While self-motivation is a simple concept, we all know that it’s one of the hardest things to attain. Despite purely good intentions, most of us are better at slacking off than getting motivated. But no matter what your attention span, it is possible for you to motivate yourself and reach your goals; you just need to follow a few simple steps (I still feel that it is not possible for others to motivate you. Motivation is a do-it-to-yourself proposition).
Know what you’re doing
A to-do list is nice to have to help you get things done, but it doesn’t do much to help you stay motivated. Before you can make your to-do list, you need to set goals and priorities. They may be short term like “finish this itinerary to send to my client,” or more general like “increase my efficiency to get more accomplished each day.” If you give yourself a goal or vision to work for, you’re going to be more motivated to finish things than if you are simply completing tasks.
Many of you already know I started a news sales company called Head First Sales. The name of my company says it all. It begins upstairs. It starts with a positive mindset. A positive attitude can go a long way. People have probably told you this over and over, but you’re still not inclined to believe it. Take a little extra time each day to remind yourself of your accomplishments. It is also a good idea to try to surround yourself with positive and encouraging people. If you don’t have any at work, find positive and encouraging statements from successful people and post them around your office.
Finishing a project can be a daunting task. If it’s a large amount of work you’re likely to look at it, get overwhelmed and give up, or put it off before you even get started. An easier way to accomplish a project is to break it up into smaller tasks. The term I use for suggesting you consider a form of incremental improvement is KAIZEN (Pronounced Ky-zen). This way you’ll be looking at a bunch of small goals instead of one great big one. While it’s the same amount of work, it helps to keep you from getting overwhelmed. Plus, each time you accomplish one of your tasks, you’ll feel successful and motivated to keep trekking on through the rest.
To keep yourself going, think of a meaningful reward for each task you complete. They don’t have to be anything big; they could be going to see a movie over the weekend, or spending 15 minutes on the phone with a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. It’s just something positive to help encourage you and keep you on point. You can also set small rewards for mini-goals and have a large reward for when you finish a large project.
You can also punish yourself for failing to achieve goals. For example, set up a mini-punishment, like snapping a rubber band on your wrist. Every time you find yourself drifting off and not paying attention, or doing something counter-productive, snap the rubber band. This will help train your mind to stay on track. I must admit I have not administered the “punishment” theme, but I will say it sounds like it might work … and is relatively painless.
Have a backup
While we may have the best of intentions, most of us really aren’t that good at sticking with our self-motivating methods. If this sounds like you, you may be in need of some backup. This is a friend, co-worker, or associate – anyone who is dependable and trustworthy. Let them know what your goals are (and even your rewards and punishments) and set up a plan for them to check up on you. It could be as simple as giving you a call to see how much you’ve gotten done, or maybe have them be the keeper of some reward and administer it when you reach your goal. This way, if your resolution wavers, you’ll have someone else there to help out.
Note: I have three amusing examples of “sharing your goals with a third party.” Two of them involve Nolan Burris and Stuart Cohen. Send me an email at email@example.com and I will share these stories with you.
Mike presents a business-building webinar on the third Thursday of every month sponsored by AmaWaterways. To receive a complimentary invitation send Mike an email with the phrase “AmaWaterways” in the Subject Box. You will also receive a link to the recorded version.