Mistakes of motivation, or Why does motivation “not work”?

I have little motivation. I don't have amazing willpower or self-control. I don't get up at 6am to read, meditate, drink a smoothie or run a marathon. This is because I don't believe in motivation.

In its place, I developed systems and habits that removed personal drive from the productivity formula. So I can still work effectively even without any motivation. Systems and habits are not the most glamorous topic, but they get results.

They have helped me every step of my business journey over the last 12 years - when JotForm existed as just an idea and when my team grew to over 110 people and 3.7 million users.

Everything worked out thanks to habits. If you create strong systems and continually improve them (rather than relying on willpower), you won't even have to think about motivation.

Watch your progress

If you feel a strong urge to procrastinate, grab a pen and paper. Write down one task that you can complete today to move forward. For example, prepare a paragraph of a commercial proposal or draw up a schedule for investors. Now turn off the sound on your phone and get down to business. Commit yourself completely to it, even if you only have 15 minutes.

It’s not worth saying right away that this is the most banal advice in the world. Wait until the end of the day and take another five minutes to summarize. Think about how the task went and why it is important to you. Write down your answers and repeat the whole process the next day. This way you will notice a gradual movement forward.

Nothing motivates more than your own progress. And the first step towards it is to determine what needs to be done on this day.

Harvard psychologist Teresa Amabile described this in her book The Progress Principle. Together with her colleagues, she checked Inner work life: Understanding the subtext of business performance. How daily work habits affect motivation. She asked 238 creative professionals to keep a diary during one work project.

At the end of each day, participants summed up the results, describing one memorable event and their emotions. They also assessed themselves and their colleagues in terms of creativity, quality of work and contribution to team cohesion. “We wanted to understand what makes people happy, motivated, productive and creative at work,” says Teresa.

After studying about 12,000 records, the researchers noticed similarities. It turns out that people are more likely to think creatively and work productively when they are focused on a task and fully engaged in it. And “good” working days are days when there is progress in business, even if it’s small.

Choose your priorities and don't get distracted

It would seem that priority and motivation are completely different things, but in fact they are closely interrelated.

This year I have three priority areas of work:

  • Hire good employees.
  • Create quality content.
  • Give users opportunities to be productive.

These priorities determine all my activities. If a project or opportunity doesn't fit into these three categories, I say no. This way I get rid of all the distractions and can make real progress in my work.

On weekdays, I spend the first two hours of work writing down my thoughts. They may be related to a problem I'm trying to solve, or simply be a new idea. During this time, I do not make any appointments or respond to emails.

Photo: Unsplash

But if I'm not inspired, I allow myself to do something else - but only if the activity fits into my three categories of priorities. Instead of writing and solving problems, I can read articles or books on the topic, meet with the product development team, or watch a lecture.

Soon I feel myself getting more and more involved in the task, and then good ideas come to mind. And these ideas inspire me to act.

Everything happens for a reason. It's a simple round of action that gets my brain going.

Break the loop of procrastination

We usually try to avoid painful and unpleasant actions, but procrastination only increases discomfort. It comes in two types—preventive and promotional.

In the first case, we try to avoid losing or failing. For example, you worry that you will perform poorly in public and put off preparing. In the second, we believe that the necessary action will help us become better, but we avoid it because it is difficult.

Both types of procrastination are tied to emotions that dictate your actions. You either protect yourself from unpleasant feelings by doing other things, or you choose pleasant feelings right now instead of benefits in the future.

To cope with this, treat feelings like changing weather.

Recognize that you have the urge to procrastinate, but don't dwell on it. Take two minutes to get to work. For example, if you need to make a report, open a new document and write everything that comes to mind. In a couple of minutes, important thoughts will probably begin to appear.

This method will help with any task you've been putting off. To make it even more effective, combine it with some kind of ritual - brew a cup of tea, meditate, light a candle. Gradually you will get used to the fact that after this action you need to get to work.

Learning to understand the significance of our work

A motivated employee tends to believe that thanks to his efforts the world is becoming a better place, that through his work he can help someone. If you think that your work is not useful to anyone, talk to people who are consumers of the products produced by your company, and this misconception will be dispelled.

If you really see the pointlessness of your work, change your job. Work in a place where you feel like you are making a difference for other people through your actions.

Photo: Depositphotos

Stop waiting for inspiration

We are used to thinking that motivation is the spark that ignites us and starts our spiritual engine. In fact, it's exactly the opposite. We achieve something when we start doing something.

— Motivation is “a fire that burns slowly after you've painstakingly started it by hand, fueled by the satisfaction of progress,” says writer Jeff Hayden, author of The Myth of Motivation.

So don't waste time. Identify what emotions are stopping you from getting down to business and try to push them aside. Work for two minutes and see what happens next. And track your progress regularly. Your pride and motivation will grow when you see what you can achieve with consistent daily actions.

Put something on the line

Loss avoidance is a concept from the field of neuroeconomics. It describes the fact that a person experiences more emotions from a loss than from a gain - even if they are completely equivalent. “If you find $20, you will be happy. However, if you lose $20, you will be much more upset,” Cooper explains.

“The good news is that we can turn this to our advantage. One professor conducted an experiment on his students. He offered the first group of students to solve additional tasks, for each of which they could earn additional points. A student who earned 5 points did not have to take the exam. The second time he changed the problem statement. If the first time the exam was mandatory for everyone who did not earn 5 points, then the second time it was optional to earn 5 points. However, those who did not bother to solve additional problems at all lost the right not to take the final exam.”

“The difference is that we hate losing what we think is ours. In the first class, 43% of students ultimately earned 5 points and received the right not to take the exam. In the second grade, 82% of such students turned out to be,” says Cooper.

The girl recommends trying to put something important on the line. “Promise yourself that you will give up something if you can’t get the job done. You will be surprised how much your intrinsic motivation will increase.”

Recharging the “batteries”

The expression “burning out at work” is familiar to many of us. You cannot bring yourself to such a state; it threatens not just moral burnout and loss of strength, but also illness. A tired and sick person cannot perform quality work. He won't be successful.

If you feel very overworked, take a few days off or vacation. If this is not possible, “recharge your batteries” right at your workplace, taking short rest breaks. Allow yourself to rest every 10 minutes after an hour of work to stay alert and energized for the rest of the day.

Little tricks for those who want to maintain personal motivation

  1. The most important thing is to clear your mind and then keep it clean. Here's the guide.
  2. Cling to your dreams with all your might. A dream will help you achieve your goal. Let life accompany you on the path to its fulfillment.
  3. Maintain confidence in your own abilities. No one will fulfill your mission for you. Live your life on your own.
  4. Be objective and decisive. To understand life, you need to know what summer heat and winter cold are.
  5. Don't give up in the face of difficulties. Make motivation your “scarlet sail.”
  6. Love what you do. Work as if you don't need money. Sing like no one can hear you. Constantly study as if you will live another two hundred years.
  7. Give much more than is expected of you. Doing something good for another person is a great way to motivate yourself.
  8. Be yourself. The key to success is being true to yourself. Failure awaits those who want to please everyone.
  9. Learn to love yourself. It's quite simple.
  10. Learn from your own mistakes.
  11. Be patient.
  12. Do everything gradually. It had not yet rained, and Noah was already preparing the ark for the flood.
  13. Try to look at life only from the positive side. It's difficult, but possible.
  14. Exercise: dance, jump, run or Nordic walking. Mental motivation requires physical energy.
  15. Eat right and lose those extra pounds. You will become much more energetic. Pay attention to the quality of the products. Buying good wine and drinking it in pleasant company is also a good way to motivate yourself for further achievements.

Make your life successful and prosperous!

Let's start encouraging ourselves

Knowing that you are useful to people is a very pleasant thing, but material incentives influence our motivation even more. This statement was formulated by the author of the bestseller “100 Simple Secrets of Successful People” David Niven.

Few of us tend to reward ourselves for the work we do every day. And this is a serious omission. The habit of encouraging yourself will help increase motivation.

You should reward yourself for the work done every day. Let it be a meeting with friends at a pizzeria or at least a delicious dessert. Remembering the reward promised to himself at the end of the day, a person will strive to do his job as best and as quickly as possible in order to receive it.

How to motivate yourself? Purpose and meaning of life choices

Personal motivation is the path to human flourishing and happiness. Motivation is our driving force, our desire to give ourselves to achieve the desired result. Without it, everything seems gray, insipid and shapeless to us. Delicious food seems tasteless. Without motivation, it is impossible to create anything; it is difficult to perform the most basic everyday duties. Motivation encourages us to take active action, inspires us to achieve a goal, it enlivens and gives meaning to everything we undertake. Without motivation, we become lethargic and indifferent. We should try to understand what is the source of motivation and what is its brake during difficult moments in our lives.

How to start being motivated? Act as if you already have the motivation!

You may be able to fool yourself by changing your behavior. Act as if you are motivated and your actions can change your emotions. For example, instead of sitting on the couch in your pajamas all day waiting for inspiration, just get dressed and start working. You may find that it increases your motivation and makes your decision making process easier.

To make this work, answer yourself the question: “What would I be doing now if I were motivated?” Think about what you would wear and how you would think and act. Now try doing all this for real and see if your motivation levels increase.

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