Tips for Staying Motivated


So you work from home, alone – or are a sole operator with no employees. Sometimes in these circumstances keeping motivated can be hard. I recently asked some of my colleagues how they stay motivated/what motivates them.

For myself, I’ve never really had a major problem with motivation. Donna Brown from VA Buddy seems to be the same. She told me she believes if you really want it you won’t have a problem with motivation.

I’ve been in sole operator practice as a virtual assistant now since February 2000. My motivation has always been that I love what I do. The freedom of being my own boss, of working my own hours, choosing the work I do and being available for my family – that’s motivation every day to keep doing it!

Anita Kilkenny of AKA Virtual PA agrees, citing the freedom to work with clients she likes and choose her hours, and to be available for family.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m human. Sometimes motivation might ‘wane’ and usually that happens when we’re sick, tired, the weather is bad, we’ve had a rough day (or week … or month…), or people (kids, partner, family, friends) are pushing our buttons. But reminding myself WHY I chose to start my business, what I love about it – the freedom, the choice, the availability – that helps fire me up again. Plus sometimes you can just take a ‘blah’ day! You DO work for yourself after all so nothing is stopping you taking a day or half day off and coming back to it when you’re fresh.

Every worker is entitled to a break when they’re employed – it’s written into workplace agreements! Why not have your own ‘workplace agreement’ with yourself and allow yourself those breaks throughout the day.

I also find in winter in particular, if I set up the Wii Fit in the lounge room and make an effort to go out every hour or so for a bit of a stretch that helps clear my mind and I can get back to it. In warmer weather it’s easier. Morning and afternoon tea I make the effort to not bring my cup back to my desk but to go for a walk around the yard or sit in the sunshine while I drink it.

Chauntelle Rakebrandt from Leading Logic also uses regular breaks each hour for a quick stretch, and finds working in the sunshine motivating. She also likes to dress in nice clothes and put on makeup – how many of us succumb to working in our PJs because we can? Ahem …. okay I admit it…. sometimes!

Monika Newman of Absolutely Virtual agrees with Chauntelle:

“I don’t put on make up unless I’m going out but I do like to be dressed presentably enough just in case someone knocks on the door. I do go to the city occasionally and that always reminds me that I don’t want to do that daily commute again.”

Monika also said:

“I love the fact that I am continually learning and can plan my day so I can do this during the day when I’m motivated to do so and work for clients in the evening or vice versa”.

There’s that flexibility again!

Here are a few more of the special tips or tricks that my VA colleagues employ to keep motivated. Hopefully something will resonate with you!

Richard Johnson from J&J Digital Services says that he likes to go out in the morning and get a coffee. This is a great idea – and something I think we forget to do when we work from home.

“This way its like going out to work and coming in to the office. I think it sets a bit of a demarcation too.”

I agree … I should do it more myself!

He also had this great idea:

“One suggestion I thought that was really neat, though I have not tried it myself, is to use different browsers for work and play, eg. Chrome for personal and Firefox for work.”

Some people might find this a bit distracting but if you’re an organised person I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. I do use this system when I’m managing a client’s email – I have it open in IE (because it works better in that browser) but use Firefox for everything else.

Lisa Beavan of Assist You Now chooses only to do work she loves – there’s choice again! She also says:

“Remembering how disgusting the traffic in Melbourne can be. Watching the rain fall and knowing I’m comfy in my home office. On the flip side, being able to sit in the sun in the back garden for half an hour. Flexibility. Day to day, if I have a slump I’ll go and buy some gyozas! Can just up and leave if you work from home.”

The traffic – or at least avoiding it – was one of a list of motivators for Juli Lovric of Virtual Vogue.

“I can still picture myself walking down the street after just having dropped the school kids off, toddler and baby in tow and thinking…’It doesn’t get better than this’. I was heading home to work….who thinks about work that way…now really! I didn’t have a long commute, I could still work and care for my 2 youngest, I didn’t have to spend copious amounts of precious time getting ready or organised, and I had ‘real’ and interesting ‘brain’ work that I could sink my teeth into ….AND I was getting paid for it! Can you tell it makes me happy…that’s what keeps me motivated!”

Kylie Short (Tilda Virtual) agreed that she has to be dressed with makeup and shoes on to feel like she’s working – but I really liked her attitude when she said:

“But there are always days where I don’t feel like it so rather than working through the day and being resentful, I acknowledge it and go out for a coffee or take the day off and read in bed under the doona. I’m pretty sure I get SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) so I take my vitamin D, I exercise and I try to get sleep when I can (chronic insomniac). If I’m healthy and feel good then I’m more likely to have the motivation to get things done. If all else fails I OUTSOURCE to someone else, then go read in bed with my coffee. At least it’s getting done and I’m getting the time out I need.”

That’s really taking responsibility for being a business owner right?

Marie-Brigitte Souci of HBOS agreed attitude has a lot to do with it:

“IT IS ALL IN THE MIND AND ATTITUDE. I love what I do and this is my greatest natural all day, everyday, every second motivator, love the material I learn and work on every day. I wake up, sit at the desk and pick up from where I left off the night before and simply keep going. Since I left my job I have never felt unmotivated to the exception of days when I have been unwell. My mind and my heart are the motivators for me. “

Paula Wynyard of Wynyard Business Solutions raised something others didn’t touch on – money and interestingly, deadlines! Money is certainly a motivator for many though clearly not a primary driver, but I thought that deadlines was a particularly good motivator and not one I’ve thought of before.

“My motivation is knowing I am making money as well as being there for my family. The other big motivator for me is deadlines, I don’t like to miss deadlines or be late.”

Nicole Hammett (Little Miss Useful) like others had a few things that motivated her:

“I stay motivated by a few things. 1. I know that if I was to be out there doing a usual 9-5 job that my family’s lifestyle would be affected. At the moment I can do everything for my children including the school runs and being able to attend their events like their concerts without worrying. To stay motivated I always keep that in the back of my mind but I also make sure to set aside time for me. Mainly exercise. I book it into my diary and nothing else happens during that time.”

Kathie Thomas, who pioneered the VA industry in Australia, and runs A Claytons Secretary and VA Directory, advocates goal-setting:

“Setting goals is always a motivator for me. Always striving for the next thing. I find if I don’t have a goal, or goals, I’m less motivated and just drift along. It takes a while for me to realise that and then I have to push myself for a new goal so I can get motivated again.”


So it seems the primary motivators are:

  • Recognising you’re doing something you love;
  • Flexibility;
  • Freedom;
  • Choice – choosing clients, work hours, the work you do;
  • Family;
  • Money;
  • Deadlines;
  • Goals

I’m sure there must be more! So what do you find helps motivate you? What special tricks do you use to keep motivated? Feel free to share them in the comment section below!

If you work for yourself, or alone, I think the message here is remember why you do what you do – what prompted you to start your business in the first place? What was that driver that got you up out of regular employment and working for a boss, to working for yourself? Those are likely to be the things that can continue to motivate you.

I hope some of these tips have been helpful. With thanks to my VA colleagues who participated by answering my question! Thanks as always for your willingness to share!

© Lyn Prowse-Bishop – eSOS


  1. Shauna says:

    Great article Lyn! I missed my chance to comment but it’s great to see so many different replies that you received. From your list I’d probably choose Choice & Family. It makes a big difference to your overall well being when you’re doing something that is fulfilling.

  2. Tina Thelen says:

    Wow, great article! I know exactly what you mean and especially in winter. I have a tendency to get “down” when the weather is gray and cold for days (something we have regularly in Indiana) and it becomes a struggle to stay upbeat and motivated as well. I decided that one way to keep motivated was to offer my services a couple of days a week at the elementary school where my grandson attends. It’s amazing what a few hours a week getting out and interacting with people face to face can do to keep me focused on my VA business as well. Thanks for sharing!!

  3. execva says:

    Hi Tina – thanks for stopping by all the way from Indiana! I like your idea too – if you can afford a day or two away from the office that can really help. Unfortunately I’m not in a position to do that which I guess is a good thing! LOL! I guess it snows in Indiana? Winter does tend to be the toughest time for keeping motivated! It doesn’t snow here but it does get cold (well for us anyway!) and I tend to get more tired in winter and more lethargic and apathetic. Lucky the season doesn’t last that long!

  4. Mary Jordon says:

    Your article came in handy Lyn, as I am looking for ways to get motivated. The past few years for me as a solo operator have been challenging as my mother got seriously ill. I also was in the throes of organising my daughter’s engagement and wedding. I then became a grandma for the first time in 2011 which I thoroughly enjoy! So I had to put my business on the back burner for a while and gave me time to reassess. I am always motivated when I get a new challenging task or dealing with new customers, learning new technology. Challenges provide me with an opportunity to learn. Being a solo operator gives you flexibility and freedom to choose your hours of work and also time for yourself and family.

  5. execva says:

    Nice to hear from you Mary! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  6. Janice (WordPerfectVA) says:

    Just what I need I right now, still in the rat race / commuting trap, trying to find time to get my business started properly, need reminders like these – thanks so much!

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