Article by Cecilia Meis
Motivation is a tricky thing. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a student, a stay-at-home parent, or a worker bee in a large corporation, you know that motivation often comes in fleeting, unplanned waves. At some point, caffeine simply doesn’t cut it.
We generally understand that motivation either flows from within us (intrinsic motivation) or from an external source, such as a boss (extrinsic motivation). However, it’s important to think beyond these two overarching categories. After all, an entrepreneur may realize the motivation to check their email needs to come from within, but that doesn’t actually make the entrepreneur want to do it.
The subcategories of motivation vary, depending on whom you ask. Generally speaking, however, you can create your own personalized list of motivation subcategories based on your own experiences.
For example, if you work in a traditional business setting, you’ll have a supervisor, peers, and a human resources department. Each of these groups will require certain things from you. Your supervisor expects you to complete the tasks listed in your job description, and your peers might add a few things that aren’t on your regular to-do list. These types of extrinsic motivations might be fear-based: If I don’t perform my regular duties, I could lose my job. They may also be incentive-based: If I perform well on these tasks, my supervisor and peers will recognize me as an exemplary employee.
Intrinsic motivation can be a little more difficult to define. For example, humans are naturally drawn toward mastery. We want to accomplish goals, learn new things, and continue growing. However, knowing that information won’t make you stick it out with that personal budgeting class that seems to be growing less exciting as the weeks go on. Here, we need to dig a little deeper. Maybe the process of learning is a natural source of energy for you, or maybe you crave increased control over your life and managing your finances is the first step to getting there.
Simply identifying the type of motivation present during a certain task can help keep you on track. For more ideas on how to keep your spirits high on those need-more-coffee days, follow these tips:
1. Attach Reason to the Task
Let’s be very clear: Getting motivated about a task doesn’t mean you have to be happy or excited about it. Sometimes you must ask yourself: Why is this task important? What will it bring about in my life? The answer could be as simple as, “I won’t get fired.”
The key thing to remember here is that motivation is variable. The motivation for answering your inbox full of client complaints is going to be starkly different from your motivation to get up at 5 a.m. so you can spend time with your daughter before her first day of school.
2. Assess Your Unwillingness to Get Started
Have you ever found yourself making the highly questionable choice to clean out your fridge or detail your car while staring down a fast-approaching deadline for a big project? Maybe you’re afraid of failing the task. Maybe this is a regular behavior you need to address on a deeper level. If you struggle to get started on a project until it’s crunch time, you might have an unhealthy relationship with stress.
Research has found that stress can release dopamine, a chemical that makes us feel good and encourages repeat behavior. Simply put, people can be just as addicted to stress as they are to likes on their social media posts. Studies have also found that those with unmanaged stress levels are at higher risks for cancer and heart disease than even smokers or those with poor diets.
3. Use the 15-Minute Rule
You might not have issues keeping up with your professional tasks because those pay the bills and come with pretty clear accountability. What about those daily tasks at home? After a long day at the office, the last thing anyone wants to do is put away the clean dishes or organize last month’s receipts in preparation for tax season.
In these instances, Gretchen Rubin advises using the “15-minute rule.” Commit to working on a put-off task for 15 minutes without interruption. Stop at 15 minutes. Don’t allow yourself to work any longer. Do this every day for a week and mark your progress. You’ll find you can accomplish quite a bit in just 15 minutes, yet most of us fritter away that time on our phones in between meetings or during commutes.
3 Entrepreneurs Share Their Secrets to Motivating Themselves
1. Amber Garrett, Founder of Amber Garrett Photography
“Being an entrepreneur is about so much more than one’s art. When I first opened my business in 2016, I had no idea what all went into being a business owner. There are fun things, such as photographing and editing, and there are not-so-fun things, such as advertising or making sure my business remains legal and protected. I’ve learned that I hate having photo shoots on Mondays because I don’t feel like I can enjoy my Sundays. I choose to spend Mondays doing my office work because I know it’s an entire day where I won’t be interrupted by any photo sessions.
“Always give yourself twice as much time as you think it’ll take you to complete something. There were so many years I spent anticipating a task would take me an hour, and then it took me two hours. I’d feel down on myself for not being as productive as I thought I should be, when in reality, I wasn’t giving myself enough time to properly complete that task.
“If the system you’re currently using doesn’t work, change something. Maybe it’s your location, the tools you use, or the people you work with. You’re allowed to make changes to make things better. Have a plan for your days and stick to it, but don’t be self-critical if things have to change.”
2. Tyler Hodgson, Founder and President of NXT Mortgage
“I definitely have a suck-it-up-and-just-do-it mindset the majority of the time. Everyone fails; entrepreneurs definitely fail more than the average person. Lofty goals such as waking up every day at 4:30 a.m. to go to the gym can be hard to accomplish consistently. There are certainly days when I am too tired or just not feeling it, and I fail. If I’m not feeling it, I usually go through one of two scenarios: First, do it anyway. Give it your best, and even if you only do a little bit, you at least did more than nothing. Second, I admit that I need some rest, take the rest in the moment, and come up with a plan for how I will make up for it.
“Many entrepreneurs think they have to work 80- or 100-hour weeks to be successful. Or when they’re busy, they might think they have to put in 12-14-hour days to get everything accomplished. I’m a strong believer in balance and prioritization. There is a need for long days and long weeks on occasion, as long as you don’t burn yourself out. Once you start getting tired or burned out, your productivity will suffer so much that you would be better off taking the rest and working fewer hours in a fresh state. When you have 12 hours’ worth of work to accomplish in a day, sometimes you just have to select the most important eight or nine hours’ worth of work and forget about the rest.”
3. Brea Roper, Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach
“There are so many good things you can do every day, but the good keeps us from the great. Setting goals is key to staying focused. Identify your goal for the day and 3-5 tasks that will get you there. Write this down. Anything else that comes up throughout the day should go through this filter. If the distraction doesn’t serve your goal, choose to defer, delegate, or dismiss.
“Start your day with things that fill you up (working out, meditation, reading, brainstorming, coffee with a friend, meeting with a new connection, etc.), and you’ll be excited to get right to it. For me, being verbal and making genuine connections with people really fills my emotional tank and gets my creative juices flowing. I usually plan to start my day with an early morning networking event, coaching session, or coffee with a friend. Then, I’m more energized and motivated to get through the boring admin work.
“The struggle is real, so I time-block. I’ll set an alarm for 45 minutes and knock out as many emails as I can, then get up and move my body for 15 minutes. Doing something fun to break up the monotony and keep my blood flowing is key. Learn what works for you.”
Cecilia Meis is a full-time writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas. Besides SUCCESS, her work has appeared in Time Out Dallas, Rewire, Healthline, and others. Outside of work, she plays beach volleyball, attempts home cooking, and is ardently working toward making her cat, Nola, Insta-famous.