Everyone has had a moment when you look down at your to-do list and just sit and stare. You (probably) know what I am talking about but, if you don’t, send me a message because I want to know your secrets.
When you’re in a room alone, it can be easy to brush off motivating yourself to get that one task done. “I can do it tomorrow…” “It’s not needed right this moment…”
It is especially hard to motivate yourself when you’re a solo business owner.
An easy “solution” could be chasing after a shiny, new productivity software, online course, or person to solve your problem.
If you find yourself in that situation, I suggest taking a pause.
I would encourage you to question why you are doing this. Is this software, program, or accountability buddy really going to solve your problem? The answer might be yes, but sometimes you are just looking to justify not actually doing the task you need to get done.
Are you simply chasing the thrill of finding something new to put off doing what needs to get done?
Software can make the job easier, but if you are always switching software instead of taking the time to learn it and use it well, you are chasing the shiny. Courses are a great way to learn, but if you are only chasing after information instead of putting something into practice, you aren’t going to get anything done.
I am not saying accountability buddies aren’t important as a solo business owner. They are — I have two — but a person can’t actually make you do the thing. Only you can make yourself do it.
First, take a look at the task that you are trying to accomplish and aren’t motivated to do. Is it something that you actually need to get done? If not, cross it off your list and move on or, if possible, delegate it to an assistant or admin. If it is something you need to get done but nothing is motivating you, you need to take a step back and not look only at the task, but ask yourself Why you are doing what you are doing instead.
Why did you start your business? Why are you still running your own business?
Sometimes the Why is: “I couldn’t work for that jerk anymore.” “I wanted more flexibility.” “It’s a pandemic and I couldn’t find a job.”
Those are all good Whys, but they aren’t a guiding light in these dark times. This is especially true if it is a Why you have already accomplished, like I couldn’t work for that jerk anymore. You aren’t, so mission achieved.
The examples noted above aren’t going to light the way and motivate you to finish items on your to-do list. It isn’t something that you would stick on your wall or website to hold you up.
Our current work environment is not the greatest for getting things done. Between doomscrolling social media and being stuck in your tiny home office space, it is easy to start falling into overwhelming bleakness. Add in interruptions from your family that might be working from home now, too, or the constant silence from living alone, and lack of motivation can seem unavoidable. (Please note that I am not talking about falling into a depressive state. If it feels like you are, please get professional help.)
My Why isn’t complicated and it has changed over time. I started my business to prove that a family-friendly tax and accounting company could exist and be successful. To me, a family-friendly firm didn’t involve working 60-hour weeks during tax season or doing data entry for a year to “prove yourself.” New hires fresh out of school didn’t want to work for an old-school firm without knowing whether they would be promoted or fired in two years. That wasn’t what I wanted.
To keep it simple, my Why boils down to our people and our clients.
Part of me always wanted to start my own accounting firm, but I kept holding off from it. I ended up in a work situation that I just didn’t want to be in and decided to take the plunge. In the beginning, I just couldn’t work for anyone anymore. Then I started seeing things in the industry that I did not agree with. I started to believe I could do better, that we as an industry could do better. From there I began to flesh out why I was starting my own thing instead of working for someone else. Six months after starting my own firm, I found a company that was very similar to what I wanted out of a workplace environment.
This was the moment I had to decide whether to keep doing my own thing or go work for someone else again though, this time, it would be for someone who had very similar goals as me and a place that I could see myself doing great things.
That moment was what helped solidify my why and my company’s Why.
My Why is to run the firm I wished existed when I started my career and that represents the future of accounting. This is slightly different from my company’s Why. While they are close there are some differences. My company’s Why is to keep taxes and accounting simple while following our values.
I follow my Why and keep it on my whiteboard. Our employees follow the company’s Why and have our values on sticky notes. I am a solo-owner, meaning I am the only owner of my company. When I compare my Why to my company’s why, you will see that they overlap and support each other.
My ‘shortened’ Why is to run the firm and my company’s Why is to keep taxes and accounting simple. They work together, which is important: I can be doing both at the same time with no problems. If your Whys and your company’s Why contradict each other, it won’t work. You would drop the ball somewhere: if you make progress in one area you would then lose progress in another.
Each entrepreneur or cliff-jumper has a different Why. The biggest connection between all these Whys is that they need to be strong enough to keep you going during the dark moments. Like when someone gives you a horrible review, or you see others rolling in the money at a corporate job.
Your Why won’t always rescue you from the darkness, but it does help. It shouldn’t be a goal that you can hit, but something enduring, a reason to get up in the morning and focus on what you need to get done.
My challenge to you is to think about Why you started your business. This doesn’t need to be perfect: it can be something that is a work in progress. It can also change as you grow as a person, and as your firm evolves. Finding your Why can be hard, but it is important work to spend time on. Once you settle on your Why post it over your monitor. Stare it down and let it guide you in this darkness.
Toni Cameron is an accountant by day and gaming geek by night. As an accountant, Toni’s focus is dedicated to people like you – individuals, nonprofits, and small business owners. Toni’s adamant about taking care of all the things you just don’t have time to because she understands the value of a proper work-life balance.
Toni’s been an accountant for over 9 years and helps sort out her clients’ pesky bank reconciliations; generates quarterly reports to help clients track their progress; calculates end-of-year numbers needed for filing taxes; and handles other important accounting and financial activities vital to your success — including long-term financial planning, retirement, and taxes.
When she’s not busy crunching numbers, Toni enjoys backing exciting gaming and comic projects on Kickstarter, attending gaming conventions like PAX West, PAX Prime, SDCC, and ECCC, and cosplaying when she has the opportunity. Toni’s Sunday nights aren’t complete without a roll of the dice (D20, of course) during a game of D&D.