How do you keep yourself motivated?


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?

Motivation Psychology Burnout Focus

asked Oct 10 '09 at 11:21
Mark Bao
604 points

13 Answers


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.
answered Oct 10 '09 at 16:09
Slav Ivanov
1,146 points


I find it best to surround myself with other entrepreneurs who are still excited about their ventures.

  1. Talk to them about their stuff. Enthusiasm is infectious. Plus whatever they're doing might inspire you with a new idea that gets you refocused.
  2. Tell them how you're feeling and get a pep talk. We have all experienced the funk! Which means we can play therapist well.

Your friends and family (if they haven't run a business) are no help because they can't feel your pain. It's true.

answered Oct 10 '09 at 11:43
16,231 points


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.

answered Oct 10 '09 at 16:31
51 points


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.

answered Oct 10 '09 at 18:01
Elad Kehat
441 points


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:

  • Genuinely unpleasant/overwhelming: Procrastination.
  • Incubating indecision: Deferring a decision until a time when it can be made more easily, perhaps due to new information or another decision you can make that sets precedent for the one you're indecisive about.
  • Batching: Leaving something to accumulate so that you can do a whole lot at once more efficiently.
  • Waiting: For someone or something else.

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.

answered Oct 10 '09 at 11:56
Ollie Saunders
131 points


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.

answered Oct 14 '09 at 06:16
Jarie Bolander
11,421 points
  • +1 to Being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle – Rg 3 11 years ago


I've been in business for 11+ years and have definitely suffered from burn-out from time to time.

  1. Savor your rituals. For me this starts with a freshly brewed cappuccino each day. It is a moment of bliss that I savor and that helps me focus for the next 2-3 hours.
  2. Be realistic and acknowledge that you are burnt out.
  3. Don't allow yourself to go off on a new tangent! It is easy to become addicted to the rush that comes from implementing a new idea. Instead, look for ways you can re-ignite your passion in your existing business. (Probably the hardest thing for me to learn.)
  4. Have outside interests, but be careful about letting them overwhelm your business focus.
  5. Know yourself and regularly push yourself outside of your comfort zone, strategically.
answered Oct 10 '09 at 15:19
Julie King
871 points


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.

answered Oct 10 '09 at 11:33
Blizzard Digital
83 points


I go running. Exercise is a really great time to think and get away from it all.

answered Oct 10 '09 at 21:09
131 points


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!

answered Oct 10 '09 at 12:19
4,815 points


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.

answered Oct 10 '09 at 12:45
John Soer
596 points


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.

answered Oct 14 '09 at 06:43
Cory Mathews
326 points


Well, sometimes when I think it is painful to do something, I motivate myself by thinking the alternative is more painful, for example

  • To succeed is painful, but not to be more painful
  • To start a company is painful, but work for someone else forever is more painful
  • Talk to that accounting dude on the phone is painful, but the consequence of not to be more painful

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.

answered Oct 14 '09 at 07:53
34 points

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