The early days of self-employment and remote work come with many learning curves. One of the most surprising and difficult to resolve is answering the question: when am I done for today?

Finding and maintaining boundaries with your answer isn’t just important for productivity, but frankly, your ability to grow beyond the beginning stages as an entrepreneur hinges on it.

More people fail at self-employment than succeed. I know – what a bomb to drop at the beginning of a piece that is supposed to be supportive.

Quite frankly, if the multi-million dollar company of Silly Bandz (remember those?) in the early 2010s taught us anything, it’s that ideas don’t need to be good to be successful.

You may also like: How To Develop Your Online Business Idea

For an idea to succeed, it needs to first be executed. Execution is the exact step where many people will fail.

That’s where “done for today” comes in. This mindset will help you improve productivity, execute ideas and successfully metamorphize from dreamer to doer.

girl sitting cross legged on a boat in vietnam

Introduction To Done For Today: How To Get Stuff Done Building Your Side Hustle

It all sounds so good, doesn’t it? Whenever people talk about how they wake up every day with a sense of purpose and go to bed with feelings of fulfillment?

A lot of new remote workers wake up with a sense of fulfillment and excitement, but go to bed with the ache that they didn’t do enough.

That feeling is insidious: it will affect your mental and physical health, relationships and essentially every part of your life, beyond just your business.

The feeling that you’re never done will lead to overworking, loss of focus and lost days. And when you’re self-employed, lost days can bleed into lost weeks and lost months.

Everyone harps on the importance of goal setting, but there’s not enough emphasis on the benefits for of goal setting beyond productivity’s sake.

So, this isn’t a blog post on how your business deserves for you to maximize your productivity with goal setting. This is about how YOU deserve to go to bed with the warm and fuzzy feeling that you are done for today.

Why Finding Your “Done For Today” Point Is Make-Or-Break For New Entrepreneurs

The journey of escaping the rat race is well illustrated online: an unfulfilled person sits in a cubicle. They start an online business and find fulfillment. They leave said cubicle and travel the world while working online. Their life is so much better.

That narrative is real. It’s important to remember that. But, it’s also incomplete.

It doesn’t disclose that some months into your freedom, you’ll feel just as bored as you did at your desk job. Your workdays will slowly become monotonous and you’ll feel overwhelmed because you’re working very long hours without feeling like you have anything to show for it.

That feeling was never more evident for me than when I became a digital nomad. I thought: I’m a remote worker now, I should work as much as possible and be a productivity machine. *insert fire emoji*

So, I worked. I woke up and got to work at my hostel. And there were more days than I can remember where I didn’t even leave the hostel until after it was already dark.

I was back to the same fulfillment-less grind that I started with, and the sad thing was that I still reached for the same solution of just working harder.

View from an airplane window of clear blue waters and white fluffy clouds
Flying out to Guatemala City after 3 weeks on Cozumel, Mexico. I hardly even saw it. 2017

Looking back, I can honestly say that I would’ve seen so much more of the places I traveled if I had a “done for today” cutoff. I can’t go back in time and see more of the Mexican Caribbean, but I hope I impart this message to you.

How To Find Your Done For Today Point

Step 1: Set Your Goals

“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” – Bill Copeland

Insert the inevitable “what makes a good goal” quip. SMART goals are the productivity world’s go-to, and who am I to argue.

When it comes to being done for today, the first 3 letters matter the most: goals should be Specific, Measureable and Achievable.

These letters are what separates a daydream of what you’d like to get out of today and a plan.

Instead of just picking random work for the day, now try asking yourself the following questions:

  • What will I work on today? (Picking your task)
  • What will it look like once it’s done? (Setting criteria for success)
  • How long will it take? (Deciding on a time frame)

Everyday, I try to set criteria in such a way that I can complete them in a single day. This single step has turned out to be the solution to longer and longer days of work without finishing anything.

In addition, implementing clear goals for the day has yielded some unexpected and beneficial results beyond productivity.

Step 2: Work On The Follow-Through By Creating Accountability

…which I’ve heard touted many times on podcast interviews as the biggest factor in whether or not new entrepreneurs succeed.

Where does accountability come from for a solorpreneur, you may ask?

Well, when you set goals, they hold you accountable themselves. You have to look at your planner, Trello board, whatever online business tools you use to stay organized, and answer: did I complete these tasks?

Furthermore, you can find accountability online or with your partner by sharing your goals and reporting back if you’ve met them.

Because of this clear goalsetting, my husband and I have been able to start tackling business tasks together. Our dream is to design a lifestyle in which we assign work the amount of time we believe it deserves instead of work telling us how much of our best time and energy it demands.

Step 3: Be Honest With How It’s Going

If you still fail to meet your goals, don’t just toss the day out like a t-shirt going in the hamper.

Examine why you didn’t cross your “done for today” finish line and readjust. No one “fails” to meet goals every single day – the goals themselves have failed if you never achieve them.

Stay curious, adjust course when necessary and be honest with yourself.

Where Deciding Your “Done For Today” Leaves You

First Off: You’ll Be More Self-Aware (And Therefore Productive)

Paradoxically, structuring a workday when you are in complete control can be hard. But never finding out how to structure your time has real-life consequences.

What working without structure looks like:

  • Huge to-do list. Completing everything on the list would easily take days or weeks, but you wake up and see this as “today’s” tasks
  • You could’ve never accomplished all these tasks, which you subconsciously knew. Consciously, you think a big to-do list will give you more drive, but it actually creates a cycle of not completing your goals, and over time this erodes your energy
  • You work later and later, trying to salvage what feels like another lost day, when in reality you could’ve never won because you never established when you’d be done for today
  • Bedtime comes and you lie down thinking “I did NOT get enough done today. Tomorrow I need to do twice as much”

There’s an imminent danger to this cycle. Living in this forced sense of survival mode will not make you more productive. It will create a routine of falling short and feeling bad.

Setting specific goals for the day gives you a point at which you are done with work for the day.

Granted, it takes a while before you can accurately decide on the amount of work you can comfortably do in a day, but stay true to the course and you will find your groove.

Secondly: You’ll Have Actual Work/Life Balance

One often overlooked benefit of a well-defined workday is that all of the sudden there is room for the rest of life to happen.

Open hotel window with a view of Brussels Belgium and a travel backpack propped up again the glass
If you pursue the digital nomad lifestyle, knowing when you’re done for today means more time living in the moment. Brussels, Belgium 2020

Working online can sometimes give you the feeling that you never work hard enough and thereby force you to put in long hours at the expense of your relationships, hobbies and well-being.

Defining your daily tasks in such a way that you can wrap them up allows for actual time off.

Lastly: It’ll Fuel Your Motivation

I bet your ideal life still feels far away. That’s not a bad thing – certainly don’t let it scare you from the path.

Instead, take tangible steps towards your dream every day. It will help tremendously with staying motivated.

Famous travel blogger Nomadic Matt once said in an interview that most bloggers don’t fail, they give up.

Working on this stuff takes time and guts. Accepting that you are done for today, or even… dare I say it… that you are done early, might go against your instinct as a new entrepreneur but aren’t we all here because we want to break free of mindless obgligations?

You are not obligated to work until you can’t keep your eyes open anymore: just work until you’re done for today.

Final Thoughts… And Then We’re Done For Today

What will you work on today? And, more importantly, do not forget to ask the follow-up question:

What will your work look like once it’s done?

Finding and enforcing your answer to the question “when am I done for today” is one of the most impactful habits that an entrepreneur can hone on their journey to professional freedom.