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10 Thing Successful People Do To Motivate Themselves

10 Thing Successful People Do To Motivate Themselves

When I was in 20 years old and studying at UCLA, I flunked an Economics class. I was devastated. Guess what happened? I bounced back. I got an A when I retook the course.

When I was 22, I interviewed with 4 different managers at a Fortune 100 company and was ranked pretty much last in every interview. I didn’t get a single job offer. I was frustrated. Guess what happened? I bounced back. I have my dream job now.

When I was 25, I created 9 iPhone apps, all of which failed miserably. I spent a ridiculous amount of time and money building them. I felt really bummed. Guess what happened? Since then, I’ve built other 4 iPhone apps and all 4 of them hit the top 100 in the Business, Lifestyle, and Entertainment section.

When I was 28, I found out my mentor and friend Erik, who was like a brother to me, passed away from cancer. That was one of the toughest times in my life. Guess what happened? I bounced back because that’s what Erik would have wanted.

What I’ve noticed over the last 30 years of my life is a recurring pattern to successfully motivating myself. This pattern helped me get back on track, even during times that felt like rock bottom. I’ve also asked numerous executives from Cisco, MTV, Bank of America, VMware, Box, and Optimizely what their secrets to motivation are. In addition to that, I’ve also read numerous books on motivation from authors like Tony Robbins to Daniel Pink (Author of “Drive”).

I’ve put together a list of the 10 things successful people do to motivate themselves. I’ve never shared this list – until now. Here are the top 10.

1.  Understand Your Why

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”  – Mark Twain

Understand your purpose and it will fuel your drive.

If I told you that it was your job to sort through a box of potatoes and to throw away the rotten ones, would you feel a strong sense of purpose? Or would you feel like a cog in a machine? Now, what if I told you that by sorting out the bad potatoes you were helping out the local food bank in supplying fresh food to needy families in the area? Would that change your perspective and your sense of purpose in the work?

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Now that you understand the purpose of the work, does it potentially change your attitude or perhaps even your choice of work?

I’m not here to dictate what purpose is. Everyone’s got a different definition based on their experiences in life and their own set of values. What I do want to ask you is: What does purpose mean to you?

Find your why. If you don’t know what it is, create it. That will motivate you to make a difference.

2. Stay Focused on the Big Picture

“Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.” – Oprah Winfrey

Admit it. There will be days where work will feel boring, when tasks feel repetitive, or when you feel like you have 100 things to do on your checklist.  There also those days when you’re just plain irritated. The easy thing to do is to feel frustrated and to give up. However, you could stay focused on the big picture.

When I worked at a Fortune Global 2000 company, I started a weekly partner training program that quickly grew from 20 attendees to well over 150 sales reps at its peak. One of my co-workers was upset because he felt like it would end up creating more work for him. For example, if Nelson is doing it, then we’ll all have to start doing this!

If I caved and stopped doing the training so that my co-worker wouldn’t feel obligated to do more work, do you know what would have happened? We wouldn’t have created $1.6M in pipeline, that’s for sure. That’s why you’ve got to keep your eye on the big picture.

3.  Get Active

A lot of times it’s hard to get motivated if you’re not in a good mood. Research has shown that working out multiple times a week for a reasonable period of time can reduce the symptoms of depression. Exercising for 30 minutes can also increase levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine which can help to reduce stress.

I’ve noticed that when I exercise for at least 30 minutes (especially in the morning), I’m a lot more relaxed throughout the day, less stressed out, and am able to think much more clearly.

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Also, if you’re pushing yourself in your workouts, you’re testing your boundaries and this can be really healthy. For example, I had never run a half marathon before until I decided to step up to the challenge this year. It was painful, but after I finished, I immediately thought, “if I can do this, what else I am capable of?”

Pushing yourself physically will also motivate you to push yourself intellectually and in other parts of your life – like your career.  #WorkoutsElevateYourGame

4.  Have an Accountability Buddy

“Surround yourself with people who push you, who challenge you, who make you laugh, who make you better, who make you happy.” – Anonymous

Let’s say you set a goal of signing on 100 new customers within a year. Now, share that goal with some of your closest friends and colleagues. Guess what? You’ve just signed up for peer pressure. This is a great way to keep yourself motivated at work. Don’t believe me? Just wait until you hear someone down the hall say, “Hey (Insert Your Name Here), how are you doing in your goal of 100 new customers?”

Still don’t think that’s motivating? How about an additional 50 coworkers also asking that same question? I think that’ll motivate you. Just a hunch.

5.  Motivational Quotes

I know, I’m writing a post on how to get motivated and included motivational quotes and then suggested that you use motivational quotes to get motivated. This just got meta on you.

Whatever motivational quote you decide on, print it out and tape it to your mirror. Or if you want to get fancy with it, take a marker and write it on the mirror!

That’ll get you going in the morning!

6.  Create Small, Bite-Sized Goals

There’s a reason donut holes are so lovable. They’re easy to eat. Before you know it, you’ve eaten a dozen of them. This is how goals should be too. Of course you should have a really big and audacious goal.

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However, make sure you break down that goal into bite-sized, consumable goals. This way you’ll feel like you’re making progress in your journey and you’ll also feel a sense of accomplishment when you complete the smaller goals. A feeling of progress and achievement is a beautiful combination.

7.  Have the Time of Your Life

“There’s no fun in a perfect life. So make a risk. Take a chance. Go where the wind takes you. Have fun.” – Jenny C.

If you’re having fun, you’re going to be more motivated to do great work. This is true for 90% of the people. Okay, I have no proof that is statistically true, but I’m pretty sure for most people this holds true.

Do you notice that when you’re having fun, you’re more charismatic, upbeat, and optimistic? Do you notice that you’re more productive because you’re actually enjoying the work? Do you notice you’re motivating other team members because you’re making the work environment awesome? Thought so.

Go out there and have the time of your life!  (Go to 3:19 for the good part)

8.  Meditate

“Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

We live in a world of information overload. Because of that, our brains sometimes get overstimulated, and that’s not a good thing.  That’s why we need to meditate.

Calm down. Close your eyes. Lie down.

Okay fine, you’re probably sitting in front of a computer – just sit up straight then. Breathe slowly, in and out. Do you feel a sense of calm washing over you? Do you notice thoughts starting to creep in? Push them out and focus only on your breathing.

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Meditation will help you motivate yourself in a few different ways:

  • Focus – By clearing your mind, you’ll have a renewed sense of focus.
  • Happiness – By meditating, you’ll likely feel happier since your stress will be reduced. When we’re happy, we tend to be more optimistic about the future. That optimism can often be a very powerful motivational force.

9. Brainstorm Your Ideas and Write Them Down

Not all of your ideas will be good. It doesn’t matter. Write them down anyway. I got this idea from James Altucher (the guy is brilliant!). Your great ideas will come when you least expect them.

Eventually, after you jot down 100 ideas, chances are that you’ll have at least one good idea. That’s incredibly motivating when you discover you can come up with good ideas. So start jotting them down. Now.

10. Visualize the Future and Go Make it Happen

Need motivation? Think about what you’re going to achieve. Think about the impact you’re going to make. Think of the future you’re going to create. Visualize it.

Go make it happen. NOW!

Because it’s never too late to be awesome.

Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on December 3, 2020

15 Strategies for an Effective To-Do List

15 Strategies for an Effective To-Do List

One of the age-old productivity techniques around is the classic and effective to do list, and for good reason. It’s one of the most productive ways for you and everyone else to get anything done. Whether it’s a mental list or something that you are writing down, a to do list is an essential productivity tool.

At the same time, it is one of the most confusing productivity tools around. Many people discredit this for various reasons and don’t believe that a to do list is any good. But my argument is that maybe you and other people aren’t making an effective to do list, so here we will go over how to get one done right.

Why Bother With an Effective To-Do List?

You’ve Been Using Them Wrong

Before jumping into strategies to make an effective to do list, it’s worth knowing why you should bother making one. The first important point is that many people have been making to do lists all wrong.

Two of the most common mistakes are:

  • People use lists as a measurement of whether they are productive or not.
  • They put too many items on the list.

It’s understandable why you or other people do this, though. A to do list is a productivity tool, so it makes sense to pile on tasks. However, the brain doesn’t work that way. If you have a lot of tasks on your list, it feels like torture as the list never ends.

At first, it can feel nice that you always have something to do, but keep in mind that you only have so much time in a day. It’s important that you place more value in quality work rather than sheer quantity.

On that same note, if you are someone who has a tendency to seek validation, a to do list can be tough. There will be days where you won’t get everything done due to life events. This creates unnecessary pressure and sends you into a stress whirlwind.

It Helps You Stay Focused

When you build an effective to-do list, the main goal of these lists is to provide clarity and focus. If you’ve been doing them wrong, you may have noticed that you are focusing in on a task on your to do list and getting it done.

This may be overshadowed by the multiple items on your list, but you are focusing on a task during a given time. You really see this in action when you consider having a shorter to do list, though.

I understand that a to do list isn’t for every single person, but this focus is helpful to people when starting out. You’re still not certain about your goals or the path that you want to take. You may also struggle to determine the next step to work towards.

A to do list is a guide you can refer back to it whenever you need it. Furthermore, the techniques that I’ll be mentioning below will make to do lists more effective for you.

15 Strategies for an Effective To Do List

You’ll begin to see how powerful a to do list is when you consider the various strategies you can incorporate in one. This is your to do list, so pick from the strategies below to find what suits you. If you’re not certain, don’t be afraid to experiment and mishmash several combinations.

Remember that the road to success is one with many branching paths, so the methods you use are your choice.

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1. Break the List Into Two Parts

The first strategy is to break a list into two parts. These two parts are called dailies and to do’s.

Dailies are the everyday tasks that you want to develop more. For example, if you want to make a habit out of exercising in the morning, a daily task could be following a 15-minute workout routine or going for an hour-long walk.

Your to do’s are non-daily tasks that you need to be getting done at some point. Maybe you need to prepare a report at work or make a presentation. You can put that into your to do column.

This is an effective strategy because it saves all the clutter that most people gravitate towards. As mentioned before, people stuff their lists, and a lot of it is usually tasks they you would do anyway, like going grocery shopping or dropping the kids off at a friend’s place.

2. Put a Limit on Items

If you find breaking your list into two parts too much, I’ll suggest brevity to be a virtue when making these lists. You can set any number of items, but the key is that you do have a set limit in mind. Some people have no more than seven while others go as low as three. Do what makes you feel comfortable.

The idea behind this is to narrow in on the most important tasks that you need to accomplish that day. Of course, there are other things that you’ll be doing during the day, and that’s fine, but you want to prioritize the items that on your to do list before the day is done.

3. Use Checklists for Complex Tasks

If you’re already making narrow lists but are putting in tougher tasks, my suggestion is to break that task down. Whether it’s full-on steps you need to take or jotting down important details that need to be present is up to you.

Either way, this allows you to ensure that you’re getting everything done the proper way and that you’re not missing any key details or steps.

4. Tackle MITs First

MIT is the “most important task.” Another way to look at this is to tackle the largest and most intimidating task first[1]. Why you want to do this goes back to how our brain works.

You may feel compelled to do the easier tasks first before getting to the bigger task, but the problem is that these tasks—even the easy ones—drain your energy. Furthermore, if you have a really big task to complete, chances are that’s going to be on your mind over the course of the day. That means you’re spending more energy just thinking about it.

All of that wouldn’t be a problem if that big intimidating task was dealt with first thing in the morning.

5. Create a “Done” List

Another interesting approach to consider is to have a “done” list. This is a list of the tasks that you’ve completed from your to do list. Many people find it satisfying to merely cross an item off their list and be done with it, but depending on what you’re putting on those lists, a done list could be inspiring.

Imagine if you are someone who places above-average difficult tasks on your to do lists, activities that require an hour or two to complete properly. This can inspire you to do more if, after a day of working, you notice just how much you accomplished over the course of the day via this list.

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6. Make Your List Easy to Spot

From colorful paper to posting it in an obvious spot, you want your list to be in a place where you can spot it easily. Mind you, you don’t need to have this list in front of you all the time as it could create unnecessary stress. But setting it to one side is a nice idea—a glance to the side and you know exactly what needs to get done.

7. Add Gaming Elements to It

If pen and paper isn’t your thing when making to do lists, there are several apps that can guide you along as well. The beauty of to do list apps is that there is more room for creativity, and some of the developers incorporate games into them.

For example, Todoist has an achievement system where individuals earn badges as they complete more tasks. There’s also Bounty Tasker, which makes you feel like your tasks are side quests in a video game.

8. Give Yourself Deadlines

Work expands to fill time allotted.

It’s an old philosophy that still rings true with how we are productive. For example, say you’re assigned to write a report, and you’re given a week to do it. You’ll likely work on it steadily throughout the week. Or if you’re a procrastinator, you’ll put it off until the night before and finish it.

But what if you’re given that same task and only allotted an hour to complete it? You’ll likely get the report done, but you’ll prioritize the main, important points and highlight those rather than fill it with unnecessary fluff.

The whole point of this is that with your goals and the items on your to do list, you want to have deadlines. When it comes to to do lists, my suggestion is to give yourself a day to complete the tasks there. This is enough pressure and incentive for you to work hard on them.

9. Add Tasks When They’re Fresh

Another strategy is to assign yourself tasks even when you are working on something else. Keep in mind it’s not something you have to do right now, but this can help with people who are struggling to think about what to focus on next.

This is along the same lines as when you hear something interesting and you write it down. It’s a wise thing to do as it saves you the bother of having to dwell on that idea rather than focusing on the task at hand. It also saves you from having to recall what the task is if you’re the type to write up the next day’s to do list at the end of the day.

10. Be Comfortable With Revising Your To-Do List

Depending on your overall mindset, another good strategy is to look at your to do list and make changes to it. If you’re practicing the previous strategy, there may be a possibility that your to do list is getting lengthy and you’re setting unrealistic expectations that you can finish it all.

By giving yourself the opportunity to revise your to do list, your allowing yourself to spread out your tasks rather than have them clumped up. This helps your mindset as you’re not overwhelmed by the list.

11. Write Tasks, Not Goals

You should have separate lists for your tasks and your goals. The idea is to not put goals on your task list at all.

While tasks can help you lead to your goals, goals are larger desires and not something that you can achieve over the course of the day. For example, “learn to speak French” is a goal; however, you can break that into a task by saying “read French content for 15 minutes” or “watch a movie in French.”

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This also extends to objectives, too. You can see these as milestones. Going back to the example of speaking French, an objective can be, “discuss my favorite foods with someone in French.” It’s the desired outcome that you’re looking for from your practice.

12. Keep To Do Lists Brief

Here, brief means scannable in that you can quickly look over at the list and know what needs to get done. How you can do this is by focusing on the keywords of specific tasks and not dragging them out. For example, say your garage is a mess and you want to clean it up. Instead of writing a lengthy sentence, keep it short and write something like “clean garage for 30 min.” or simply “clean garage.”

With this strategy, you’re spending less time writing the task down when making the to do list. Furthermore, you’re relying on trigger words to get your mind to recall specific details for that task.

13. Have Multiple Lists

As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to have separate lists for various things, like having a separate list for goals, objectives, daily tasks, and to do’s. Another way you can look at it is to have a system where you are consulting from three lists.

These lists are:

A Master List

This is where any of your long-term goals are, things like moving to a new house, getting out of debt, or building a business. These are things that will take a year or more to accomplish.

A Weekly Project List

These are things that you want to accomplish by the end of the week. These are things that will move the needle slowly towards some of the items on your master list. From the previous example, these could be doing research on getting a business loan, house hunting, or setting up a savings account.

A High-Impact List

Lastly, these are tasks that need to be accomplished today. Whether they are related to the previous two lists or not doesn’t matter. This is where high priority tasks are placed. Examples can be calling specific people or working on a project or a report that’s due soon.

By having these lists in place, you’ll be referring often to the weekly project list and the high-impact list and determining whether a weekly task should be moved to that list.

As you do that, you’ll begin to notice how much your daily life has an impact on those goals that are written on that master list. That can be inspiring since what you are doing is actively bringing you closer to your goals.

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14. Don’t Ramp up Difficulty Until You’re Ready

Some of the strategies mentioned can seem easy on the surface, but they require a lot of mental fortitude. Motivation is an unusual thing, and our brains are wired to process a certain way. If you’re looking for genuine change and something that sticks, the best principle is to keep things simple and easy at first.

It may be a drag, but you don’t often realize how those baby steps can play a crucial role in you being able to start running and chasing your dreams. Don’t be ashamed if you have to start off with simple tasks for yourself. Even going back to daily tasks that you do anyway like showering, doing the laundry or shopping for food is a good way to start.

Putting those items on the list at first makes you feel like you’ve had a productive day. From there, you can challenge yourself with more difficult tasks. Incorporate an exercise routine or spend a half-hour on a task that means something to you.

The idea is to ease yourself into a routine so you don’t feel overwhelmed.

15. Measure Your Time

The last strategy that can help you is to measure your time. How long does it take you to finish a specific task? You don’t need to go for specifics, but make a point of timing yourself over the course of a week and get the average time spent on that task.

Why is this important? This information can be broken down in two ways.

The first way is to use it as a marker to boost efficiency. Depending on the task, you can find new ways to achieve the same results in a shorter time.

It also allows you to know what you can do in a given day. If you know that it takes you an hour or so to go through your entire morning routine, you’ll be more conscious about how you move through that routine.

Furthermore, if you know what tasks you’ll be doing the next day, you can better manage your time since you know roughly how much time it’ll take to get everything done.

Final Thoughts

Building an effective to do list is not as easy as it seems. There are all kinds of unique strategies to try out, some more challenging that others. However, if you are motivated to use this productivity tool to make your life easier, then it will get easier. All that you need to do is keep putting effort and experiment and reevaluate when necessary. So get started with your to do lists today.

More Tips on Using an Effective To Do List

Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews Digital Content Production via unsplash.com

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