It is so easy to get sidelined and demotivated when working on a project. It is part of the human condition!
New research* reported in Harvard Business Review provides some tips on ways to help boost your motivation:
*Set Goals with Intrinsic Rewards. When the accomplishment of the goal itself is desirable, motivation tends to be more sustained. The motivation to work hard for an extrinsic reward, say money, it is harder to maintain. If that is your situation then try focusing on the elements of the goal activity that are desirable. And if there are goals you simply must do that are not pleasing, then try setting it off by doing something else – like listening to music – at the same time. See here for more on goals.
*Find Effective Rewards. Invent appropriate incentives for yourself for accomplishing goals. Do not, for example, reward yourself with a high calorie dessert after losing a few pounds – that just undermines the overall goal. And remember that we humans are “loss averse” – we hate losing money even more than we love making it. For example, I once heard of a staunch member of one political party promising a friend of another party that he was going to complete a difficult goal by a certain time – and if he did not – he would donate $100 to that friend’s party. The thought of losing that money to that party was far more motivational than even being promised $100 if he reached the goal. So perhaps set up penalties for yourself if you do not reach milestones.
*Sustain Progress. Break your goals into smaller sub-goals that you track – and track on shorter time frames, such as weekly, rather than monthly. At the beginning of the project, focus on what you accomplish. Once you are half-way through, focus on how few sub-goals you have left for completion. Research shows that these tricks like these will help you maintain momentum.
*Harness the Influence of Others. When you encounter a high achiever, don’t just watch them – that can be demotivating. Talk with them and ask them for their advice on how they stay productive. On the flip side, also volunteer to mentor people who you know are much less productive that you are. Interestingly, the research shows that providing advice can help improve your productivity even more than receiving advice – as it boosts confidence.
These are just a few tips from recent research that could help you improve your sustained motivation. But a lot of this is personal. Experiment, ask others what works for them, and continue to work on your on productivity. While self-motivation can be challenging, it is hugely important to success for you and for the organizations you work for.
*“How to Keep Working When You’re Just Not Feeling It,” Fishbach, A., Harvard Business Review, November-December, 2018, pp. 138 – 141.