We’ve all been there, pondering on a task we know needs our attention, yet we just can’t be bothered! We’ll procrastinate and make excuses about how and why we can’t do it. Because motivation is personal and each of us is motivated differently, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are a few techniques which are easy to implement and work for most people. Let’s take a look at three of them.
ARGUING THE TOSS
If you’re in a lack of drive mindset, it’s very easy to come up with an internal dialogue of why you shouldn’t take action.
“It’s too difficult.”
“I don’t have enough time.”
“I’ll get it wrong because I don’t know what I’m doing.”
This is sticky thinking i.e. the dialogue which keeps you stuck in the inertia of non-action. If you have a deadline, then you may also start to feel the anxiety creeping in. Unstick your mindset by doing the opposite! For every reason you think you will fail, do a swticheroo and come up with a reason as to how you may succeed. For example:
“It’s too difficult” / “Is it really that difficult? What is easy about it?”
“I don’t have time” / “Looking at my schedule, where can I make time?”
“I don’t know what I’m doing” / “Are there any articles which could help?“
For every negative thought, counter-challenge it and you’ll start to see that your initial resistance wasn’t so accurate after all!
USE THE 15-MINUTE WONDER
Having an important task for which you have little enthusiasm, or are feeling overwhelmed by, can lead to dread! However, no matter how you feel, you know it needs to be done. The first step is to lessen that sense of dread to diffuse some of the overwhelm. An effective method is the 15-minute rule. Give yourself permission to stop the task, guilt free (this is important!) after 15 minutes. When you reach the 15-minute mark, ask yourself if you want to stop there or continue. You may find that, within just 15 minutes, you have created enough momentum to carry on. Getting started on a task is often the hardest part. It’s much easier to keep going once you’ve initiated progress.
If you do find yourself quitting the task at the 15-minute mark, the worst thing you can do it beat yourself up over it. All that does, is put your mind back into a negative, unmotivated state. Instead, congratulate yourself, smile and say:
“Even though it was only 15-minutes, I still did it, I got started and I am grateful to myself to finding the motivation within me.”
Repeat three times, give yourself a short break, then ask yourself if you feel you can repeat the 15-minute rule again.
PROMOTION OR PREVENTION THINKING
Sometimes our lack of drive is down to how we think about the result of completing the task at hand. In her book Focus, Heidi Grant Halvorson Ph.D. describes two styles of motivational focus which prompt our behaviours.
Promotion focused – People motivated by promotion or positive reward want to advance and avoid missed opportunities. Promotion focused people are goal oriented, see the bigger picture, take chances and play to win.
Prevention focused – People with a prevention mindset see goals more as responsibilities and concentrate on playing things safe. They tend to work at a slower pace, be conscientious and rather than play to win, they play not to lose.
Consider your thinking with regard to the task, by writing down all the potential outcomes you will achieve once completed. Aim for at least ten if you can. Note which outcomes fall into either of the above thinking styles. For example:
1. I will feel relieved.
2. My boss will be happy.
3. This will enable my colleague to…
4. My time is now freed up to concentrate on other things.
5. I won’t lose my job.
6. I won’t get into trouble with…
The benefits of visually recognising the potential outcomes are two-fold. Firstly, this exercise will shift your mindset into seeing the tangible and emotional benefits to be gained from its completion. Secondly, this will help you identify your motivational focus towards future projects.