How to stay motivated, according to the Internet.
And the importance of finding your “why”
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How to stay motivated, according to the Internet.
12 incredibly useful Gmail settings that will make your life easier
To-do Adventure is a productivity app that gamifies your to-do list
How to stay motivated, according to the Internet.
Picture this: you’re lying down in bed on a Sunday night, about to go to sleep, when your brain decides it’s time to plan how you’re going to get your life together.
“Tomorrow, I’ll start exercising and eating healthier. I’ll wake up 10 minutes earlier to plan my day. And I’ll read ten pages of a book every day.”
But when the alarm goes off, you start procrastinating again. Instead of waking up 10 minutes earlier, you wake up 20 minutes late. You have no time for breakfast, so you grab a Pop-Tart as you sit down to work. And since you didn’t have time to plan out your day, you end up working until 9 p.m., leaving no time to work out.
It’s easier to come up with excuses than to admit the truth: you’re relying on a muse, and you’re lacking motivation.
We’ve all been there. Motivation is something everyone has struggled with in one way or another. It’s a constantly-discussed topic. Rather than working to be constantly motivated, the discourse goes, you must foster strict discipline and habits. While this argument may be true, have you ever tried to work day-in and day-out without any motivation? It’s exhausting!
What exactly is motivation?
“Motivation is the process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. It is what causes you to act,” writes Kendra Cherry for Very Well Minded.
James Clear, Atomic Habits author, has a different perspective on it. He shares that motivation is not what causes us to act, but it’s what comes after we do. “Motivation is often the result of action, not the cause of it. Getting started, even in very small ways, is a form of active inspiration that naturally produces momentum,” shares Clear.
In any case, even if motivation comes before or after action, it needs to be present to fuel our behaviors.
Another theory is that there are only two types of motivations, according to some psychologists:
Extrinsic comes from outside, and is not controlled by us. For example, salary, recognition, praise, etc. This is not sustainable long term.
Intrinsic is the opposite. It comes from within. For example, doing something we’re passionate about, working for an inspiring leader, or solving a challenging puzzle.
I think these concepts merge muse with motivation, and to me, those are two completely different things.
Muse is what hits us from time to time. It feels as if we were being forced to do something. When the muse hits, we start creating with whatever we have near us. The muse is the “great idea” we cannot ignore.
Motivation, on the other hand, is linked to something bigger. I think that’s why, contrary to what many people say, habits mean very little if the motivation behind them doesn’t exist.
I’m not saying habits and systems are not important; they are, and they make it easier for us to stay motivated. I’m saying that even when we have them in place, we could still slack off.
For example, let’s say I worked for a job I didn’t enjoy. I might have several SOPs, assigned deadlines, and constant tasks. But, circling back to the psychological motivation theory, I would probably start underperforming if I didn’t have any intrinsic motivation. Not because of habits, but because of motivation.
To know more about motivation, I dug through online communities to understand how people keep their motivation intact when nothing else seems to work. They gave different answers depending on their long and short term goals.
I chose the ones I resonated with the most. Let’s review them.
Finding your why
Quora user Mattis Rogers says:
At the end of the day, all of us do things for emotional reasons and justify them with logic.
Long-term motivation is no different.
We always move away from things, situations and people that we perceive as painful. And we move toward things we associate with pleasure.
The key to getting through the short-term pain, is to remind yourself of your “Why”.
Whenever you’re struggling, procrastinating or don’t feel motivated, remind yourself why the effort you’re going to put in is important to you and your loved ones.
Rogers says something I find quite interesting. Linking motivation to one single thing is not sustainable because once we miss one day, we’re more likely to lose momentum forever.
For instance, let’s say you’re tasked with a recurrent, manual process, and there’s no way to automate it. You’re in charge of creating purchase orders for suppliers. Your company cannot commit to buying anything without these purchase orders, and you have to enter the information into the system every day.
It’s not a fun process, and you won’t always be motivated to do it. That’s when the habit kicks in. But the habit alone is not what makes you do it. It’s the fact that you’re motivated to do your job—for the salary, the respect for your boss or the willingness to be promoted.
In this example, the habit is a helper, but the purpose is what motivates you to fulfil the annoying task. If you didn’t have any extrinsic or intrinsic motivators, you wouldn’t care about the process or the habit.
If you want to read more about finding your why, click here!
Beat the clock
Reddit user itsfaithtime swears by this two minute technique, where:
Essentially you tell yourself you only have to do it for two minutes. And it's easy! So I'm less resistant or distracted by it. I'll do it for 2mins, after that I can either decide to move on to something else (and you did 2mins more than you would have anyways) but most of the time I decide to continue because the hardest part was getting started!
This is a great tip for snapping out of procrastination. Most of the time, tasks take less time than expected. However, circling back to the first point, if this task was not meaningful, nor important, she wouldn’t even take two minutes to do it. That’s why your long-term goal or motivation is key.
If you’re interested in this tip, itsfaithtime has a whole video on what she calls “the best hack to achieve your goals.”
Professional organizer Monika Kristofferson follows a similar technique in which she sets a timer. She shares why this is one of her best techniques on her Facebook group:
There's something about it that makes me a little bit competitive to beat the clock as well as to know I won't be working on it forever. Try a timer!
I’ve done this in the past, and it works like a charm. Having some reassurance that the task you’ve been putting off is not going to take forever is magical. The Pomodoro Technique follows that principle. Setting increments of 25 minutes to work on tasks followed by timed 5-minute breaks makes tasks easier to achieve.
I’ve also found that I always want to beat the clock and finish my work before the alarm even goes off—great for motivation.
How to find motivation for the things you need to do
When you like something, it’s easy to feel and know that you’re motivated. It’s an indescribable feeling you can sense from within telling you “do it, and do it in the best possible way.” It’s like your mind is sending signals to write, read a book, ace the presentation, finish the project, play soccer, or do yoga.
The hard part is to find motivation for the tasks you need to complete but don’t actually enjoy. Here are a few ideas:
Make a list of the things you enjoy doing at work, and write down what you actually enjoy about them. Then list what you don’t like and why. This will allow you to either delegate tasks you don’t enjoy or find a way to link them to your purpose.
Try something new every day. Motivation comes from what you’ve experienced, and you can only know what you like/dislike from either the references you have or personal experiences. Signing up for new hobbies, new gym classes or taking on new projects at work will allow you to expand those limits and find which one speaks to you.
Create sacred hours and use them to work on the things you enjoy the most. Some of us are more productive in the morning, others in the afternoon, and many more at night. Blocking one or two hours during your most productive time of the day to work solely on your most important tasks will help to spur motivation. My recommendation is to not pollute that time with anything else. If the important thing is coding for the app you’re developing, even if you’re out of ideas, sit at your desk and research or stare at the code until something happens. Avoid using the sacred hours for anything that’s not important to you.
I’ll close this piece with an insight from entrepreneur Caitlin Logue, who responded on her LinkedIn page to the people asking her how she stays motivated to work out.
You won’t be motivated all the time. No one is, and don’t believe the hype around people who seem motivated all the time. They’re human too.
As humans, we are allowed to feel disengaged from time to time, to feel like giving up, to do it out of mere responsibility, to change desires, to get lost and to fail. The important thing is to not let those feelings rule our daily lives, and to turn our muse into a habitual motivation.
Andrea and Camila.
Edited by: Lauren Maslen.
📧 12 incredibly useful Gmail settings you didn’t know you needed - Gmail has a virtual labyrinth of underappreciated options. It’s time to learn some of them to make your life easier. The default snooze option is my favorite—you can set personalized reminders throughout the day without having to create different entries!
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
5 ways to regain productivity in a hyperconnected world - Set your personal goals and conquer them.
Living in a world ruled by phones and the internet, we travel from one app to another, communicating via notifications and reminders. It’s overwhelming and exhausting. In this issue of ProductiveGrowth, Camila Mirabal shares 5 tips to reconnect with your most productive self as a globalized and hyperconnected individual. Check it out here.
Product Manager Shreyas Doshi created a whole thread about “a way to get what you want, without waiting for conditions to be perfect or otherwise blaming the circumstances.” Don’t miss it!
Make productivity a fun game with To-Do Adventure, the app that lets you build a whole new island every time you complete a task. With an amazing and friendly design, adorable features and a really useful set of tools like reminders and notes functions, you can earn coins, see your to-do list as unfinished bridges and waterslides, and feel rewarded every time you’re productive! Read the review here.
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