me space to let my thoughts wander and be creative.  It also gets my endorphins pumping so that, by the time I hit the office, I’m in the right mindset to be motivated all day.

My Facebook friends

My Facebook friends can always be counted on to cheer me up if I’m feeling unmotivated, but it’s more than that.  If I’m slacking, I think about having to own up to it to all my social media contacts.  Wanting to tell them about my successes – not my failures – gets my ass in gear every time.

Meetings with other startups

Every so often, I have the chance to sit down with new entrepreneurs and go over their ideas and business strategies.  And let me tell you, it’s incredibly motivating!  Hearing their excitement and enthusiasm reminds me why I started my business in the first place, motivating me to work harder and do something that’s bigger than myself.

My mentors

My mentors – and I’m lucky enough to count Neil Patel and Hiten Shah in this group – always seem to know when I need help solving problems and when I need my butt kicked.  Whether they’re graciously helping me or giving me some tough love, I always feel great after the long talks I have with my mentors.

Helping others

I volunteer to help other entrepreneurs owners through, but I also go out of my way to do small random acts of kindness throughout the day.  Succeeding in business is all well and good, but if I can use my success to improve the lives of others?  That’s what really keeps me motivated to move forward.

My parents

My parents are my biggest cheerleaders, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that I couldn’t go more than a week without their guidance and advice.  They support me no matter what I do, and this just motivates me to work even harder to make them proud.

My team

Watching my business grow has been great, but helping my team members to grow and to be better in their careers has been even more rewarding.  Being able to help others develop their skillsets gives me this warm, fuzzy feeling that I find incredibly motivating.  After all, if I want to continue providing them with new projects and interesting clients, I’ve got to be good at my job as well!

My wife

There are some days when I can’t believe that my wife chose to marry me.  She is – without a doubt – the kindest, hardest working person I know and her example makes me want to get more done and be a better person.  I’m incredibly grateful to her for being such a motivating figure in my life and I try to make her just as proud to be my husband every day.

Partying on the weekends

I’m not an alcoholic, but unwinding on the weekends with great friends and a few drinks helps to refresh my brain and start clean when Monday rolls around.  And when I’m more relaxed, it’s easier to shoot the shit and come up with the kinds of random business ideas I might not be creative enough to dream up while sober.

You’ve heard it from me – having a few drinks makes me a better businessman.  Go tell your boss that Sujan said it was alright to work the afternoon from your favorite bar…

Motivational quotes

LOL – I’m seriously a motivational quote junkie.  I have tons of them stored on my computer so that I can read through them whenever I feel like giving up.  And if you’re wondering which quotes mean the most to me, stay tuned – I’m putting together a list of my favorite sayings for you and I’ll be sharing it here in the next few weeks.

Business books

When I was in school, I read a total of two books.  Total.  Now, I read or listen to 1-2 a week – I guess you could say I’m making up for lost time.  Whether they’re books on marketing strategy, business planning or personal development, I’ve read so many great books that enlighten me and help me to stay motivated with whatever projects I’m facing.

Making money

I wouldn’t say that I’m a greedy person, but seeing the dollar signs roll in sure helps my motivation levels!  When I make money, my friends and family members make money as well.  And when I see Single Grain’s clients making more money as the result of our actions, that puts a big smile on my face.  Everybody wins!

How to Stay Motivated

Unfortunately, if having a list of the things that motivated you was enough to propel you to business success was enough, we’d all be fabulously wealthy by now!  While reading through your list can be a great way to cope whenever procrastination strikes, here are a few other strategies you can use to maintain your motivation…

Identify motivation killers 

In addition to compiling all your different motivators, create a second list of things you notice that dampen your productivity.  For example, skipping my morning workout is an easy way for me to lose my motivation. Because I’ve identified this motivation killer, I can avoid it – and you can do the same by identifying and actively avoiding these challenges.

Take one tiny step

Feeling unmotivated can be compounding.  If you struggle to stay on task one day, it’ll be even harder for you to gain traction the next day.  To prevent this effect from killing your motivation, take one tiny step each day towards your primary goal – no matter how tiny it may be.  Even that small sense of accomplishment will help you get back on track in the future.

Give yourself a break 

You know what makes it hard to stay motivated?  Burnout.  When you’re physically, mentally and emotionally depleted, it’s nearly impossible to stay motivated.  To avoid this state, make it a priority to take care of your health and to give yourself “work free” breaks away from the office.

And my final piece of advice to you in this motivation guide is to not beat yourself up.  We all lose motivation from time to time, and we all fall off track – even when we know there are big things to accomplish.  By taking the time to uncover the things that get you motivated and by keeping these motivators present at the front of your mind, you’ll sail past the motivation challenges that threaten to sink your business goals.

What keeps you motivated?  Share your own tips and tricks for staying motivated in the comments section below!

  1. Just curious; you said you now read a lot of books on “marketing strategy, business planning or personal development.” Any recommendations?

  2. Hi thanks for that list. It’s important I agree to have a great list to keep you pumped for those times when our interest seems to lag. I also think unwinding on the weekend is a great way to be refreshed and ready for the new week.

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