If you’ve ever tried to work on a project without motivation, you know just how important motivation is for getting things done. With it, you can do more than you ever imagined was possible. Without it, every task can feel insurmountable.
But can motivation be learned? If you don’t have it, can you get it?
Yes! Motivation can be learned. Sometimes we have to almost “trick” our brains into being motivated, but it’s possible to find motivation for things that used to be too boring or too difficult to manage. Below are five steps you can take to learn motivation.
1. Start by creating long-term goals
Think about what your life would look like if you had everything you wanted. Once you have a clear picture in your mind about your ideal future, figure out what short and long-term goals you need to make to drive you to that future.
Once you have an idea of what you want, combined with a roadmap on how to get there, you’ll find it a lot easier to stay motivated in working toward your goals.
For example, if your ideal future means making a comfortable income working as a nurse, you’ll need to take steps to get your degree, get nursing certifications, and built relevant experience. It will be easier to stay motivated during difficult steps in the process if you have a clear idea of what you’re working toward.
Your long-term goals can keep you motivated. Having them and working toward them can help you stay motivated, even when tasks on the way are difficult. Even if your goals are small, such as getting a raise or purchasing a car, goals can help you keep your eyes on something else when the daily grind gets rough.
“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”
– Albert Einstein
2. Find a compelling “Why”
In a similar vein, finding a compelling “why” can help you stay motivated. By knowing exactly why you want to do something, you’ll be able to keep yourself focused on the task at hand.
When I was taking classes to complete my Master’s degree, there was a class I completely dreaded. I usually enjoy reading, but every book in that class was dry and overly technical. If it weren’t a requirement for graduation, I would have easily thrown in the towel and given up then.
However, completing that class allowed me to celebrate my graduation this spring. I got a degree I’ve been wanting for years, enabling me to get a job I’ve been dreaming of since I was a child. Because I kept that my desire for this degree and this job in the back of my mind, I was able to find the motivation to push through that difficult class.
Make sure that your “why” is something that really matters to you. Write it down somewhere where you can see it. When your motivation dries up, remember your “why” and find your motivation refueled.
As you remember your desired result, you’ll be more motivated to put in the work (even on tasks you don’t enjoy).
“Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one who asked why.”
– Bernard Baruch
3. Start with small steps
You aren’t going to accomplish anything big in one day. Remember that taking small steps consistently can help you get things done.
I’ve been trying to learn how to do embroidery art. I’ll be honest: I get really discouraged by how much I don’t know and how bad some of my earliest projects look. Sometimes I’m so discouraged by what I can’t do that I don’t do it at all.
Then one night I realized that if I spent an hour every day on embroidery, in a year I would have put in 365 hours of work. That’s enough to seriously increase my skill in the craft!
Anything you’re working on can be broken into smaller steps. Maybe your step for today is to just get an hour of work done on a larger project. The motivation you need to muster up to do one hour of work is much less than the motivation you’ll need to put in hundreds of hours of work.
The cool thing is that as you motivate yourself to complete small things, you’ll find yourself more equipped and motivated to do bigger things. As you see your progress in working toward a goal, you’ll get even more motivation to get it done. When you complete tasks or meet benchmarks on your way, you’ll find yourself with more motivation to get it done.
“The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
– Chinese Proverb
4. Find a helpful app
There is so much technology available for your smartphone or tablet. You can find a variety of helpful apps that can help you manage tasks and stay motivated.
For example, if you’re trying to motivate yourself to lose weight or get fit, there are thousands of apps that will help you do it. After downloading an app, you’ll enter in some information about your goals and your habits, and the app will do the rest in guiding you to reaching your goal.
Reminders sent to your phone will keep you focused on the work you need to put in to get healthy.
I use a Pomodoro timer app that I really like. The Pomodoro method is a method used to help you focus on the tasks in front of you. For every twenty-five-minute work session, you get a five-minute break. After five work sessions, you earn a longer, fifteen-minute break.
The app I use, Productivity Challenge Timer, helps me to keep track of my Pomodoro work sessions. In addition to acting as a timer, this app tracks how much time I’ve spent on each project. When I’m thirty or forty hours into a project, it’s neat to see just how much work I’ve done.
Everyone is wired a little differently. You may need to try a few apps before you find one that helps keep you motivated, but it’s worth it to invest in your future productivity. Many of these apps are free, although there are many paid productivity apps available.
The Productivity Show by Asian Efficiency is a podcast that has lots of helpful information on finding productivity apps that work for you.
5. Create a reward for yourself
Some tasks are going to be hard, no matter how important they are. These difficult tasks can drain your motivation.
Have you ever had a task you’ve dreaded so much that you continue to put it off? I tend to do that with phone calls. I’m not sure what it is about phone calls, but I absolutely hate making calls. I’ll find absolutely anything else to do all day besides make that call, while the pressing need to do it hangs over my head all day.
Then, in the end, the phone call will take me less than five minutes to make. I always kick myself for dreading something that took so little time.
No matter what goals you’re working toward, there will be tasks you won’t want to do. In these cases, it’s good to set up a reward for yourself when you finish the task. I always like to plan a special treat, like a piece of chocolate or a little extra time watching TV, when I know I have tasks I don’t want to do.
There are days when the rewards you’ll get may be the only thing motivating you to get certain things done. But that’s okay. Sometimes we all need that little extra nudge to get things done.
“The reward of a thing well done is having done it.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Tasks, especially boring or difficult ones, are easier when you’re motivated. When I was a kid, I always cleaned my room faster and with more enthusiasm when I knew my mom was going to reward me for doing it.
As adults, some of the same things continue to motivate us. When the motivation to do a task comes naturally, that’s wonderful. It can help push us to the successful completion of a project.
But when motivation doesn’t naturally come to us, we need to develop strategies to help kick start our motivation. Creating long-term goals can provide us with a road map, giving us motivation when the road to our goals is long.
Figuring out the “why” behind our tasks can help us stay focused and motivated when things otherwise seem pointless. Breaking things down into small steps can help propel us forward.
Extra tools like smartphone apps and rewards can help us manage our tasks and appreciate the results of our actions. When motivation continues to elude us, these tools can help us “trick” our minds into finding enough motivation to complete a task.
It may not always seem like it, but motivation can be learned. Over time, the motivation you build will help you build momentum in achieving your goals.