A year ago I wrote a blog post called “5 ways to motivate yourself to study a boring subject and/or complete a project”. Several people responded to this blog post with comments along the following lines:
“Don’t know what to do … I have not gained any motivation …”
“I want something more to get motivated. This is not practically acceptable to me.”
I found these comments really interesting and I think they illustrate quite nicely how many of us are looking for quick fix solutions in a world where there are none. The comments also highlighted the false idea that you need to feel motivated before you start your work.
It usually takes years of consistent work and practice to become successful in your chosen field. The Beatles are a perfect example of this – they played over 1200 shows before they became a hit. The Colonel Sanders was also rejected over 1000 times before someone finally invested in his chicken recipe.
To achieve big things in life, it takes hard work. It also requires taking action despite the way you feel.
How can you stay motivated to keep taking action, especially when the task is painfully boring and you feel in a flat mood?
In this blog post I expand on my original list of strategies and explore some new ways in which you can motivate yourself and lift your mood to help you get started with projects.
1. Force yourself to start – The motivation will come
Many people tend to wait for the right moment (when they feel inspired and/or motivated) to start their work. But the reality is they may never feel inspired to do the work that needs to be done.
The most successful people don’t wait around until they’re in the right mood. They just get started and what they notice is after awhile they realise “wow, what I’ve done so far is pretty good” and this results in them feeling motivated and wanting to take more action.
If you just start doing something small (writing one sentence, getting the book out of your bag, etc.), it won’t take long before you’re on a roll and deeply immersed in your project.
2. Imagine the end
If you’re really struggling with a project it can help to imagine the end result and how you’ll feel once you accomplish it. Athletes use this strategy frequently to help them stay focused on their goals and to keep motivated.
You may want to consider putting a picture of the end result up on your wall or on your project file as this can be a great way to keep motivated when dealing with obstacles and setbacks.
3. Imagine taking the next action step
If you find imagining the end result too overwhelming, then imagine yourself just taking the next step on whatever it is you need to do. This could involve imagining yourself getting up and turning on your computer, putting on your jogging shoes or picking up a book. The simple act of visualising yourself executing a particular action can help you to take the first step (which is often the hardest part).
4. See the big picture
Often we lack motivation when we can’t see the point in what we are doing. Before you engage in your work ask yourself “Why am I doing this?”, “Where am I heading?” and “Where do I want to be in 3 years time?” Answering these questions can help you to gain clarity, focus your energy and propel you into action.
5. Trick yourself into getting started
Next time you have a piece of work you need to do, ask yourself this question –
“What’s the smallest, simplest action that I can take to start this task?”
If it’s a book you need to read, the simplest action may be getting the book from the shelf or your bag. You want to say to yourself “All I need to do is get my book from my bag”.
Once you’ve done this, ask yourself the question:
“What’s the next smallest and simplest action step I can take?”
This time it may be opening up the book or reading the first sentence on the page. It may not seem like much, but the act of taking the first action step is often the hardest part and once you’ve done that, it’s highly likely that you will keep going.
6. Gain Clarity
Get clear on what you need to do. What will the finished product/project look like? Spend some time thinking about this. You may want to even sketch out onto some paper what it is that you’re setting out to achieve.
Once you’re clear on this, set a goal with a deadline of when you want to have this completed by (e.g. “I will have completed my report by Friday the 10th of June by 4pm”
7. Power nap it up
Taking a power nap before 5pm can be a great way to re-energise and clear your mind before starting work on an important project that requires a fresh state of mind.
8. Watch an uplifting video on YouTube or put on some upbeat music
If you’re feeling in a flat mood, you can set a short period of time aside (e.g. 5 or 10 minutes) to watch an inspirational video on YouTube or listen to some uplifting music. As long as this doesn’t lead to you spending hours of your day watching random videos instead of doing your work, it can be a great way to get in the right mindset for a productive session of work. An inspirational video to get you started is Team Hoyt – The Journey of Life Together.
9. Move your body
Studies have found that intense physical activity can enhance creativity, decrease stress levels and sharpen your ability to think. If you want to feel motivated and be more productive, then hit the gym, go for a run, participate in a dance class or just dance in your bedroom!
In order to experience the full benefits of physical activity you need to engage in exercise that gets you working up a sweat and puffing. There is however a fine line. Whilst you want to work up a sweat, you also don’t want to exercise to the point where you feel completely exhausted and need to spend the rest of the day on the couch. You need to find the right level of intensity that works for you.
10. Work in 8 minute Power Bursts
Invest in a timer and work in 8 minute power bursts. 8 minutes doesn’t sound like a very long period of time but it’s long enough to allow you to get into the swing of a particular activity. When you need to start work on a particular project, set the alarm for 8 minutes and tell yourself “I’m going to focus on doing this for 8 minutes – no distractions!”.
When the timer goes off after 8 minutes, you have two choices – if you’re struggling with the task you can take a break but if you’re on a roll, keep going. The beauty of this strategy is that after 8 minutes you’ll most likely have eased into the project, realised “This isn’t so bad!” and want to keep going.
There you have it: ten more ways to boost your motivation and lift your mood to start your projects. Chances are that even after reading this, you’re still not feeling particularly motivated to start your work. But don’t despair – the solution is to try out one of the strategies and see how you go.