Do you know what you should be doing, but you just can’t seem to get started? Need some help? There is a plethora of great advice on how to capture, prioritize and manage your tasks. But for some, figuring out what to do isn’t the problem. Sometimes you know exactly what to do, and even how to do it, but you just don’t feel like it. You are “stuck.” How can you get motivated?
“Making the jump between knowing and doing is what productivity is all about.”Chris Bailey
Make The Scene More Appealing
If we can make the task seem less like drudgery, we are more likely to do it.
The other day I had a list of podcasts I needed to listen to from a conference I had missed. At the same time, it was a beautiful day and I was resisting working inside. I decided to “take the job to the beach.” I listened, took notes on my iPad and was very productive, all because I was sitting in a place I love.
If you can’t move the job to a new location, improve the atmosphere by putting on some favorite music, lighting a scented candle, opening a window, pouring yourself a large glass of your favorite soft drink, or simply taking off your shoes.
“If you want an easy job to seem mighty hard, just keep putting it off.”Richard Miller
Add Company to Your Misery
Frequently, having another person around can keep us motivated. Having others nearby can benefit us in many ways:
- We are less likely to allow ourselves to succumb to distractions.
- We have someone to help when when we aren’t sure how to proceed.
- The “peer pressure” helps us sustain focus. (“If she can stay on task, so can I.”)
- With someone else watching, we are more likely to try to do our best.
Having someone nearby who is “in the fight” with us, even if they aren’t working on the same task, can be powerfully motivating. “Body doubling” is when one person intentionally works next to another person doing a similar type of task for a specific period of time. This can be particularly helpful for those who have ADHD. For example, a parent might sit at the table and work on paperwork to help a child sit still and focus on homework. Alternatively, we go to the gym and work out next to others who are also exercising. It is even possible to find a body double partner online!
Lastly, having another person show up to tackle a project is a great way to ensure that we will carry through, especially if it is someone you are paying, such as when you pay a personal trainer or enroll in a class. Clients know that once I show up, we will be getting things done for at least the following three hours!
Break the Project Down into Tiny Pieces
One common reason we put off tasks is because we think we lack sufficient time. “I can’t possibly clean out the attic because that would take all weekend (or longer) to complete.” While this might be true, it doesn’t need to keep us from making progress.
If your project seems large, consider breaking it into very small pieces. Using the attic example, one approach might be:
1. Buy some empty cardboard boxes for sorting.
2. Spend 10 minutes a day walking around, selecting 5 items to give away and putting them into a donation container, focusing only on what is out and easy to reach.
3. When the donation container is full, drop it off at a charity, and then repeat as appropriate.
4. When you get down to boxes and bins, bring down one bin a week, and sort through it. Pair this activity with something you enjoy, such as watching a movie or sipping your morning coffee.
Breaking down a large task into bite-size pieces limits the time you need to invest. Knowing the unpleasantness will end shortly can make a task more palatable.
“Nothing is particularly hard when you divide it into small jobs.”Henry Ford
Give Yourself an Incentive
This idea takes advantage of the old “more bees with honey” idea.
Since it is easy to lose momentum, we need to keep reminding ourselves of the benefit of staying strong. There are many ways to do this, including:
- Allow yourself a “treat” when you’ve achieved your goal for the day
- Take a “before” photo and keep adding images until you are finished.
- Start a log where you keep track of your progress toward a goal.
- Assign yourself external accountability (e.g. sign up to run a race, apply to speak at a conference, hire an editor for your book, etc.).
- Go “public” with your intention.
Be sure to follow through on your promise to yourself. Otherwise, you undermine your ability to employ this strategy going forward.
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”Albert Einstein
Nominate a “Nag“
Well, perhaps not a true nag, but someone to whom you give permission to ask how you are doing. Accountability is very motivating to some. In fact, some people thrive when the pressure is on. If you know that someone will be checking in, coming to visit, calling, or texting – someone you’ve intentionally asked to perform this service – you may be more motivated to dig in.
“If you have time to whine then you have time to find a solution.”Dee Dee Artner
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Getting motivated to do things we dislike is difficult. Cultivating techniques to motivate ourselves increases our productivity, builds self esteem, and empowers us to achieve our goals.
How do you motivate yourself?