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Three Psychological Tricks for Staying Motivated

June 21, 2012

“Ugghhh!  I’m so sick of this!”

Does this sound like you when sit down to work on your project?

It’s difficult to stay motivated when working on a long-term project of any kind, such as building a business or writing a book.

There are times when it may be effortless and fun, but other times, you feel like beating your head against the wall.

It can be such a thankless and seemingly never-ending task to keep up your momentum that you end up wishing you never had to think about your project again.  And what happens if, by the time you’re halfway through, you have come up with much more exciting ideas for your next project, and you can’t wait to get started on it? Sticking with the current one can feel like pulling teeth.

Here are three psychological tricks that will help you get motivated – and stay motivated.

Create Small Successes

It’s hard to keep your eye on the big prize of completing your project, when the “prize” is nebulous and far away.

You need to create little prizes: something daily, immediate and positive that you associate with working on your project.  But how can you reward yourself if you feel that you’ve failed because you haven’t accomplished “enough”?

A simple change in mindset can reverse that process.  All you have to do is to decide that your daily success will be measured in time spent on your project, and not in quantity or quality of what you have produced.

This change in mindset isn’t as easy as it sounds.  In order for it to work, you must believe that it IS possible to work in daily, reasonably short (15-45 minute) sessions.  For some reason, most people fight this idea, thinking that in order to succeed you must spend hour after hour, suffering in an attic studio, battling inner demons.

There is not enough space here for me to convince you that:
a.)  You don’t have to work in an attic
b.)  Daily, reasonably short sessions lead to increased productivity and creativity

Just take my word for it that it’s intrinsically motivating to actually accomplish what you set out to do on a daily basis.  Finish Agent is based on this premise and the continued success of its members is a testament to its effectiveness.

Once you do accomplish your short work session, even if it is 15 minutes, you can reward yourself.  This reward might be something as simple as checking email, taking a walk, or eating a bowl of strawberries.  You may notice, though, the good feeling that comes with having actually done the work you set out to do has been a reward in itself.

Create Visual Cues

It might seem silly, but we are motivated by the visual.  Your brain is filled up with words and analytical thoughts, so looking at anything visual can be a reward AND a motivator.

This is why we all hate long lectures with powerpoint slides that contain all words and no pictures.  People also need to see charts, diagrams, pictures or even cartoons to help them connect with the material.Mind map for Visual Relief

The simple act of changing up your work format can visually stimulate you.  Try using visual techniques like mind mapping or flow charts to think through what you’re doing.

Mind maps can refresh and clarify your thinking.  On the right is an example of a mind map or concept map that was sent to me by a client.

Stick post-it notes on the wall to plan your next actions.  Or hang up a calendar, with stickers to mark important dates or deadlines.  Don’t be embarrassed to buy pretty stickers that make you feel happy.  Happiness is not only for children.

Graphs that show your progress are motivating, especially when you’re actually making progress.  (See “Create Small Successes” above.)  Track the number of minutes you work daily, and create a daily or a cumulative graph.  Make a pie chart that shows how much you accomplish on each day of the week.  (Or have all 3 charted for you automatically, as we do with the Finish Agent software.)

So get creative and don’t be bashful.  Visual stimulation is a balm to the overloaded mind.

Go to a “Café” or “Gym”

How many people buy exercise bicycles or treadmills because they use them at the gym, but then don’t use them at home?  Lots.

Why is this?  I think we don’t like to sweat it alone.  We are motivated when we see others working and suffering along with us.  When the guy on the next treadmill goes a little longer, so can you.

The same is true of other kinds of efforts.  I’m astounded by how many people write better in coffee shops, despite the noise and distractions.  Seeing others stick with it makes you want to stick with it just a little bit longer.

Online communities, especially those that allow both all kinds of ways to communicate (such as forums, progress comments, chat rooms and wikis), can provide the same kind of “I’m not alone in my suffering” camaraderie that maintains motivation.  Such as (ahem) Finish Agent.

I hope I’ve convinced you that these psychological techniques, particularly finding out more about Finish Agent, are valuable and worth trying!

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