People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily. /Zig Ziglar/
In one of my last posts I mentioned self-motivation among the five challenges of successful learning online. The ability to carry through that what you have started, and doing it without outside influence, is important in so many ways: from carrying through with the New Year’s fitness goals to being successful at work, to (as I can testify!) finishing a doctoral dissertation. Being motivated is so easy when you’re just starting, really excited about your new endeavor and looking forward to all the things that might come. But when the results are slow to appear and your daily agenda is crowded with so many other tasks, the motivation dwindles. So what can be done to get it back? Or perhaps there is a way how not to lose it in the first place? With these questions in mind, I set out to search the depths of the Internet and here’s a summary of what I found.
The vast majority of self-motivation advice can be boiled down to three elements:
Positive attitude. Optimism or a positive outlook seems to be the nr.1 ingredient for self-motivation. You should focus on your successes as opposed to your failures, take pride in what you do, concentrate on your strengths and advantages, look for the good in the bad etc. The goal of all this self-suggestion is to feel happy, successful, confident and, ultimately, more motivated.
- Tip: when motivation starts to wane, take a break and try working on something else instead. It should be something simple and perhaps even completely unrelated to your work, e.g., cleaning up your desk, but getting it done will help you to regain positive momentum and feel more successful. Use that drive and get back to work! (source)
Communication. Keeping in touch with others (friends, spouse, colleagues, doesn’t really matter who exactly) and discussing and sharing your ideas and concerns can be an effective way to boost energy. In particular, it seems, there are two approaches: (1) you should seek out people who are positive and motivated to boost your motivation or (2) assist, support and motivate others as it should keep you motivated in return.
- Tip: if the majority of your tasks require individual work, try to balance it with some teamwork: in the right doses it should help to energize and motivate you. (source)
Goal-orientation. The third group of advice is related to organisational skills and working right. The usual suggestions are: define your goals in a concrete and measurable way, outline smaller steps towards achieving the big goal and, when working on the details, do not lose focus of your target. Also, keep track of your progress as success keeps the motivation up and encourages to continue working towards the goal.
- Tip: motivating yourself with rewards (“once I finish this, I’ll get an ice cream”) can be helpful but, if used too often, it leads to relying on the reward instead of your natural motivation. Instead, find rewards in the task itself: does getting it done make you feel happy? Perhaps it gets you closer to your target? Or maybe it does something good to a friend or a client? (source)
I suppose this advice can be somewhat obvious. Yet, it could be quite useful to think of optimism, communication, and goal-orientation as the three foundations of self-motivation. And, in order to stay motivated ALL of them need to be present. So, for example, even the most positive and sociable person can lose self-motivation if they get stuck in details and lose sight of the target. Or contrary, one can have a perfect work plan with clearly outlined tasks but still fail to achieve the goal because of a pessimistic attitude and a lack of confidence in themselves. Bottom line, you have to figure out which of the three spheres are your weak points and find balance.
I hope that some of these ideas will be effective for motivating myself to finally write-up that damn dissertation (yes, that’s how I call it these days). Perhaps it can be useful also to you, my dear readers?
Some valuable resources:
A test “How Self Motivated Are You?” with tips for improving your weak points
13 Motivation Techniques: a list of practical ways to combat procrastination and more
A critical overview of the most popular productivity techniques.
If you really cannot muster up the willpower yourself, Lifehacker has made a list of sadistic apps that might help (or blackmail) you to get stuff done.