Let's face it: Running a business is like going through a daily grind. Sure, you have those breakthrough moments where you come upon a brilliant idea or release a product that resonates with your market.  But more often than not, you go through periods where you don't get the results you want.

It can be especially hard to stay motivated when you run your own business. As an employee, you're usually handed a file or instructions by someone. But when you're on your own, it's up to you to decide how to proceed.

Being the one in charge means knowing how to motivate yourself after a setback or when things are stagnant. Here are four practices that can help:

1. Write down plans for unfinished work.

At the end of each day, I'm usually swamped with unfinished work that I have to leave for another day. The problem is that this unfinished work dampens my evening because I can't stop thinking about what I have to do later on. To counteract this, I've started jotting down what I have left to finish and how to proceed.

Doing so provides two benefits. According to a Florida State University study, making specific plans for unfulfilled goals helps not only in eventually completing those goals, but also lets you save your cognitive resources for other pursuits. In other words, making specific plans keeps you from worrying incessantly about your unfinished work.

If you're near the end of the day and still have a lot to accomplish, write it down. You'll find yourself more relaxed afterward and prepared the next time you get to it.

2. Incorporate play into your day.

Play isn't just for kids anymore. Spending time on a fun activity relieves stress, breaks the monotony of work, and can lead to your next breakthrough. It's also why innovative companies such as Google and Dropbox incorporate playful architecture and designs into their offices.

Whether you enjoy building Lego structures or working through a Sudoku puzzle, toys and trinkets can be a therapeutic way to stretch your mental muscles and provide a creativity-filled environment. I find that doodling and doing word puzzles helps me return to my work feeling refreshed and ready to go.

3. Alternate between the big picture and the details.

Have you ever heard of someone who couldn't "see the forest for the trees"? One time, I worked in a team where there was one minor detail that we couldn't decide upon. We spent hours going back and forth between what to do until someone eventually suggested we just pick one option and move on to bigger issues.

To avoid getting stuck, I make it a habit to alternate between the big picture and the details. For instance, my big picture might be to help business owners become more efficient in their work. To turn this vision into reality, I start on the details by asking people about the issues they face in their businesses. Switching periodically between the ultimate goal and incremental actions helps me to stay on the right track and revise if needed.

4. Reframe negative situations into positive ones.

There are some drawbacks you face as a small business. One of the biggest problems is having to do everything on your own. When you start out, you become in charge of marketing, finance, operations, and technology.

Unlike a corporation, you don't have the funding or expertise available to solve problems quickly or call in specialists to help. As a result, it's easy to lose motivation due to stress and overwhelm.

When I come across problems that are outside my comfort zone, I reframe the situation so that it becomes easier to manage. For example, instead of encountering a tech issue and saying "I have no idea what to do", I say to myself: "What's the first step I need to take?"

If you practice looking at setbacks as opportunities to grow and learn, it becomes easier to overcome barriers and gain experience in the process. While you might feel demotivated at times in your business, practicing these positive habits on a regular basis will keep you going -- through both the good and the bad.

Published on: Feb 8, 2018
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