We have all had that experience: Tasks are fun and it is easy to be motivated when they are new and you are still learning, but soon after our motivation decreases. So how can we consistently stay motivated when the formerly new and shiny to-do’s feel like chores? What can you do if at least some of your work isn’t exactly thrilling to you?
Many of my clients have struggled with this issue. They either notice a decrease of motivation to complete tasks that change too little and continue over long stretches of time, or they have different tasks that fascinate them to varying degrees.
Here are 6 ideas of how you can keep your motivation up, consistently.
1. Intrinsic motivation
Many notice that they find it easier to get tasks done when there is an external pressure forcing them to stay on track. That works well until these outside forces, such as a demanding supervisor or client are removed from the equation. A better way to approach motivation is by finding out what motivates you intrinsically. What is in you that makes you want to strive on? Is it something in your identity? Some people identify with qualities such as being reliable, a high level of quality in their work or the excitement of continuous learning. Whatever it is for you, figure out what gets you excited and makes you feel like you are in line with your values.
2. Get clear on your “When”
It is important to know why you are doing the things that you are doing, but another question you should ask yourself is “When”. Depending on the time of the day and the day of the week your energy levels will fluctuate. Just because you have two hours of “freetime” after lunch, doesn’t mean that you will be able to work efficiently on a demanding task. When you are planning out your day or week, consider how you are likely to feel at different points in time.
For example, many feel most motivated and energized in the morning. Therefore it makes sense for these people to plan more challenging tasks during that part of the day. Others need a slow start in the morning, before they reach peak productivity in the afternoon. Notice how your energy levels change during the day and the week and plan accordingly.
3. Turn it into a challenge
Normally bigger projects will include parts that are less interesting. A way to approach boring tasks is to turn it into a game by adding a challenge. For example, set a timer for a certain amount of minutes and try to accomplish as much as possible during this time. You can repeat this and compete against your previous accomplishments. This will do two things: it will lower the bar, i.e. make it easier for you to at least start with the boring tasks and it will increase the speed at which you are completing it.
4. Set milestones
One of the most common reasons why people find it hard to stay motivated is that they have to consistently work over longer periods of time. Projects such as these are challenging, because they require discipline and drive to stay on track. One way to approach long-term tasks is to break them down (Bullard & Manchanda, 2017). Set in-between milestones for yourself that you want to reach by a specific date. Every time you check off another milestone you will experience a small rush of happiness which will help you to stay on track.
5. Change your perspective
Do you have a lot of rather boring tasks to do? A good way to find the interest in boring tasks is by changing one’s perspective. Can you dive into the subject to find details that interest you? How much closer would getting these tasks done get you to reaching a new milestone? Ask a colleague how they get themselves interested in the topic or how they approach these tasks. Getting a different viewpoint of how to approach the task can make it easier to get motivated, because you are seeing it with new eyes.
6. Create external accountability
Sometimes it is impossible to develop intrinsic motivation. In cases such as these we can create external accountability. Most people find it easier to finalize tasks when they know that others depend on their completion. However, only few understand the power of this concept. Just because some tasks don’t automatically come with external accountability, doesn’t mean that you can’t create it ourselves.
For example, you can let your supervisor or a reliable colleague know that you intend to complete a task by a certain day and ask them to check in with you. This way you know that another person will know if you are not progressing as planned. Another option would be an accountability partner. That is a person, a colleague, friend or even an anonymous person who will check in and nudge you towards progress. In return you are helping them succeed by nudging them towards their goals that they are trying to reach.
Once we leave school we often lack that demanding teacher or parent who watches over our shoulder and nudges us to stay on track. Having some key techniques to motivate yourself is very helpful in these situations. Together with an Auntie Professional you can zoom in on these issues and find strategies that will help you to stay motivated. The package Leading Me is a good fit if you are struggling with self-organization, time management and leading an organized life. If self-management is just one of the issues that are holding you back, you can address this with your Auntie Professional. As always you can mix and match themes from the different packages during your sessions. Your Auntie Professional will help you with that.
Olya Bullard, Rajesh V. Manchanda. How goal progress influences regulatory focus
in goal pursuit. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2017; DOI:
Provitera, M. J. (2012). Mastering self-motivation : bringing together the academic and
popular literature (1st ed.). Business Expert Press.