A few weeks ago while sitting out a snowstorm at my kitchen table on the farm, I noticed something disheartening…

As I went through my email I was seeing the same message over and over again from clients.

“Craig,” they would say. “This week was rough. I can’t seem to stay motivated and I’m starting to lose focus on my goals.”

At first, I assumed that it was simply the winter blues or SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

But then, this same message started showing up from clients in sunny Australia and Asia!

Since then I’ve had similar conversations with business owners at events in Dallas, Newport Beach, and Florida. It seems like everywhere I turn I run into frustrated entrepreneurs.

And I get it.

I’ve been there myself.

In fact, during the early months of 2018, I found myself struggling with bouts of this same “entrepreneurial depression.”

My company’s revenue was sporadic and, after “retiring” from the fitness industry and shutting down my multi-million dollar per year Turbulence Training business, I found myself worrying about the future.

However, by following the steps you’re about to hear, I was able to make a 180 degree shift with my mindset. I renewed my motivation, doubled down on my focus, and went on to achieve the big goals our company had set for the year.

Here’s how you can do the same.

1. Treat Yourself Like a Professional Athlete

When you find the “entrepreneurial blues” creeping into your life and you’re struggling to make sales, step back and ask yourself a simple question…

“What would I do if I were a professional athlete?”  

Professional athletes, especially athletes at the top of their game, do not spend all day training hard.

Sure, they put in hours honing their skills and strengthening their bodies, but a significant portion of their focus is actually on how they spend their time outside of the gym.

Olympic athletes are notorious for sleeping 10-14 hours a day and consuming strict diets. Older NBA stars regularly spend as much – or more – time stretching and doing mobility work than shooting baskets. And the competitive weightlifters, CrossFitters and strongmen I know will take upwards of one month off their training after a competition.

Successful athletes place a premium on rest and recuperation. And, if you want to succeed at the highest levels, you must learn to do the same.

Oftentimes, demotivation and burnout are not a symptom of over work, but under recovery.

Just about anyone can sustain 50 to 60 hour work weeks for a few years if they do it right.

But when you combine long hours with inefficiency and ineffectiveness, you get into trouble fast.

In the same way that a pro athlete cannot be in playoff mode all year round, your psyche cannot handle an endless barrage of 12-16 hour work days and constant stress without a break – or a breakthrough.

We might like to think that we’re invincible hard chargers capable of inhuman levels of productivity and “grinding”. But the truth is, our performance is finite.

We only have a set number of hours in a day where we can operate at peak capacity. And to maintain your motivation and focus, you must prioritize your recovery time so that you can maximize those hours and use them to their fullest potential.

Every day, I challenge you to block off 30 to 60 minutes of time during your work day (especially if you work 10 or more hours each day), to get into your parasympathetic nervous system.

Whether you sit in a sauna, meditate, take a nap, listen to music, or go for a long walk, give yourself a few minutes each day to recharge before getting back to the grindstone.

This simple habit will mentally and physically recharge you for the work day ahead and give your subconscious wheels to spin and develop creative solutions to the problems that you are facing.

I also encourage you to block of at least 14 hours of device free time each week. No email. No text messages. No social media. No iPhone scrolling while you workout. No texting while you play with your kids or take your dog to the park. No checking your phone every five minutes while you read a book.

Instead, go all in on quality time with people you love while engaging in activities you enjoy – for two hours or more per day.

When you get back to work at the beginning of the next week, you’ll be shocked by the difference this simple activity will make in your mood and performance.

While the thought of this might sounds terrifying, I promise you, if you will test this for just two weeks, you will never go back.

What you lose in “electronics time”, you will regain in motivation, clarity, focus, and productivity, guaranteed.

2. Reread (Or Create) Your Life and Business Vision

You may have heard the old Proverb, “Where there is no vision the people perish.”

Ironically, hard charging, type-A, vision oriented entrepreneurs and high performers often get so caught up in executing on their vision they forget to focus on it.

They lose sight of the vision that got them started on this journey in the first place and no longer feel excited or pulled by their vision. Instead, they have to push themselves to accomplish even the most basic tasks every day.

They are burned out or bored, not because they are doing the wrong things, or working on the wrong projects, or working too hard… But because they aren’t focusing on the why driving their hard work.

Luckily, the solution is simple.

First, make sure you have your vision written out.

Second, review your vision DAILY.

Set it next to your computer (like I have), hang it on your wall where you will see it every day, or set it as the background for your computer. Make reviewing your vision and goals a non-negotiable part of your day.

Constantly remind yourself why you are working so hard and what all of this effort is for.

And if you haven’t created a vision for your life and business? Then stop reading this article right now–no I’m not kidding–and take 30-minutes to go and create one using this YouTube video to guide you through the process.

Without a compelling reason why you are working so hard, you don’t stand a chance of overcoming the inevitable obstacles that will appear in your path.

The simple truth is this… Success is hard.

It requires hard work, sacrifice, and uncommon levels of focus, grit, and determination.

And without a vision, dealing with the challenges of reaching success is impossible.

So take some time today to either revisit or write down your vision for your life and your business.

Clearly identify who you want to be, what you want to accomplish, and the exact type of life you want to be living. Create a vision so compelling and so exciting that it pulls you out of bed every morning and leaves you excited to work hard and grind it out until it is achieved.

Go build your vision, and never ever lose sight of it.

3. Get the Right Voices in Your Head

Of the many tactics and strategies I’ve used over the past two decades to become more motivated, build my Operator’s mindset, and develop laser like focus on my biggest goals and dreams, few of them are as simple or as effective as this one.

I call it the “Revolving Reading List.”

Here’s how it works.

Buy a hardcover copy of three books that always leave you feeling motivated, inspired, and excited to build your empire and leave a lasting legacy.

Personally, I keep a copy of Relentless, Man Up, and The Perfect Day Formula on my nightstand (I still need the reminder to follow my own advice!).

Every day, I pick up one of these books and read 3-5 pages while I’m making coffee, brushing my teeth, or waiting for an Uber. And… That’s it.

(Alternatively, if you’re an audiobook fan, keep those three books playing on rotation during your drive to work or your daily workouts.)

As simple as this might sound, when you regularly fill your mind with positivity, wisdom, and the voices of individuals who have achieved the results you desire, you will slowly but surely start to rewire your brain and create the unstoppable mindset that will propel you towards those big goals and dreams.

4. Build a Fence Around Yourself

Whether your vice of choice is TV or social media, chances are whatever you watch includes a lot of negativity, political divisiveness, and useless gossip about celebrities (global or local).

None of this information will matter in a decade, but right now it’s destroying your days.

The media is a predator and your time is the prey.

If there’s no fence to keep you safe from these predators, then you’re dead meat.

You stand no chance and you will quickly be eaten alive by the big bad wolves of distraction and temptation.

It’s like a sugar addict who tries to keep a big bowl of gummy worms, Swedish Fish, and peach rings “for the kids”, and then ends up devouring the entire thing themselves.

To protect yourself from these forces attempting to steal your attention and kill your focus, you must ask yourself, “What are the sources of my distractions and what EXTREME must I go to in order to block and eliminate them?”

Are you a solopreneur working from home that needs to rent office space and treat yourself like a 9-5 employee to ensure you don’t get distracted by obligations and problems at home?

Do you need to set up a website blocker to prevent you from getting sucked into the black hole of surfing the web?

Do you need to wake up an hour earlier so that you can get a jump start on your day and accomplish a big block of deep work before the rest of the world is even awake?

What extremes must you go to in order to achieve success?

Until you answer this question and take action on that answer, you’ll never be able to get ahead. Your vices, temptations, and distractions will run your life and cause you to fall further and further behind on your goals and dreams.

So identify the obstacles standing between you and your goals and do whatever it takes to eliminate them.

5. Planning Conquers All

At the end of the day, it is effective planning (and of course the execution of that plan) that will help you regain your motivation, momentum, and focus faster than almost anything else.

As my business partner, Matt Smith says, “Success is all about the fundamentals – the planning and execution, the blocking and tackling – done daily. Consistency is key.”

But most people go through life hoping that things will get better, or hoping that they will win the lottery, or that their “ship will come in.”

They hope that their crazy hours will improve but they never actually schedule vacations, days off, or down time during their work day.

Others hope their marriage will improve but never sit down with their partner and agree to a weekly–and non-negotiable–date night.

Or maybe they hope their body will improve, but they never schedule time to exercise or write down a plan for how they will lose the weight and improve their athleticism.

By now, you know that hope is not a strategy. And it is only through strategic and intentional planning coupled with massive action that you will make progress.

If you’re unable to focus and can’t “find” the motivation to do what needs to be done everyday, let me ask you…

When was the last time you sat down for 45 minutes and created a clear plan of attack for your week? Do you have a designated time each day where you sit down and plan out the next day? Do you begin your work days with a clear set of priorities and tasks that must be accomplished? Or do you just sit down and hope (there’s that word again) for the best?

Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail.

Put it in your calendar this week to sit down and plan out the things that are most important to you.

(If you need help with this, be sure to check out my guide to planning the perfect week here)

6. Go and Help Someone

Throughout my life I’ve found, as cliche as it may seem, the solution to most of my problems–be it anxiety, depression, demotivation, or lack of focus–could be resolved by shifting my focus from myself to others.

You see, when you’re focused on yourself it’s easy to get stuck in a negative mental loop. To get trapped in fear, self-pity, and frustration.

But when you take the spotlight off yourself and off of your problems, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your mindset will change.

When you focus your energy and attention on other people, preferably people who are not paying you (i.e. clients), you’ll be reminded of everything you have to be grateful for.

You’ll gain some much needed perspective on your life and the challenges you’re facing. And the gratitude you’ll gain from this experience will motivate you to make the most of the opportunities you have and, as my friend and podcast guest Ed Mylett likes to say, “Max Out” your life.

So the next time you wake up and you just don’t feel it, I challenge you to remove the focus from yourself.

Take a long morning to volunteer at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Research charities to which you can donate and noble causes to which you can give your time. Pick up the phone and give your grandmother a call. Post an encouraging note on someone’s social media.

Do something to give back to those around you and get out of your own head.

I promise, it will change your life.

7. Get to Work

This list could not be complete without me mentioning my, now famous catchphrase from my new book, Unstoppable. This line has had such an impact on some of my clients that they have it tattooed on their body or painted on the walls of their office, and it goes like this:

“Action Beats Anxiety. Motion Beats Meditation. Work Beats Worry.”

Look, there will be days that, despite the best laid plans, the motivational videos, and the proverbial fences you build around yourself, you will not feel motivated or focused.

That’s fine.

Show up and get to work anyways.

Success is rarely determined by how you act when you feel at your best. It’s determined by what you do when you aren’t motivated, when you aren’t focused, and when you aren’t excited about the things you need to do.  

Whether you ‘feel’ like it or not, put in the effort to show up. Sit down behind the computer, show up at the office, get on the phone with that client.

Take action and do something to move yourself forward no matter what.

Be the Operator. Get it done, whether you feel like it or not.

No excuses.

PS – If you need a deep dive into the strategies, tools, and 90-day planner that can help you become Unstoppable in business and in life, grab a FREE copy of my new book here.

Craig Ballantyne

Craig Ballantyne is the author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Craig has been a contributor to Men's Health magazine for over 17 years. Today he teaches his gift to high-performing entrepreneurs how to squeeze more out of their days, increase their income, and make more quality time for their families in his Perfect Life Workshop and Work-Life Mastery programs. Craig used his own advice to overcome crippling anxiety attacks in 2006, and he'll teach you his 5 Pillars of Success so you can increase your income, decrease your work time, and live the life of your dreams. Learn more about Craig at craigballantyne.com

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