We all experience those times when we’ve set our goals and we know what needs to be done to achieve them, but somehow we struggle to get started. The tasks ahead may appear unpleasant, unappealing or insurmountable. We may feel fearful, overwhelmed or unsure where to start.
Procrastination can kick-in as we pick-off the little tasks and the quick-wins around the edges, or we fret and worry rather than simply getting on with it.
In this article I’ve outlined six ways to help you gain motivation, get started and start seeing results quickly. Most importantly, these are sustainable practices that will endure and help you build momentum; it’s about more than a short-term fix or a boost in motivation that quickly fades away.
“The way to get started is to quit talking and to start doing”
1. Stop trying to motivate yourself to do something that doesn’t inspire you
The first tip isn’t really a means of getting motivated. Instead, it’s a reminder to check that you’re genuinely inspired by the task ahead and the goal that it will help you achieve.
When we’re inspired by something, it naturally aligns with our innate values and is congruent with our purpose and our mind-set. Things that we find inspirational ‘speak to us’ at a primal level and we feel compelled to pursue and achieve them.
Conversely, motivation is an external force that helps to prompt action, overcome overwhelm and procrastination to get us moving. Motivational speakers will get an audience enthused and fired-up to take action or to behave in a particular way. If the motivation doesn’t echo with the inner values and beliefs of those who receive it, the effect is short-lived.
Think of it as following a business strategy that you don’t believe in, just because you think it will make you money quickly. If you’re not passionate about the strategy and it doesn’t align to your values, then it will be hard to commit to it and make it work for the long-term.
When you’re trying to find motivation to do something that you’re not inspired-by and passionate about, the effects of the motivation are temporary. The motivation pushes you one way while your natural resistance pulls you in the opposite direction; it’s like an equal and opposite tug-of-war.
Ensure that you’re genuinely inspired by your goals, otherwise you’ll be trying to motivate yourself and simultaneously resisting your own efforts!
2. Get something meaningful, challenging or unappealing done early in the day
The quickest and most impactful way to get motivated and build momentum isn’t to get a couple of quick-wins under your belt. It’s easy to fill a task list with trivial tasks, and then complete and cross these off, convincing yourself that you’re being productive.
Instead, you must work to achieve something significant
Start each day by taking on something meaty, a difficult or unappealing task that will make a deep and significant impact when completed, as soon as physically possible. It may not be possible to make sales calls at 5.30am if there’s nobody to call!
As early in the day as possible, take on a challenging and taxing activity and push on until it’s completed. Don’t start anything else until you’ve succeeded.
It takes a big push to move a broken-down car as you break overcome inertia and get it rolling. Once it’s moving and momentum builds, it takes less effort to get it moving faster and keep it moving. These same principle holds true for building momentum in our work.
When we put in the significant efforts required to complete a difficult or unpleasant task, we kick-start the building of momentum.
The endorphins released as a result of having worked hard to achieve something challenging, make us feel good. We then carry forward that motivation into other tasks. Soon, we enter into the ‘flow-state’ where progress and results seem to come effortlessly.
The momentum and motivation will keep on building!
3. Project yourself forwards and imagine the feeling when the task has been completed
If you’re struggling to get started and are stuck procrastinating, you may be fearful over whether you’ve got the necessary skills or experience. Maybe you’re dreading the process and are fearful of what may happen. At times like these, try projecting yourself forwards and imagining how great it will feel when you’ve completed the task and can enjoy the results.
The same principles apply whether you’re building up the courage to ask for a pay-rise, to deal with a customer complaint or to get yourself to the gym. We imagine the worst and concoct scenarios in our minds where the task is unpleasant and the outcomes are disappointing.
Instead of fearing the worst, try recalling to mind a time when you’ve taken on and overcome a similar challenge, perhaps one that you’d put off repeatedly. Remind yourself what you did, how you overcame it and why your fears were unfounded.
Take that sense of indomitability and apply it to the task at hand. You’ve got this!
“Don’t worry about failures. Worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try”
4. Seek the guidance of mentors and coaches who’ve overcome the challenges that you are facing
When you’re struggling to see a path around an obstacle or difficulty, it can be reassuring to get advice from coaches and mentors who’ve dealt with similar things before. They bring a new perspective to your challenge, and will suggest ways of tackling the situation that you can’t see.
Often when I’m coaching or mentoring clients, they benefit merely from offloading their problems and from the catharsis of venting to someone who understands what they’re going through. They often know what they need to do and through having cleared their minds they can focus on doing what’s necessary to tackle the situation.
We learn from our mistakes, but the more leveraged approach is to learn from other people’s mistakes and their successes too. This is what a good mentor will allow you to do.
Mentors also keep you accountable to do the things you’ve said you’ll do. If you go to the gym you’ll know that when working out alone, you’ll let yourself off, lift lighter weights or convince yourself you’ve done enough. A good trainer will push you to your actual limits and ensure you get the best from your training. A mentor will do the same, forcing you to get out of your own way, and stopping you from believing your own lies and excuses.
“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment”
5. Get yourself fired-up and ready for action
Everyone has their own triggers that get them fired-up, in the zone or in a peak-state, ready to take on challenges. These triggers take many forms. You may rely on a strong cup of coffee or some inspiring music to put you in that state. Others will favour a workout at the gym or a walk in nature. Some may like to meditate, visualising themselves completing the task effortlessly.
Whatever activity or practice you prefer, it often helps to follow a routine so that your mind and body are primed and ready for action once the process is complete.
Be sure that such rituals and habits don’t become a source of procrastination. Don’t delay doing the things that need to be done until after your meditation, a walk and a coffee!
6. Establish a mental link between the things you need to do and the goals you want to achieve
Sometimes tasks and the goals they contribute to can feel abstract and inconsequential. It sometimes helps to build a mental link between the task and your goals, to reinforce the benefits of taking action.
It doesn’t matter if your goals are experiential, spiritual or material. Build a conceptual link in your mind between the things you want to do, achieve or accumulate and the task that needs to be done right now. This helps make the abstract measurable, and the conceptual into something more tangible. It applies whether your dream is to quit your job, buy a new car or home, take a holiday or spend more time with your family.
Two of my all-time favourite classic cars that I’d like to own are a Ferrari Testarossa and a Ferrari F40. When I’m struggling to apply myself to a task, whether to review a legal document, prepare a talk or record a podcast, it helps me to picture those activities as contributing to the eventual purchase of one of those cars.
This is of course how great and significant goals are met; one step, one action and one achievement at a time.
Once you’ve established that you’re genuinely inspired by the task at hand, I hope you’ll find these tips helpful to motivate you, to get on and give everything to the action you’ve been putting off, fearing or avoiding.
Go and use this article as motivation, don’t use this as a prompt to read more, listen to a podcast or watch some motivational videos online. Turn off your Wi-Fi, stop procrastinating and get started, now!