5 Ways to Motivate Yourself

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Have you ever struggled to get down to a task when the deadline was fast approaching? You knew deep down that you needed to get started. However, you kept finding delicious distractions like making another cup of tea, calling a friend for a convivial chat or decluttering your already tidy desk. Motivation seems to show up uninvited at times and proves unexplainably elusive at other times. If you have ever wished for more motivation and less procrastination, the following article offers you five inspiring insights.

  1. Do one thing a day - I received a remarkable piece of advice nearly 20 years ago. A university lecturer shared an off-the-cuff remark in a seminar which forever changed my way of working. I sadly no longer remember his name nor did I have a chance to say thank you for his pearl of wisdom. My lecturer suggested that people can learn almost any subject or accomplish seemingly impossible goals if they just do one thing about it daily. Rain or shine, you would come up with a simple action and just do it (as the Nike slogan goes).
    A few years ago I shared this piece of advice with a life-long friend who had less than a year to master a scary foreign language. She decided to study the language for only one hour each day of the week. Her progress has been nothing short of miraculous. She could not wait to tell me how confidently she speaks the language and even surprised herself with her top notch motivation.
    This principle works magically because daily practice boosts motivation. You quickly create momentum. You eliminate precious time spent on recalling information.

  2. Set up a reward system - I have a colleague, Kate, who struggles to find the motivation to assess students’ written work. It is part of a job she adores and she cannot duck out of it. Recently Kate shared with me how she manages to motivate herself. She has set up an exciting reward system with milestones. When she completes each stage, there is a pleasant reward waiting for her. She might go to the opera, enjoy a baroque concert with friends, take a long walk in serene nature or indulge in a newly published biography. The rewards help her to get up at dawn and spring into action. They will keep her focused on the goal. Kate sheepishly admitted that once she is in the flow, the dreaded task actually becomes enjoyable.

  3. Look at the consequences - people are considered to be motivated either by rewards or negative consequences. You can use both approaches, however, to boost motivation. High performing athletes are motivated not only by alluring medals and recognition. They often envisage the ugly consequences of failing, embarrassment and disappointing others. They associate pain to poor performance. As a result, they swing into practice. They show up with heaps of motivation.

  4. Train your body - intensive physical exercise is remedy for the motivation-starved soul. I regularly go running to keep up my spirits. The first few minutes are never supposed to be easy. The body wants to quit and quickly return to the cosy living room and curl up on the sofa. It helps to acknowledge the voice that says: “I do not want to do it.” I remind myself that the resistance will pass. And it always does.  After ten minutes or slightly more. Slowly I get into the flow of running. I lose sense of time and genuinely enjoy it. By the end, I glow with energy and I am glad to have done it.
    Working on a challenging task is just like going out running when you least feel like it. At the start, it feels alien and clunky and hard. You might want to quit. However, if you stay with the resistance, it will get easier. Guaranteed.

  5. Be honest - at times, honesty will be your only elixir. Take a good look at your actions. Are you wasting time to avoid getting started? Are you checking and liking and commenting on social media just to distract yourself from the task? If you find yourself regularly procrastinating, ask yourself why you keep putting off the task. You might feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work, feel physically exhausted, lack crucial skills or do not believe that the work is meaningful. Use a journal to acknowledge your feelings. Express your concerns to an empathetic friend. Look deeper into the cause of procrastination with curiosity.

Motivation is like a muscle. The more we practice it, the more it grows, and the easier it will be to avoid procrastination. You will reap abundant rewards. It will be a skill to use for life. Best of luck!

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