6 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Motivate Yourself


Motivation is the better part of getting things done. You can be the most organized person in the world and keep all the lists that you want, but if you can't motivate yourself, you're not going to get anything done. The reverse is also true. Increase your ability to motivate yourself, and you're going to get a metric tonne of things done, from the small tasks that crop up every day to the big ones that make you a superstar on the job and around the house. (See also: Go From Busy to Getting Things Done)

So if all you need is some motivation, where do you find it?

1. Talk to Yourself in the Second Person

For anyone who wasn't that great at grammar, that means calling yourself "you." Researchers at the University of Michigan found this to be a powerful means of motivation. Rather than telling yourself "I need to" do something, tell yourself "You can do" something. This was true across groups, helping even people with a lot of stress and anxiety about their tasks to get things done.

2. Learn to Love the Unpleasant Parts

One thing that just about anyone who has ever done resistance training will tell you is that you need to learn to love the burn or you're going to give up. The pain of getting tasks complete is, in a certain sense, inevitable. What's not is the suffering. If you embrace feelings such as stress and pressure, you're going to be able to turn them into advantages. Start looking forward to them, the way that a bodybuilder looks forward to the ache that comes from a tough workout. (See also: Fitness for People Who Hate Exercise)

3. Reward Yourself

It doesn't have to be anything big. It might be a trip to the water cooler, a cup of coffee, or a couple minutes messing around on Facebook. Little bribes, however, can help you to close the gap between what you "should get around to" and what's actually done. Use these little rewards to help you get through the day, while using bigger rewards (treating yourself to a decadent dessert, for example) to get the more Herculean tasks done. (See also: 21 Frugal Rewards)

4. Break Down Bigger Tasks Into Smaller Tasks

Often, people with severe depression have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. So what do their therapists have them do? Try to imagine pulling off the covers. From there, put one foot on the ground. Then another. It's a truism that the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. So too do the hardest and most unpleasant tasks start with very simple steps. If you can't motivate yourself to clean out the garage and put everything on eBay, motivate yourself to walk down to the garage and take it from there.

5. Do Something Else

Maybe you can't even get down to the garage. OK. Instead of just sitting there watching TV avoiding what you know you should be doing, do something else. Clean the kitchen, pick up the dry cleaning, make yourself a pot of tea. When it comes to getting motivated, inertia is the enemy. Get moving, and you'll find it easier to transition from one task to another. Sit around and you're just going to continue to sit around. (See also: How to Break Bad Habits)

6. Take a Break

Ever been sitting at your desk at work, in the middle of doing a particularly arduous task? You're getting little bits and pieces done, but for the most part, it's just not happening. You're spending more time trying to motivate yourself than actually getting stuff done. The solution? Walk away. Take five. Don't stare into space. Don't mess around on Facebook. Stand up, walk away, take a break. Come back to the problem with a fresh set of eyes.

The ur trick? To make all of these as automatic as finding reasons to not get anything done. Make motivation automatic. You'll be glad you did when there's more stuff crossed out than not on your "to-do" list.

How do you stay motivated in the face of unpleasant tasks? Motivate yourself to share in comments!

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Guest's picture

This was dead on, just what I needed to read right now,


Guest's picture

I am not so sure about calling "me", "you" but everything else on this list really works!