A lot of entrepreneurs and founders have those 'down times' when they're in a strange funk, slightly burned out from the startup for one reason or another. Some of these reasons may be an unwillingness to sink more money into a startup, profits are too low, profits aren't covering living expenses, traffic and/or interest is low, etc.
Results may include getting up in the morning, brewing a strong cup, and browsing Reddit and Hacker News for the entire day.
How do you keep yourself motivated throughout the years?
Mike Michalowicz's Toilet Paper Entrepreneur Blog often asks readers about their insights on various subjects, not unlike this site. Then all this entrepreneurial wisdom is compiled into a blog post. Anyways, there recently was a post about "How To Survive The Entrepreneur’s Dark Days":
You are not alone. Every entrepreneur has dark days. I mean days of complete despair. I asked the TPE community to share their “dark day” experiences, and how they navigated through them:A total of 110 entrepreneurs shared their knowledge.
I find it best to surround myself with other entrepreneurs who are still excited about their ventures.
Your friends and family (if they haven't run a business) are no help because they can't feel your pain. It's true.
Start at the back. Let's say you have been coding all the while, and at some point you are going to have to do some design. Stop the coding and start doing the design. Working from the other end gives you a new perspective on things and keeps you from getting bored.
The best way to get out of a down is to get a good review from a user/customer. That's like a shot of nitro into your engine.
One thing you understand after a few years of entrepreneurship is that you simply can't work 100% of your time. When you're down, take a break from the business for a couple of days, meet people socially, play video games, watch movies, then come back. One of the advantages of being the business owner is that you set your own hours. Use that.
Best advice: Do something you love.
Otherwise, there's a bunch of strategies and practices out there. If you google for this stuff you'll find quite a lot and there are plenty of books too. I couldn't possibly cover this whole area fully but I can give an overview of some of the stuff I've encountered.
In The Now Habit, author Dr. Neil Fiore talks about a positive attitude to work. Work can be enjoyable, and should be. Parents, teachers and bosses often use language that suggests that unless you really push yourself and are suffering, you aren't working properly. He suggests that you make time for guilt-free play and that you decide to do work, or not; don't talk to yourself in "I have to's" or "I should really's". This has had quite a positive effect on me. Of course he backs all this up with explanations of why we procrastinate, saying "we procrastinate because it makes sense", and how perfectionism and workaholism are closely related to procrastination.
David Allen, author of Getting Things Done (GTD), talks quite a bit about how maybe the reason you don't want to do something is because you haven't got enough definition/clarity over what it is that needs to be done, specifically you haven't defined the very next action step. He also suggests something that Timothy Ferris, in the Four-Hour Work Week, expands upon greatly: Maybe doing it isn't really that much of a good idea and you know it. I have a better understanding now, than I've ever had, over the different types of not doing are. There are at least four that I can think of right now:
Timothy Ferris talks a lot about not doing the things that you don't need to do. Shit, its amazing what you don't need to do, especially when it comes to other people bending your arm to do things for you. I'm only now just learning to say no to people and it's fantastic! I'm still trying to hone my skills so that I'm doing the important things as often as possible. Identifying what is important is hard.
Final note: This stuff is very individual. If you can, keep a procrastination log for a while (this is advice from The Now Habit): Whenever you procrastinate, detail, what you are supposed to be doing, how you feel, why you feel that way, then, what you ended up doing, and how you felt about that. This is very revealing of what's going wrong and the direction you might need to take to correct it.
Being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle. Downtime really does not exist. You may get in a funk because of a particular nasty day, but that's just part of the lifestyle. As a lifestyle, you have to mix the working, the playing and the family all together. Getting that balance right takes time and effort. It comes down to the individual and what they want out of life. So, figure that out and then go do it. The bumps along the way are just part of the lifestyle.
I've been in business for 11+ years and have definitely suffered from burn-out from time to time.
When the funk sets in, it's a great opportunity to get excited again. It means you are ready for change. Think about what new service or product you could add that would be exciting and pursue it like it's your first day on the job. If you are still excited about your offerings, but the depression is all about cash, then you need to look at your current offering, cut the losing performers and double-down on your higher profit offerings. Step back and take a look, I bet there is one particular aspect of your business that is getting you down, it could be a partner, an employee, a client, or a product or service. Cut out the cancer and move on with a smile.
I go running. Exercise is a really great time to think and get away from it all.
When experiencing "downtimes" I stop thinking on my startup and go play with my kids, maybe go for a walk with them, bicycle, to the movies or something like that. They are my medicine, and when I see them smile and laugh, that recharges my batteries every time.
Now, if you don't have kids, I suggest you try to surround with people that cares about you, your ideas, and just make you feel good.
Finally, A good cup of strong coffee for those late nights when no one is around always helps!
For me the following keeps me motivated to keep in mind that I have not launched yet so my motivation is to get to the launch date.
1) Do something you love (Huge it keeps you going when you have doubts, burn out)
2) Get a client involved, even if they don't pay for it. (It provides feedback, but it also gives you the psychological kick that somebody else sees value in your product as well
3) Start using it yourself as soon as you can (It makes for a better product which makes you feel better about it
4) When you don't feel like working on the product work on the website
5) Read blogs related to your product/business idea.
6) Dream about the potential of your product.
I take a bit of a break and slow down for a couple days. Go hang out with the buddies for a couple beers and then after a couple days it will start calling me back and I will be ready to go full speed again.
It just comes down to getting away for a bit.
Well, sometimes when I think it is painful to do something, I motivate myself by thinking the alternative is more painful, for example
I am sure this is true for a lot of people, life (especially the life of an entrepreneur) is filled with the choice between pain and more painful.