Getting stuff done can be hard. When you are not motivated it can cause you grief.
Sometimes, the right motivators are not present or they no longer work. External motivators are subject to change without notice and fade quickly, which means the search starts again. Relying on others to motivate us means we are subject to their whims and decisions.
Self-motivation, however, lasts a lifetime and can make getting things done easier, and much more enjoyable.
In both professional and personal contexts, external motivators generally take two forms. We are rewarded when we do something well. We are punished when we do not perform. While there is debate about the merit of the traditional “reward-punish” system, it seems to work, even if only in the short term.
But we know from our own experience that no-one can really make us do something if we do not want to. For example, money is a great external motivator. However, after a certain point when our basic monetary needs are met, more money does not mean more effort. Nor does the task get easier to perform.
Here are three tips to help you find your own internal motivation and get things done.
1) Understand what needs to be done
When a task or its purpose is unclear, we may not know where to begin. Our motivation to act is low when we feel overwhelmed. It is easier to pull the doona over your head and go back to sleep or grab that tenth cup of coffee.
If you are your own boss, it can mean hours wasted in front of daytime TV. When tempted to do everything ‘later’, clarify the task and why you need to do it. Always ask questions (e.g. What outcome am I trying to get? How does this fit into the bigger picture?).
Understanding takes away fear and uncertainty, and gives you a starting point for action. When we can see and feel what is going on, the pieces of the puzzle fit and we feel motivated to act.
2) Start with the parts you enjoy
We are motivated when our innate needs and desires are fulfilled. Make it a game to find the most enjoyable aspect of the task. Is it the challenge of making the spreadsheet balance? Or maybe the research required to put the position paper together?
When we focus on the enjoyment factor, we experience the task differently. Enjoyment can also come from the way you perform the task. For example; doing it to music or quietly humming along as you work (yes, I have done this in the office). This signals to your brain is that the task is not so bad — an instant motivator!
3) Give yourself a break
Do not confuse this with procrastinating. Accept that with all those deadlines, meetings and functions you sometimes need to take time out.
Adrenaline junkies who are constantly on the go can get burnt out. It seems paradoxical, but taking time out can get you motivated to do more. It gives your mind and body time to rest, recuperate and re-engage.
Everyone is motivated by different things. When there is no-one to inspire us into action, it is left to us to ensure that we get ourselves going. Take charge. Strengthen your internal motivator and get things done — your way.
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