Not too long ago, there was a time when we were both working 40+ hours per week. We worked Monday to Friday every week, over and over. This period of our life wasn't all bad. In fact, it was pretty darn good! We both enjoyed our full time jobs and spending time with the people we worked with. However, it was time to make a change. We saved some money, left the warm cozy safety of full-time employment and boarded a plane for South East Asia! Andrew is now a contract programmer for a company in Perth and Tanya is an un-(self-)employed blog writer and hand washer of clothes.
Changing from going into an office every day to having location independent offices (ie hotel rooms and cafes) has meant that our lives have changed. Drastically. We no longer have to get up at a certain time, to leave the house by a certain time, to have lunch by a certain time all so we could leave for home at a certain time. Now, we have to figure out how to fit work into our lives for ourselves.
Having a schedule is still very important.
Working for yourself is hard. It is easy to get up in the morning and to either spend all day being a tourist or doing nothing in particular. It is also very easy to sit down and work for 15 hours straight and to never see anything outside of your room. Make yourself a schedule to help you balance work, touristy activities and laying around watching TV or whatever appeals to you.
Our location independent lifestyle schedule goes a little something like this:
At 8:00am (or thereabouts), log in, work two hours
Have a break ranging from 30 minutes to 3 hours depending if we are in the "work zone" or if we want a massage or something.
Then work for another two hours.
We try to do four hours of work a day, preferably in the morning. We then have all afternoon and the evening to enjoy wherever we are.
Set small deadlines.
Small regular deadlines are better than big projects. With big tasks spanning days, weeks or months it is too easy to fall behind and to not notice. You can also tell yourself that you'll knock off early today and make up the time tomorrow. Be realistic. You probably wont.
The sense of accomplishment from achieving small tasks also helps with motivation. We find that focusing on two to three tasks per day is about right. For example, Tanya tries to write two to three blog posts per day as well as upload all the photos taken from the day before.
Celebrating each milestone is important too. A simple high five from across the table is generally good enough!
Do something fun with the money you earn.
For us right now this means travelling (but be more specific than that). Working a few hours a day means we can live very comfortably, see the world and experience everything we want to. This isn't the only reason we work but it doesn't hurt.
Consciously building an association between the work you do and enjoyable activities can help get you through lazy patches. Before starting work say something like "I'm going to work for a few hours and then I'm going to use some of the money I'm about to earn to (insert activity here)." It doesn't matter whether your taste in activities is good food, museums, hiking trips or whatever. Consciously strengthening the association between the work that funds those activities and the fun activities themselves will help you buckle down when you need to.
Love (or at least like) what you do.
If you really don't like what you're doing then nothing will make you want to do it. Our lives are pretty fantastic right now but I doubt that would be enough to get us to buckle down if we didn't also enjoy the work we do. Doing something you hate with the hope of doing something you like in the future is not a recipe for a happy life. Find something that challenges you and interests you.