Who needs Tony Robbins when you can motivate yourself? Overcoming the emotional hurdle to get stuff done when you’d rather sit on the couch isn’t always easy. But unless calling in sick and waking up at noon have no consequences for you, it’s often a must.
For those of you who never procrastinate, distract yourself or drag your feet when you should be doing something important, this article isn’t for you. But for the rest of us humans, it’s good to have a library of motivational boosters to move us along.
How to Avoid Motivation
The best way to motivate yourself is to organize your life so you don’t have to. If work is a constant battle for you, perhaps it is time to start thinking about a new job. The idea is that explicit motivational techniques should be a backup, not your regular routine.
Here are some other things to consider making work flow more naturally:
Passion. Do things you have a passion for. We all have to do things we don’t want to. But if life has become a chronic source of dull chores, you’ve got a big problem that needs fixing.
Habits. You can’t put everything on autopilot. But I’ve found putting a few core habits in place creates a structure for the day. Waking up at the same time, working at the same times and having a similar productive routine makes it easier to do the next day.
Flow. Flow is the state where your mind is completely focused on the task at hand. While there are many factors that go into producing this state, having the right challenge level is a big part. Find ways to tweak your tasks so they hover in that sweet spot between boredom and maddening frustration.
Despite your best efforts, passion, habits and a flow-producing environment can fail. In that case, it’s time to find whatever emotional pump-up you can use to get started. Here are a few:
Go Back to “Why” – Focusing on a dull task doesn’t make it any more attractive. Zooming out and asking yourself why you are bothering in the first place will make it more appealing. If you can’t figure out why, then there’s a good chance you shouldn’t bother with it in the first place.
Go for Five – Start working for five minutes. Often that little push will be enough to get you going.
Move Around – Get your body moving as you would if you were extremely motivated to do something. This ‘faking it’ approach to motivation may seem silly or crude, but it works.
Find the Next Step – It’s impossible to work on a project. All you can do is focus on the next immediate step. Fighting an amorphous blob of work will only cause procrastination. Chunk it up so that it becomes manageable.
Find Your Itch – What is keeping you from working. Don’t let the itch continue without isolating it and removing the problem. Are you unmotivated because your tired, afraid, bored, restless or angry. Maybe it is because you aren’t sure you have time or delegated tasks haven’t been finished yet.
Deconstruct Your Fears – I’m sure you don’t have a phobia about getting stuff done. But at the same time, hidden fears or anxieties can keep you from getting real work completed. Isolate the unknowns and make yourself confident you can handle the worst case scenario.
Get a Partner – Find someone who will motivate you when you’re feeling lazy. I have a friend I go to the gym with. Besides spotting weight, having a friend can help motivate you to work hard when you’d normally quit.
Kickstart Your Day – Plan out tomorrow. Get up early and place all the important things early in the morning. Building momentum early in the day can usually carry you forward far later.
Read Books – Not just self-help or motivational books, but any book that has new ideas. New ideas get your mental gears turning and can build motivation. Learning new ideas puts your brain in motion, so it requires less time to speed up to your tasks.
Get the Right Tools – Your environment can have a profound effect on your enthusiasm. Computers that are too slow, inefficient applications or a vehicle that breaks down constantly can kill your motivation. Building motivation is almost as important as avoiding the traps that can stop it.
There are No Small Problems – The worst killer of motivation is facing a seemingly small problem that creates endless frustration. Reframe little problems that must be fixed as bigger ones, or they will kill any drive you have.
Develop a Mantra – Find a few statements that focus your mind and motivate you. It doesn’t matter whether they are pulled from a tacky motivational poster, or just a few words to tell you what to do. If you aren’t sure where to start, a good personal mantra is, “Do it now!”
Build on Success – Success creates success. When you’ve just won, it is easy to feel motivated about almost anything. Emotions tend not to be situation specific, so a small win, whether it is a compliment from a colleague or finishing two thirds of your tasks before noon can turn you into a juggernaut. There are many ways you can place small successes earlier on to spur motivation later. Structuring your to-do lists, placing straightforward tasks such as exercising early in the day or giving yourself an affirmation can do the trick.