“People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily.” - Zig Ziglar
It’s a Tuesday and the sun is shining and you are at your desk trying to plow through the latest project from hell. You claim to enjoy your work and yet… Oy. This is ridiculous. Maybe the vending machine will offer some inspiration. Stop.
Try these things first as you wade through your day. Whether you’re running down a dream or just sprinting to week’s end, here are 5 tips for moving forward.
Chunk It - This isn’t about a peanut butter bar, but goal setting within the goal itself. Chunking is defined as, “a process by which individual pieces of information are bound together into a meaningful whole,” and goal setters are latching onto it as an approach achieving tasks that might seem overwhelming.
It’s all about taking a big project that fills you with dread and breaking it into chunks of small, rewardable, achievable steps. So, if you’ve got to audit the inventory process at work and isolate needs for a new ERP system... breathe and make today’s chunk researching how Inventory gets entered into the system when it arrives. Step 1: Arrange a meeting with Debbie because she enters everything. Step 2: Take copious notes during said meeting. Step 3: Isolate the data entry features of two ERP systems under consideration. Step 4: Celebrate progress.
Make it Fun - As implied in step four above, rewards and intrinsic fun matters, a lot, in motivation. Small success in and of themselves are rewards that trigger dopamine release and push along motivation. This is why chunking things matters. But you can layer intrinsic motivation into the mix as well by actually finding joy in your work. In fact, those motivated intrinsically perform better at tasks that involve critical thinking and creativity. If joy cannot be found in the work, then build it into the steps of your project -- Step One completion = a visit to Facebook for 20 minutes, etc. Or bring fancy coffee to the Debbie meeting.
Visualize the Goal - But don’t imagine it going off without a hitch. Sheer optimism in visualization is not always helpful unless you’re an elite athlete. Experts recommend mental contrasting during goal visualization, meaning you need to imagine it going well, but going well... realistically. Anticipate roadblocks and then anticipate overcoming them. As it turns out positive imagery can sometimes trick your brain into believing it’s accomplished enough. If that happens, you get your dopamine rewarded and then fail at actual task. So optimism is okay, but ditch the Pollyanna mindset.
Seek Support - No one has to work alone in this day and age. Even if the task at hand is a solo activity, support abounds - online forums, coaches, co-workers and friends - can all lend encouragement, advice and maybe even actual labor to help you accomplish a goal. It’s also helpful if you understand your weaknesses. If you’re a big picture thinker that trembles at the thought of paperwork, recruit someone who enjoys detail to get rewards for filling in PDFs and filing papers for you.
Mix it Up - When you do get stuck, try a new approach. This can be as simple as working at a coffee shop for a day, having a meeting on a walk or trying to mind map the details of the upcoming day’s chunk. Getting out of the doldrums of your comfort zone can go a long way in sparking new creativity and fresh energy for a project.