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A 2-Step Approach to Self-Motivation: Track Small Wins and Reward Yourself

A 2-Step Approach to Self-Motivation: Track Small Wins and Reward Yourself

Franz Kafka, Andy Warhol, Charles Darwin and Kurt Cobain. What did all these people have in common? They were all avid diarists. They were all keeping track daily of the events in their lives.

To be honest with you, I had no idea that a journal was such a common denominator among highly successful and influential characters. Famous 20th-century author Anaïs Nin once wrote:

“This diary is my kief, hashish, and opium pipe. This is my drug and my vice. Instead of writing a novel, I lie back with this book and a pen, and dream, and indulge in refractions and defractions.. I must relive my life in the dream.”

Well, although I love Anais’ poetic reflection on the importance of a diary, I wouldn’t take it that far.

The reason a diary is so important, and so many significant figures tend to evangelize this importance, is because it actually works as a tool to help you monitor your progress on a daily basis.

Progress monitoring is an incredibly valuable habit when it comes to your personal and professional development and consequently your self-motivation levels. Without awareness and control over your progress, you tend to lose contact with your achievements and this is probably the strongest motivational inhibitor one can experience.

Breaking big challenges down into chunks isn’t original advice, of course.

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Our constant pursuit of achievements that will place us in a position of value in the eyes of others somehow disorients us from the idea of the achievement itself. Since our early childhood, our acts were incentivized by the reward we would receive from our parents. These results could be tangible or intangible in a sense that they could be manifested in the form of an appraisal or a present.

Whatever we did, we did it because we wanted to experience a degree of praise and admiration from our caretakers – a praise which would eventually give us strength and motivation to keep doing what we were doing.

The degree to which this praise and admiration was received, obviously, varies from individual to individual. The fact, however, is that the need for it was always there and will always be. Our ability to recognize its importance, however, incrementally affects our performance in our everyday endeavors.

Having big goals and aspirations is of huge importance because it gives you a vision, but monitoring your progress and celebrating small goals and victories is what will eventually materialize this vision. With all the pressures and distractions in our lives, it is all too easy to have our smaller achievements go unnoticed, even by ourselves. I have personally managed to make this idea a huge aspect of my overall emotional satisfaction and intrinsic motivation levels. More specifically I have created a small 2-step system that helps me stay motivated and engaged with my work on a daily basis and also helps me respect my progress even if it isn’t as big as I was expecting.

The 2-step system goes as follows:

1st Step – Create a task list and write in your diary every day

The first step consists of two parts, which are actually equally important.

The first part is to have a task list ready for the day where you will list all your work-related tasks. The task list needs to be well specified and it cannot exceed five tasks because you won’t be able to manage them efficiently.

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I will give you an example of what a well-specified task list looks like by taking a random daily task list from my schedule:

1

    The tasks here are quite random, but also quite usual for my daily life because they are all related to my main activity, which is blogging. Additionally, they are listed by level of importance, which suggests that I am not allowed to move to the next task if I haven’t completed the previous one. This rule helps me become more disciplined and focused.

    Most of the time, I manage to complete all the tasks and that gives me extreme pleasure and fulfillment. But even if I don’t and let’s say I didn’t manage to complete two or three of the least important tasks, I can easily move them to the task list for the next day without feeling bad because I managed to complete the most important ones.

    The feeling I experience whenever I manage to strike out the completed tasks is priceless. It fills me with a sense of immense pleasure and enjoyment to know that I managed to finish hard work and that is needed more than anything after a stressful day.

    The second part is the journal part.

    A journal for me is probably one of the most effective and impactful ways of individualistic expression. The words that you write down reflect your emotional state throughout the day and help you release your anger and pain or elevate your happiness and excitement. By logging your daily experiences and achievements, you create a sense of purpose within yourself. Even if you didn’t accomplish anything important during your day, the way you express it in your journal will reframe your whole reality.

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    Never assume that your life is boring. You are the hero of your own story and everything you do, even if you consider it simple or mundane, should be expressed through appreciation and grandeur. This is probably the most powerful mind hack I have ever learned.

    2nd Step – Reward yourself on a monthly basis

    Now, understanding and being aware of your progress is good and all but there is also something very important when it comes to lasting motivation that we shouldn’t ignore – the power of rewards.

    Rewards or “treats” may sound like a self-indulgent, frivolous strategy, but it’s not. Because forming good habits can be draining, treats can play an important role. When we give ourselves treats, we feel energized, cared for, and contented, which boosts our self-command and self-command helps us maintain our healthy habits. Studies show that people who got a little treat, in the form of receiving a surprise gift or watching a funny video, gained in self-control. It’s a secret of adulthood:

    If I give more to myself, I can ask more from myself. Self-regard isn’t selfish.

    When we don’t get any treats, we begin to feel burned-out, depleted, and resentful.

    Like I said before, it brings us back to our childhood when we were usually expecting gifts from our parents. Whether we got those gifts or not doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the need was always there and will always be. However, you can’t still expect your parents to reward you, but now you are the one who can reward yourself.

    The best timeframe to reward yourself is on a monthly basis because if you do it more often the crave won’t be that strong and also you can’t invest money on something that has value and you can appreciate more.

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    The nature of the present is up to you. Be it something that you enjoy immensely, like a dinner in an expensive restaurant or tickets for football game, or a subscription service where you can attach the following message:

    2

      Even if you don’t reach all the milestones or don’t work as hard as you expected to, the reward will keep you in a state of constant mental arousal, helping you to keep on going. And this is probably what matters the most.

      In closing

      To sum up, I wrote this piece mainly to help you understand that your life will constantly be an attempt to balance between your inner child and your adult self.

      Both characters are equally powerful and equally important to your emotional and social wellbeing.

      Neglecting one of them or failing to understand its place in your life will only cause confusion and regret.

      Don’t suppress your inner child. It was a huge part of your life and it will always be. Back then it was your caretakers who were responsible for it. Now it’s you and only you.

      Featured photo credit: Will van Wingerden via unsplash.com

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      Last Updated on October 16, 2018

      16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

      16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

      The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

      How about a unique spin on things?

      These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives.

      Learn from these highly successful people’s personal development skills, turn these skills into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

      1. Empty your mind

      It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

      Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

      Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

      Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

      How to Increase Brain Power, Boost Memory and Become 10X Smarter

      2. Keep certain days clear

      Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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      This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

      3. Prioritize your work

      Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

      Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

      Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

      How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

      4. Chop up your time

      Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

      5. Have a thinking position

      Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

      What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

      6. Pick three to five things you must do that day

      To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

      Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

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      7. Don’t try to do too much

      OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew.

      Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

      8. Have a daily action plan

      Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

      Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

      9. Do your most dreaded project first

      Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else.

      This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

      10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule”

      The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then.

      Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

      11. Have a place devoted to work

      If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

      But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

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      Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

      Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

      12. Find your golden hour

      You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

      Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

      Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

      Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

      13. Pretend you’re on an airplane

      It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

      By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

      Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

      If you find yourself easily distracted and can’t focus, this method will help you overcome distractions.

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      14. Never stop

      Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

      Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

      There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

      15. Be in tune with your body

      Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it.

      Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

      16. Try different methods

      Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

      It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

      Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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