Leaving Work Behind

How to Trick Yourself Into Being Productive With an Anti To-Do List

Written by Anne Dorko on October 18, 2016. 8 Comments

A hand with a to-do list written on the palm.Leaving work behind often means we’re in charge of our own schedule. Unfortunately, we’re not all naturally adept at managing our own workload. Left to our own devices, this often leads to terrible time management.

I think it’s safe to say everyone struggles with procrastination to some degree, but finding a structured system that fits your personality and way of thinking can do wonders for your productivity. Usually, it involves tricking ourselves into action. In my case, this system is the ‘anti to-do’ list.

No solution is perfect, but finding one that’s suitable (as well as practicing it) is important. In this post, I’ll explain what an anti to-do list is, then teach you how to set up your own.

Let’s get started!

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Want to Quit Your Day Job? Here Are the 5 Questions You Must Ask Yourself First!

Written by Gina Horkey on December 22, 2015. 5 Comments

Want to Quit Your Day Job?So you want to quit your day job?

Good for you! It’s exciting, isn’t it? But a bit nerve wracking, scary and overwhelming too.

Since it’s kind of a big deal, I think it deserves proper consideration. So I’ve compiled a list of five questions you should ask yourself before giving your boss the pink slip.


1. How Much Money am I Making from My Freelance Business?

And frankly, how predictable is it?

I started my own freelance business as a side hustle, and I’d recommend you do the same. Start building while you’re working full-time if at all possible. This will enable you to make sure it’s viable, use the income to pay down debt (or save it) and make sure it’s something you enjoy.

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Planning Tomorrow Today: 4 Steps to Start Your Workday off on the Right Foot

Written by Tom Ewer on March 10, 2015. 34 Comments

Tom: The following is another guest post from Gina Horkey – she’s filling in while I’m sunning myself in Sri Lanka. This week she’s focusing on productivity, and has given me a few things to think about! If your days aren’t as productive as you would like, keep reading for some simple solutions.

ChecklistOrganization is great. But then so is flexibility.

I was attracted to the whole concept of leaving work behind in part because of the latter. Even though I have a bunch of systems in place that help me to be more organized, I try not to be overly rigid. This is to make my work as easy and enjoyable as possible. It’s also important that I’m keeping clients happy by meeting (or exceeding) deadlines.

However, I don’t want my days to be so so precisely planned that I’m feeling suffocated or stifled by my work. This is a rather creative business, and you can’t really force creativity. There is a balance to be struck.

With the above in mind, in this post I’m going to share with you four steps that enable me to plan successful days before they’ve even happened. Keep Reading

The Drawbacks of Goal Setting (Why I Agree With Leo Babauta)

Written by Tom Ewer on February 27, 2014. 10 Comments

GoalsI’m incredibly fortunate. I’ve got to a point now where I make enough money to support me. At this point, my day-to-day contentment with what I do is more important to me than making me more money.

That puts me in a rather interesting position where I don’t want to set myself strict goals.

The thing is, ambitious goals are brilliant for pushing you and getting you to places you wouldn’t otherwise have gotten to. But they can also be a source of stress. They can put pressure on you. That’s the nature of goals.

Richard Koch says you should impose tight deadlines to force you to do more in less time, which is great in theory. But in reality, that creates stress.

All of this can be a good thing when you’ve got a big goal in mind. For instance, setting tough goals and really pushing yourself when you’re trying to quit your job can all be worth it. Quitting that job can be worth the stress and hassle.

But I’ve got myself into a position where the stress of strict goals is no longer worth it. I want to feel that I can wake up in the morning and do precisely what I want to do — I can’t do that if I have goals looming over me. I want to only do those things that I find most rewarding; those things that align with my moral principles. I still have goals — I just don’t set myself arbitrary deadlines or put myself in a position where I feel pressured to do something I don’t want to do.

Consider my experience with Clear Blogging Solutions. I started off by trying to attract every client under the sun. I soon discovered that I didn’t like dealing with people who wanted to pay $50 per article, and that my original core client (who would pay a good price for good value) was someone I wanted to stick with. There might be less of them, and I might make less overall by dealing only with them, but it is sure more rewarding. Screw the extra money — I don’t need it. I’m happy.

Depending upon your current situation, this may come of something as a revelation to you, or you may be sitting there telling me that it’s all well and good for me. Fair enough, but I’m not here to hate on goal setting (far from it) or gloat that I can afford not to set goals. My point is that goal setting is a tool; one that should be used with forethought. As such, you should always ask yourself why you are setting a goal and whether it is worth it — not simply set goals blindly because you feel it is the done thing.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t set goals — after all, without goals, we are highly unlikely to ever reach our true potential. But perhaps reaching our true potential involves sacrifices that are too great. That is the equation you have to consider.

Photo Credit: Marcel Oosterwijk

How to Motivate Yourself

Written by Tom Ewer on September 23, 2013. 49 Comments

MotivationOne of the greatest challenges for people who want to leave work behind is finding the motivation to take action.

You may feel like you have the potential to create a successful online business, but what you don’t have is the necessary motivation required to get the ball rolling.

Put simply, when you get home from work, the last thing you want to do is more work. Although you feel you’re ready to make a major change in your life, you don’t have a fire burning within you.

In this post I want to help you to light that fire.

Dispelling the Myths of Demotivation

I get emails from people all the time telling me why they can’t succeed. They may not put it in so many words, but the general argument is always the same: “I can’t succeed because of [excuse].”

But here’s the thing: those excuses are never good enough. Never. Furthermore, they’re predictable and can be easily countered.

With that in mind, let’s start by dispelling what I like to call the three myths of demotivation.

1. The Time Excuse

TimeWhen it comes to finding a reason not to do something, a lack of time is the number one excuse.

But time can never be an excuse. People who say that they have no time to build a successful online business are lying to themselves.

How do I know this? You only have to observe what others are doing.

Whatever you want to achieve, someone has already done it with less resources. All over the world, people are reaching their goals and doing it in less time than you claim you don’t have.

Put simply, if you have the necessary motivation, you’ll make the time.

It’s not a case of, “I don’t have time” — it’s a case of, “I don’t want it enough.” Don’t confuse the two statements. One is an excuse, the other is an admission.

If you don’t believe me when I say that you have time, answer this question: if someone held a gun to your head and told you that you had to quit your job and build a successful business over the next twelve months, would you find the time to make it happen? Of course you would. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

I’m not saying that it’s easy to find the time. You will probably have to make sacrifices (from as trivial as less television, to less sleep, or even less quality time with friends and family). But necessary sacrifices in the short term that enable you to reach your long term goals are part and parcel of leaving work behind.

2. The Idea Excuse

LightbulbI get a lot of emails from people telling me that they’re ready to take action but don’t have an idea to take action on. But they’re wrong.

Everyone has ideas. We’re human beings: incredibly complex machines that are capable of thousands of thoughts every day. Don’t tell me you don’t have ideas running through your head.

Let’s go through a real simple idea production process. What’s your hobby? What do you love to do more than anything? Start a blog on that. There’s an idea.

In reality, you know that you have ideas. The real fear is that your idea is no good. To which I say this: failing at something is far more productive than doing nothing at all. The process of failure will teach you an enormous amount and you’ll be far better equipped to move onto the next idea. You will find a winning formula if you persist.

Don’t tell me that you have no ideas. Start something now.

3. The Experience Excuse

Finally, we have people who hide behind a perceived lack of experience or ability. Excuses like:

But I don’t know how to use WordPress.

I don’t know how to blog.

I have no idea how to launch an eCommerce store.

I have no freelancing experience.

First of all, there are people out there with less IQ points than you doing what you’re making out to be impossible. Seriously — creating a blog is not difficult if you’re willing to spend just a few minutes learning how:

The people who don’t use their lack of experience or ability as an excuse for inaction are the people who succeed. Sure — it might be harder for you to learn how to blog than other people. That doesn’t make it any less of a poor excuse.

There are people out there doing extraordinary things. Amputees running marathons. Adventurers traversing the Antarctic. A friend of my girlfriend is rowing from the Californian coast to Hawaii next year and half the team only started learning how to row recently. And you’re telling me you can’t figure out how to blog?

Don’t tell me you can’t do something because you don’t know how to. Figure out how to. Everyone in the world starts off not knowing how to do anything — if you’re lacking knowledge in a particular field, you just need to work to redress the balance.

Don’t shortcut the process either. If you have a knowledge gap that needs filling, you should invest in something of true quality that will help you to do so. Don’t fall into the trap of trawling the Internet to find the information you need — save yourself a whole load of time and effort and spend a little money.

Finding Motivation

Now we know that the most popular excuses for not taking action are just that (excuses), we have to dig deeper to uncover what’s really going on in those people who lack motivation.

Let’s consider what motivation is for a moment. The dictionary defines it as follows:

A reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way

That definition couldn’t be any more relevant to us. Motivation is having a reason — something that justifies the necessary action to achieve your goals. If you’re truly motivated to do something then you make the time. You gain the necessary experience. And you do so with little in the way of negative thoughts because you have a compelling reason to do what you’re doing.

That’s why the whole gun-to-the-head trick is so effective — it gives you a reason. The whole “I must try to do this or I will die” scenario is a big motivator for most people. But how do you find that level of motivation (or something approaching it) without having someone actually put a gun to your head?

You need to find the most compelling “rewards” for meeting your goals. Those will be your reasons for doing what you do.

This is where so many people make their first mistake, because they believe these rewards to primarily be material. I have learned that the true rewards — those that will provide enough motivation — are rarely material.

Determining Your True Rewards

I'd like to live somewhere like this, but it isn't the reason why I do what I do.

I’d like to live somewhere like this, but it isn’t the reason why I do what I do.

Many of us dream of big houses and expensive cars. There’s nothing wrong with that.

However, the act of leaving work behind is not about that (at least, not primarily). Leaving work behind is ultimately about happiness. While material possessions can make you happier, they do not represent the core of true happiness.

The following things bring happiness:

  1. Security
  2. Relationships
  3. Freedom
  4. Material possessions

When it comes to motivating yourself, you need to focus on how quitting your job and starting an online business will affect those areas of your life.

The immediate implications may not always be positive. For instance, you may be concerned about the impact of quitting your job to your financial security. But on the flip side, quitting your job will give you the freedom to work as you please and spend time with your friends and family whenever you want. Furthermore, in time it may enable you to earn more money than you ever did in your job and give you a level of security that you couldn’t have previously dreamt of.

An Example of a True Reward

I received an email a couple of weeks ago from a LWB reader that perfectly described a compelling motivator. Unfortunately I can’t find the original email but the crisis was obvious: this father of two felt that he was spending all of his time working and barely seeing his kids grow up.

I answered a few of his questions but left him with one key statement: you’re already half way there. His motivator is so strong that the chances of him succeeding are immediately higher than average, regardless of his abilities or ideas.

Me, Jack and Maggie (one of my nephews and my niece).

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to know that you are not spending as much time with your kids as you would like. I am sure it is similar (but far more intense) to how I feel about only seeing my nephews and niece a handful of times a year (as they live in a different country).

The drive such a motivator can give you cannot be underestimated. In fact, one of my motivators to earn more is so that I can fly out to Texas to see my nephews and niece more often.

Motivators that involve deep human emotions — that affect you on an intrinsic level — make all the difference.

My True Reward

When it came to quitting my job and building a successful online business, my biggest motivator was to prove that I could do it. That may not seem like such a big deal, but it was to me.

I spent my whole childhood expecting to become a successful entrepreneur. Then, five years into full time employment, I suddenly realized that it simply hadn’t happened. More than anything else, I wanted to build a successful business so that I could prove to myself (and others) that I was capable of doing it.

My biggest motivators have been pride and a desire for achievement. My actions have been driven by the desire to create something. A legacy. Something that I can point to and say, “I created that.”

Those are the kind of motivators you need to find.

Negative Motivation

Another way you can motivate yourself is to tell yourself what would happen if you didn’t achieve your goals. I call this “negative motivation”.

Think of all the things you dislike about your job and your life in general and remind yourself that these things won’t change unless you take action. For instance, if I had stayed in my job I would have been resigning myself to a lifetime of working for someone else. I would have been handing over nearly one third of my prime years to someone else. I would have been giving up my lifelong ambition of creating my own business and would have proven to myself that I wasn’t capable.

I couldn’t bear that outcome. It would have destroyed my ego and left me feeling pretty worthless.

Furthermore, I wanted freedom. I’ll be honest with you — I’m terrible at dealing with authority figures. I don’t like people telling me what to do. Spending the rest of my life having 8+ hours of my working days controlled by someone else was something I couldn’t handle.

Individually, these motivations were powerful. When combined they were unstoppable. Find your own unstoppable negative motivators.

Reminding Yourself of Your Motivators

A lot of self-help types recommend that you put reminders of your motivators up on your wall, on your fridge, and so on. If you want to do so then go ahead (it certainly won’t hurt), but realize this: if you need reminders to keep your motivators at the forefront of your mind, they’re not compelling enough.

Your motivator needs to drive your thinking and your actions — to practically become an obsession. Does that sound pretty full on? It is — but that’s not surprising given that you’re planning on making one of the changes to your life that you will ever make.

Think about other major events in life: moving house, getting married, having kids. Each of these go a long way towards taking over your life. Many of your day-to-day decisions become influenced (consciously and subconsciously) by your consideration towards that major event. Why should leaving work behind be any different?

This kind of commitment does come at a cost. I believe that quitting your job and building a successful online business can be just as psychologically impactful on your life as moving house or having a kid. I never said that it was easy, but if you have strong enough motivators, the work won’t be so gruelling and the outcome will be life changing.

Secondary Motivators

Finding your key underlying motivators is one of the most important things you can do to help you in leaving work behind. However, there are other things you can do that will help no end in terms of boosting your motivation and keeping you honest.

Read or Watch Success Stories and Inspiring Speeches

Commit to watching three minutes of the following video — I reckon the majority of people who start it won’t stop watching until the end:

Or how about one of my all-time personal favorites from the always awesome Derek Sivers:

Although I don’t think video or audio is the optimum medium for learning and taking action, it can be extraordinarily powerful in terms of getting you fired up and ready to take on the world. Discovering how other people achieved what you want to achieve can be practically useful and deeply inspiring.

If you can feel your motivation flagging, videos like the ones above are exactly the kind of things you should watch to help get yourself back on the wagon.

Hold Yourself Publicly Accountable

I originally launched Leaving Work Behind as an accountability journal to chronicle my own journey to quitting my job. I wanted to tell the world what I was planning to do so that going back on my public intentions would be all the more difficult.

It was very effective, which is exactly why I recommend you do something similar. You don’t have to launch a blog, but you could for example get involved in a forum or start reaching out to other people who you can share your journey with.

Whatever you choose to do, the key is that other people must know about it and there should be repercussions for you going back on your stated intentions. If people expect you to try your damnedest to succeed, you’re likely to put far more effort in.

Build a Support Network

One of the greatest things you can do in terms of boosting motivation is start a mastermind group. If you don’t already know, a mastermind group is simply two or more people who get together periodically to discuss their business and set goals.

I cannot understate the value of being in a mastermind group. I attribute a great deal of my success so far to being in masterminds and know that I wouldn’t be where I am now without them. If you’d like to know more about mastermind groups, read my comprehensive guide.

The Other Side of Motivation: Making Things Easy Enough

Having said that, you should work to ensure that your path to leaving work behind is as easy as possible. After all, achieving your goals isn’t just about how motivated your are — it’s also about how challenging what you set out to do is.

For instance, if quitting your job and building a $100k per year profit business were as simple as signing a piece of paper, I am willing to bet that you would take time out of your day to make sure that it got signed. The effort of putting pen to paper would certainly be worth it. But if you were told that by working 100+ hours per week for three years you would get $100k per year for the rest of your life, would you do it? I doubt it (and even if you tried, you would fail).

So don’t just look at your motivators — examine the methods you are employing to reach your goals. Are they working? Is they too difficult? Do they still make sense to you? Do you truly believe that your actions will bear fruit?

Taking some time every now and then to answer these questions can provide you with valuable information.

For example, making “passive” income from a blog is tough, yet many people try it. Most fail, then give up on making money online altogether. If instead they tried something like freelance blogging, they might land their first client within a couple of weeks. Now they’re making money and can see where it could lead.

At that point, the motivation is far more powerful than the work required. Success breeds confidence, and confidence breeds the motivation to achieve more (tweet this).

So if you’re struggling for motivation at the moment, perhaps you need to adjust your goals. Don’t try to jump chasms rather than step over cracks. Work on taking a small step forward and use the confidence and motivation gained from your progress to achieve more.

Leaving Work Behind Isn’t for Everyone

There’s a reason why most people are employed — running your own business is not for everyone.

I’m not going to pretend that every single person reading this article will quit their job, because many of you will not. Many won’t find a strong enough motivation and life will simply pass them by. Before they know it, they’ll be at retirement age, wondering where their best years went.

You might weigh up the potential benefits of (and motivators for) quitting your job and realize that it is not worth the perceived risk and effort. You might discover that while your job is far from perfect, you’re not (yet) at a point where you feel truly motivated to make a major change.

There is a chance that you’re not motivated enough because you don’t have anything that serves as a strong enough motivator.

But lacking strong enough motivators doesn’t bring you to the end of the line. It may not be time for you to leave work behind yet, or you may not yet have come across an opportunity that truly excites you. You may not take action now, but perhaps you’ll keep looking and your outlook will change in time.

Just remember this: nothing beyond your outlook will change if you don’t take action.

Remember Your Key Motivators

Leaving work behind isn’t about getting rich (although it certainly can be a motivator). Not appreciating that key principle is what trips so many people up and prevents them from achieving their goals.

More than anything, leaving work behind is about finding those things that will bring you true happiness. They are typically aligned with the relationships you have and things that are deeply personal to you.

Find those motivators and you will have all the drive you’ll ever need to achieve your goals.

Photo Credits: Work Life, Wikipedia, Chuck Coker and Caitlin Jean