Every small-business owner has their own habits, working methods, most-productive working environment and other preferences for getting work done. Many also commonly have overflowing plates and massive to-do lists that seem humanly impossible to complete in a given day.
And that doesn't even take into account the many unexpected demands at any given moment, distracting you from that all-important to-do list, or the general, overwhelming sense of frustration that’s bound to hit you from time to time.
To fight against the massive tide of "must dos" coming their way, many successful entrepreneurs have found motivational tools and practices that work for them, enabling them to push through when times get tough. Finding that special something that’s most effective for you can help you stay motivated when you’re tempted to throw in the towel.
If you're looking for your own motivational help, take a look at these four tools and methods that successful entrepreneurs turn to when they need an extra push.
1. Goal-Setting Apps
Some entrepreneurs have learned to rely on task-tracking and goal-setting apps to keep them on task. Some allow you to set goals—both personal and professional—set target numbers, and label goals as daily, weekly or monthly, and visualize your progress at any given moment to see where you stand and what you need to do to get further down the road.
If you’re tempted to ditch your workload for the afternoon out of frustration, a quick check-in with an app can show you what you’re close to achieving. That means you can switch gears and cross an item off your list, which is often just the motivator you need to keep plowing through your tasks.
2. Vision Boards and Imagery
Peter Rosenberger, author of Hope for the Caregiver: Encouraging Words to Strengthen Your Spirit, uses images that remind him of his long-term goals. “With my new book for caregivers hitting the shelves [soon] and a busy speaking schedule and radio show, I have my PC's desktop screen showing a picture of a man pushing his loved ones in a wheelchair,” he explains. “It reminds me throughout the day of the weary hearts that I'm trying to reach with help drawn from my own journey of three decades.”
Whether there's a single image that reminds you of the goals you’re trying to achieve or multiple images that illustrate your goals and inspire you, visuals can be a powerful motivator. Some small-business owners go as far as creating vision boards—collections of images, quotes and other tangible reminders of their goals—that they display on their office wall or wherever they’ll see it when they need it most.
3. Task Lists and Goal Sheets
Rather than relying on a mobile app or digital tool, some entrepreneurs find they can focus better when they physically write their goals down on paper. Kathy Boyle, motivational speaker and president of financial planning and business consulting firm Chapin Hill Associates, finds that journaling helps her get her thoughts organized, which allows her to create focused lists of goals and tasks.
“I make monthly goal sheets with business on one side, personal on the other, laminate it and hang it in the shower,” Boyle says. “Each morning as I'm taking my shower and getting ready for my day, I see my monthly goals and can decide my priorities that day to get closer to achieving those goals.”
4. Your Personal Motivational Niche
The three suggestions above certainly don't make up an exhaustive list of motivators. Small-business owners find motivation in everything from meditating or running marathons to doing charity work. “I advise small-business owners to try different things," Boyle says. "The key is to start on the path. If you don't think about it and decide to implement, you're going to stay stuck.
“Think about what drives you: Are you externally motivated or internally motivated? Knowing that provides some clues about what types of things can get you going," she adds. "If you're externally motivated, then connecting with people—patients, clients, new prospective clients—can be motivating. If you're internally motivated, then reading quotes, writing in a journal, reviewing your business plan and latest progress towards goals can be better suited to your style.”
Ultimately, the best motivational tool for you is one that excites you and gets you moving in the right direction—having that extra something you can rely on to de-stress and get you back on track is invaluable. Try learning about the techniques your mentors use and test them out. If they don’t work for you, give them a personal twist or try something completely different. The only rule for motivating yourself is to find a method that works for you.
Read more articles on productivity.
This article was originally published on September 26, 2014.