Motivation is the inner power that helps people achieve their goals or complete important tasks. It’s the internal drive that will help you overcome obstacles to your goals, especially when things aren’t working the way you’d want them to.
I’d like to say that I’m able to stay motivated and focused on my goals. But that would be a lie. Working on big goals can be boring and challenging. There are times when even I am tempted to give up and abandon the goals.
What then can you do to stay motivated and focused on your goals?
Today’s article outlines 16 strategies for maintaining motivation. This article is Part 4 in a series on how to overcome overwhelm and overwork. Other articles in this series are:
- 5 reasons why you’re overwhelmed and overworked.
- How to manage your time more effectively.
- How to overcome procrastination and make progress towards your goals.
- How to create and enforce strong boundaries.
- 8 toxic relationships you need to detox from.
16 Strategies for Maintaining Motivation and Focus
1. Decide what you want
Your goals should be yours and not what other people want for you. It’s hard to be motivated and passionate about things that you didn’t decide to do.
Once you know what you want, write it down. A study by Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University established that people who write goals are more likely to achieve them than those who don’t.
2. Write down WHY you want it
Having many reasons why you want to achieve the goal will boost your motivation. This list will also increase your commitment to your goal.
In the book Goals, peak performance expert Brian Tracy recommends that you come up with at least 50 reasons why you want this goal. He notes that the more reasons you have, the more likely you will hang in there when things get tough.
3. Visualize success daily
Do whatever it takes to keep your goal in mind at all times. Draw or paint your goal; write it on a 3x5 card or post-it note and stick it on your wall; create a vision board with images related to your goal.
Take 15 minutes first thing in the morning and last thing at night to relax and visualize yourself having achieved your goal. During the day, stay focused on your goal as you work on the smaller daily tasks.
4. Create and use an action plan
Organize your thoughts by thinking on paper. Start by writing down all the milestones that will happen as you work on the main goal.
It’s easier to start working on a goal when it’s broken down. So break each milestone into a series of tasks. Arrange these tasks into a logical sequence and organize them into a task list.
Schedule time in your daily calendar for the tasks. It’s better to do something for your goal each day, no matter how small, than wait to complete larger chunks.
To make this process easier, start by working on smaller and easier to complete tasks before moving on to the larger and more complex ones. Each smaller task that’s completed will motivate you to work more on the goal.
Finally, review your progress weekly, monthly, quarterly and half-yearly.
Related Article: How to Overcome Procrastination and Make Progress Towards Your Goals
5. Use short-term motivation strategies to get you moving
Some goals and tasks are less motivating to work on in the short-term than others. A simple shift in the way you think of or look at a task is enough to create motivation in the short-term.
For example, if you’re avoiding making sales calls to grow your business, you can motivate yourself by imagining how powerful you’ll be just for having made the calls.
One of my clients used to fear rejection so she decided to congratulate herself for having made the effort to call. The result of each call was no longer a problem because her focus wasn’t on the call, but on the fact that she made the call. The moment she started doing this, the results of her calls changed and business increased.
6. Be consistent, and…
Motivation is easier to keep up when you’re taking small consistent actions towards your goals. Avoid procrastinating and take action even when you don’t feel like it. Do something each day towards your goal. Schedule your most important tasks, those that are related to your goals, first thing in the morning.
However, take note of actions and processes that aren’t working and try something different. There are many ways to achieve your goals and what you’re currently doing may not give you the most motivation or the best results.
Don’t be afraid to try a new approach or keep trying different approaches until you find one that works for you. Once you find it, implement it consistently.
7. Keep on track
You’ll get a lot of ideas as you work on your goals. Some of these ideas will be great, but others will take you off track and kill your motivation.
Keep a notebook where you record all your ideas as they occur. Go through these ideas in your regular reviews and only take action on those that will move you towards your goal.
Before you add a new idea to your task list, ask yourself whether this will help you achieve your goal faster. If it will, then turn it into a sub-goal and add it to your task list. If it won’t, keep it in your notebook. Some ideas will not be useful today, but they may come in handy months or years later.
8. Take regular breaks
Insert breaks into your calendar so that you take time off your goals. At the very least, have one day each week when you unplug completely and do nothing related to your goals. During this day, relax and spend time with your loved ones, in nature, or working on your hobbies.
I used to work 6-7 days a week and was overwhelmed most of the time. Interestingly, I’m making more money now that I’ve stopped working evenings and weekends. My coaching sessions are also better because I’m well rested.
You also need breaks during regular days so plug them into your schedule and keep them as appointments. Take a 10-15 minute break each hour if you work while seating most of the time.
During the break, do something physical that requires you to stand up. You can take a coffee or water break, go to the loo, do yoga stretches, chat with a colleague, make your phone calls…something small. Remember to set a timer so that your hourly breaks don’t take too long.
Related Article: How to Create Time for Yourself
9. Reward yourself
Your BIG goal is months or years into the future. You will lose motivation if you wait to reward yourself when you achieve it. It’s important to reward yourself in the interim.
Have a reward for the big goal, such as a spa day or a shopping trip. Also build in smaller rewards for your milestones, such as going out for a meal or buying an outfit. Even something as simple as patting yourself on the back after completing a task is enough to stay motivated.
10. Make the process fun
Do you remember how great life was as a child? Children can turn any activity into fun. Do this with your goals and your motivation will remain high.
You can have fun doing almost anything, even tasks that you hate. Just keep asking yourself, “How can I make this more enjoyable?” or “How can I add some fun into my tasks?”
I used to hate cooking each day because I saw it as an extra job in the evening. Today, I love it because I unwind and let go of the day as I cook.
Interestingly, having this time has reduced my workload because a lot of articles get written in my head as I cook and I also get solutions to some challenges that I or my clients are facing.
11. Maintain a wins list
Start a list of all the successes you have as you work on your goal. Include both big and small wins. You can also create a list of fun things that happen as you work on your goal.
Read your fun and success lists when you’re lacking motivation or at the end of the day or week. This list is your best ‘pick-me-up’ when you hit roadblocks.
12. Fill your mind with positivity
Personal development experts have taught that you are what you think about most of the time. Your thoughts are largely affected by what you read, listen to, watch or speak.
Read or listen to something positive each day. Do this during your commute and when you take longer breaks like lunch.
The company you keep will also affect your success rate. Avoid negative and toxic people and hang out with positive people who support and encourage you.
Related Article: 7 Self-Care Tips for the Modern Woman
13. Ignore the ANTs
I once read that everyone has Automatic Negative Thoughts or ANTs and these can derail you from your goals.
You can’t control everything in life so don’t worry about the things that aren’t in your control. Ignore the negative “What if…” questions and focus on completing your tasks.
Don’t be so afraid of failure that you get paralyzed and stop taking action. Similarly, don’t be afraid to ask qualified or experienced people for help if your goal is outside your ability.
Attend a class, work with a mentor, or seek the advice of a trusted person. Listen to what they have to say and ask them lots of questions. Their ideas and advice might be what you need to get unstuck or quiet the ANTs.
14. Go easy on yourself
Life happens and you will meet failure as you work on your goals. Maybe you won’t meet your daily, weekly or monthly sub-goals, or you fall totally short in another way. Take it in stride and learn from the experience.
Don’t spend too much time worrying about the failure because you will lose motivation. Learn and move on as fast as you can. Keep focus on your Vision, read your success lists and remind yourself that you can do this.
15. Use your intuition
OK, this may sound a bit woo woo, but it works perfectly. The subconscious mind has amazing resources if you allow it to work with you and for you. Unfortunately, most people don’t know that they can guide their subconscious mind to give them exactly what they want.
Consider this: Have you ever had an AHA or inspired thought that led to an amazing opportunity or opened up doors to more opportunities?
Or maybe you were thinking of taking a shortcut and something tells you that you shouldn’t. You go the long way round and later learn that someone was mugged in the shortcut at exactly the same time you’d have been there.
These are examples of the intuition working for you. The good thing is that you can guide your intuition to do this as you work on your goals.
Jack Canfield’s article on how to strengthen your intuition gives you step-by-step guidelines to develop your intuition and use its power deliberately.
16. Have accountability
This is by far the most important investment you will make. You will get more motivation to work on your goals when you have an accountability structure in place.
Even if you don’t take action on any of the strategies outlined above, make sure you have someone who holds you accountable to your goals. Meet or talk to this person weekly or fortnightly.
You can also join a class, join a group or mastermind, work with a personal trainer, hire a coach, or work with a mentor.
I’ve had clients who have sat on the fence over a goal 3 months into their coaching program, they make more progress than they have for years. I’ve also had the same kind of results when I worked with a coach or participated in a mastermind group.
One more thing
Setting goals is easier than working on them. The initial motivation you get when starting on a goal wanes off. You need to find ways to stay motivated each day.
Of the 16 strategies mentioned in this article, the following will give you a 75% chance of achieving your goals when used together:
- writing down your goals,
- having regular accountability,
- and publicly committing to achieving your goals (this is taken care of when you’re accountable to someone or a group).
Try this combination and increase your ability to achieve your goals.
Over to you now…
This list is by no means exhaustive. What other motivation strategies have worked for you?
Let me know in the Comments below.
(Images courtesy of Free Digital Photos)