Some days, it’s tough to get motivated. Even inspiring posters and coffee can’t always help. But researchers have found ways to keep going even when we don’t feel like it. They suggest setting specific goals that you find satisfying, rewarding yourself the right way, breaking big goals into smaller ones, and getting support from others.
Set Goals, Not Chores
Having clear goals helps us get more done. It’s better than just trying to do your best. Goals like getting 15 new customers each month or doing one hour of exercise daily work better. Research shows that when we’re motivated by things we really want to do, we do better. So, find the reasons you enjoy your job, and focus on those instead of just trying to get through the work.
If you’re a leader, help your team find their own reasons to be excited about work. Avoid using rewards like “if-then” incentives, and instead, let them choose projects they like. Give them tasks that challenge them a bit so they can get better at what they do. And remind them that work is about more than just making money.
Choose Effective Rewards
Sometimes work can be tough. In those times, it helps to have rewards that make sense for you. Imagine your goals every day and picture your life once you’ve reached them. But be careful with rewards that might lead to bad habits. For example, if you reward yourself for finishing work quickly, you might make mistakes. Think about what rewards will keep you on track.
Some rewards work better than others. In some cases, we work harder when the reward is uncertain instead of guaranteed. In a study, people walked more steps when they might lose money if they didn’t. Consider using services that help you commit to a loss if you don’t meet your goal, like donating to a cause you don’t like if you don’t quit smoking.
Keep Making Progress
Often, we start with a lot of motivation but lose it in the middle of a project. To avoid that, break your big goals into smaller tasks. This way, you feel like you’re getting closer to your goal faster. People tend to work harder when a goal seems reachable. It’s why people spend more when they’re close to earning a reward.
Goals should be like donut holes—small and easy to achieve. Have big dreams, but break them into smaller goals. This way, you’ll feel like you’re making progress.
Get Support from Others
We’re social creatures, so we often look at what others are doing. Sitting next to someone who works hard can make us work harder too. But when we see someone doing well, we might either get inspired or lose motivation. To use this to your advantage, don’t just watch others—ask them about their goals and why they recommend them.
Another way to boost motivation is by giving advice. In an experiment, people who offered advice did better at reaching their goals. Lastly, think about the people who share your big goals, like friends, family, or mentors. Thinking of them can motivate you to succeed.
We’re naturally inclined to be lazy and conserve energy. Self-motivation is a skill that can be tough to learn, but it’s important for success. Combining both intrinsic (what you enjoy) and extrinsic (external rewards) motivators can help you stay focused and enjoy what you do.