Finding motivation to start acting on an idea and build a website always seems to be harder than coming up with the idea itself. Getting started just might be the hardest thing you ever do. That’s why so much research and thought has been devoted to productivity–it’s a hard nut to crack. But the good news is that all of the tips we found work together to improve your productivity, motivation, and overall quality of life, all while helping you get that idea going.
Getting in the Mood to Be Motivated
Knowing something isn’t enough to cause change. Make people (or yourself) feel something.
It turns out that this claim is pretty well backed up by scientific studies about productivity.
In fact, research shows that there are three major factors related to the way you feel that affect your motivation.
1. Bad Moods Hurt Your Productivity
In the book The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor looks at how different people perform while feeling both pessimistic and optimistic. He finds that people perform much better in experiments when they feel happy, or optimistic.
…our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive.
So there’s clear evidence that you’re not doing your best when you’re bummed. And how likely are you to start a tough project when you’re feeling an existential crisis coming on?
Without delving into a psychological discussion about happiness (that’s a job for a different blog), we can look at how to improve your mood to be motivated. The best way is to get a sense of progress as you work.
Research from the Harvard Business Review has shown that “the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run.”
Simply tracking your progress can improve your mood and optimism about your project. No matter how small the milestone, completing a step gives you a sense achievement. As we’ll show in a bit, using a task management app to monitor your progress can do wonders to help you stay motivated.
2. Reward Yourself
Gamification expert Yu-kai Chou has a system for designing games called Octalysis, which identifies eight areas of motivation in games.
He breaks down the impulses that make us want to play games into core drives. The second core drive is called Development and Accomplishment.
Development & Accomplishment is the internal drive of making progress, developing skills, and eventually overcoming challenges.
Without a challenge, or a reward, you wouldn’t play the game. This same idea applies to your productivity.
When you face a big challenge, such as building your first website, it’s hard to see the reward. It takes time to realize the benefits. But there are many, many rewards along the way to learning to build your website.
All you have to do is break your tasks up and create rewards that motivate you. This goes hand-in-hand with tracking your progress, and gives you a boost of happiness by triggering the reward center of your brain with a rush of dopamine–a chemical that gives you good feelings.
3. Network with People Who Will Motivate You
When you meet people who are either doing the job you want to do, or have created a business or website you admire, it’s easier to be motivated and inspired.
Just knowing that someone else did it is reassuring–it means it’s possible. But also, you can learn so much from your connections for free.
In fact, marketing guru Seth Godin points out in The Icarus Deception that we are in a connection economy, where ideas, advice, and help is cheaper than ever, but worth its weight in gold.
Attending conferences, meetups, and scouring the internet and real life for connections will create a lifestyle around what you want to achieve, simply by reaching out to other people like you and offering up what you know in exchange for what they know.
Many studies and sources also suggest announcing your idea or plan to others can help keep you accountable. Starting a blog or social media account that chronicles your progress is a popular fitness trend that seems to work.
Similarly, I have an acquaintance, Hannah Hillam, who committed to writing and drawing a comic every day for an entire year. As I watched her account, I saw the comics get funnier and more unique, and now she’s earned a huge following and fanbase.
Her method does all three of the big things that help you get motivated. First, she’s doing something she enjoys, which is bound to help her mood. Not to mention that it must be totally cathartic to joke about things happening in your life with a comic.
She’s also committed to a schedule: a comic a day. This establishes a clear goal she can achieve, and gives a massive sense of progress. All you have to do is look at the feed.
And finally, the reward. She’s gaining followers every day, which is not unlike reaching different levels or earning badges in a game. And the big payoff, which is hard to see when you first start out, is that she’s becoming known for her art.
Define Goals You Can Achieve Easily
I know when I’m excited about an idea, I want to jump all the way to the end. But that approach only gets you burnt out or overwhelmed.
In order to get something like a website built, you have to break it down into achievable steps. In laying it out, you’ll find everything you need for the project and make it easier to tackle, one step at a time.
It also enables you to prioritize and will help you have things ready for the next step. I know that sounds vague, but you’ll find it to be true when you get into the project.
In my experience, the difficulty with creating achievable goals and prioritizing them lies in the traditional methods for getting stuff done. You write out a to-do list. This generally becomes a huge, scribbly, bucket of madness that you forget about after a while.
But there’s a better way to to-do. A great method for day-to-day task management is the 1-3-5 Rule.
Instead of a huge, random list, this is what you plan for each day:
- 1 big task
- 3 medium tasks
- 5 small tasks
And, guess what? There’s an app for that.
This app is a great way to track your progress, as well. If you accomplish your 1-3-5 every day, you’ll make big strides.
But this isn’t going to solve all your motivation woes. You still need somewhere you can keep track of and document all the things. Yes, all the things.
A good app for this is Trello which allows you to create boards and cards to keep track of your work.
You can use, or not use, these tools any way you want. But the point is, with something like Trello, you can organize the bigger pieces of your project. Let’s say for example, you might organize your website project into these categories:
Another good framework to base your plan on, especially if you’re creating a new business, is our CEO J.R. Farr’s series, #theprep.
You need to break down your project, in this case creating a website, into more manageable chunks. Then you break tasks within those chunks down into stuff that’s doable in a day’s work–such as with the 1-3-5 app.
This helps you keep track of your vision, makes your idea feel more realistic, and clearly shows progress. The only thing is–you don’t want to burn out and risk compromising the quality of your work. More on that in a moment, when we talk about overworking.
Keep Up Your Momentum with a Solid Routine
There’s one big problem with the strategies we’ve discussed so far. It comes down to where your motivation originates.
There are two types of motivation. Extrinsic motivation comes from outside yourself. For example, a cash reward or some kind of public recognition.
This type of motivation may work in the short-term, but it’s less effective because you have not yet bought into the motivation on an intimate level.
Instead, intrinsic motivation–motivation that comes from yourself–is more powerful. Why?
Because your progress becomes relevant to you, not just to the prize or external gratification.
So how do you turn your motivation into intrinsic motivation? The best way is to create a routine that makes your project a goal every day of your life–not just when there’s cash or recognition involved.
Murakami is a motivated person, writing many, many long novels, and also running ultra marathons.
If you concentrate on writing three or four hours a day and feel tired after a week of this, you’re not going to be able to write a long work.
In this gesture, he points out that, in order to pull off a big piece of literature, you have to stay focused and motivated. So he has a rigid routine that forces him to sustain 5-6 hours of writing per day, starting at 4 a.m. But more importantly,
I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.
In his own odd way, I think Murakami is talking about intrinsic motivation. He pulls himself into “mesmerism” by following a rigid, engaging routine that shows him great progress every day.
Whether or not you’re writing long works of fiction, I’d say this is a great way to stay motivated.
Know When to Ask for Help
Another big part of getting your project done is knowing when to get help. Chances are, you’ll need someone to help you or teach you along the way.
Anything can be learned. But it’s a matter of how much time you have, and what you want to focus your energy on. If the learning curve is too steep, it can be motivating to step back and say, “I need some help with this part.”
When it comes to learning, the internet is a great resource for learning WordPress and finding answers to many of your questions. It’s also a great place to find help these days.
If you need a boost in a certain area, let’s say writing, design, development, video, or marketing, hiring a freelancer to consult with or complete some of the tasks you listed out for your project can be very cost-effective and save you time.
So before you get stuck and lose the motivation or momentum that you’ve picked up, get some help.
Stay Healthy, Stay Sharp, Stay Motivated
There’s no doubt about it. When people are healthy, they tend to be more productive, have more energy, and are more positive about work.
One of the biggest deterrents to productivity is pretty unexpected. It’s called overworking and I’m sure you’ve heard of it or experienced it first hand.
The problem is that we tend to associate longer hours and intense periods of work with success. Science couldn’t disagree more with that.
Stanford researcher Alex Soojung-Kim Pang’s book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less argues that less work, and more active rest actually makes us more productive overall.
…overwork in the long run is bad for people and organisations and also bad for productivity.
Why is this? It turns out that we need other outlets besides work to be more attentive to and creative about the problems we’re solving at work.
As Soojung-Kim points out,
The counterintuitive discovery is that many of the most restorative kinds of rest are actually active. Things like exercise or walks or serious, engaging hobbies do more for you than sitting on the couch binge-watching television.
This also lines up with Murakami’s routine, which we talked about earlier. He only works for 5-6 hours in the morning and spends the afternoons running, swimming, reading, and listening to music.
Routines, consistent exercise, and healthy eating all contribute to our motivation. But of course, you have to make time for those things, and overworking leaves you little room. In fact, as we saw with Murakami’s ultra marathon running habits, committing a lot of time to a hobby outside of your normal work can help a lot.
People who are really ambitious and think about their work an awful lot will have these hobbies that look like they absorb gigantic amounts of time and energy. There are all kinds of different terms for roughly the same kind of thing–serious leisure.
Soojung-Kim refers to serious leisure or active leisure often, arguing that this type of rest, rather than the typical idea of a vacation where you lie on a beach, is what makes us more productive, and leads to a healthier lifestyle.
You need motivation to be successful; there’s no way around it. Many great ideas never get off the ground, but yours could!
Know your goals, establish a routine, get help, and take time away from your work to boost your creativity and health! Keep it up, and you’ll be doing better work in less time. And before long that big lofty goal will be crossed off your list.