What keeps you motivated
Today I want to talk a little bit about getting things done.
Be it a big project you’re working on, or just a number of your daily routine tasks, getting things done is not only about managing your time and resources, but also about maintaining your interest and motivation levels as you go through the list of tasks.
What keeps you motivated when you have a list of small and possibly very annoying tasks to be completed by a certain time and date?
There are projects where you can clearly see the outcome – it could be a generous reward, or a couple of extra days off, or just an admiration of someone whose opinion is very important and valuable to you.
But quite often it’s nothing like this. You look at the number of things you need to have done, and it seems that you’re not going to get anything positive out of them. At the same time, you’re pretty clear about the amount of grief and frustration you can very easily get for failing to complete some of the tasks on your list. It doesn’t have to be so black and white in reality, but usually it’s bad enough for your motivation knowing that there’s not going to be anything majorly positive happening to you when you complete the tasks. You lose most of your interest, because you’ve looked at the list and you’ve set your expectations. And no, it doesn’t look all this optimistic at all.
I’m lucky enough not to have too many days like this, but I sure can recall a one or two – on these days all you can do is to brace yourself and do your best. And this is where everything counts – even little things will be making a huge difference to you.
Every little helps
I have a principle for such unfortunate days and for generally any long lists of things to be done. And this principle is the title of this entry: every little helps. This means, that my nature is such that I have to stay motivated and interested in what I’m doing, otherwise I wouldn’t probably make it till the end of the list.
The most important thing to remember is that success is a success. It is only one of our psychological features that we treat all events occurring to us differently. For instance, we feel failures or negative events much harder than we enjoy our success and something positive. It’s very common that after a very long hard day’s work you feel very proud of yourself having completed few major important tasks – requests from your customers or a sophisticated set of reports for your manager, or maybe you’ve got a big project finally completed.
You have this feeling of being on top of the world, because that’s another successfully done thing you’ve just added to your humble list of personal victories. But then an email arrives with some bad news, or an annoying colleague from the remote office calls in and complains about something – and no matter how small the negative issue really is, it easily shadows the success of the long and very positive day you’ve just been enjoying few minutes ago. Why does it happen this way? That’s just how our perception works.
So what I’ve learned is to even the perceptions out first, and then slowly started learning to emphasize the successfull and positive events so that they would feel much stronger and therefore have a bigger impact on my productivity.
It comes now to the point that I have to do only few prioritizations on my tasks list before I start working through it, confident and ready for whatever might happen as I go through the list.
First things first – this means, if there are any urgent or really important tasks, they have to be looked at first. But if there is no urgency (and believe me, there’s always a way of prioritizing things, even if they all seem to be terribly important and absolutely urgent), or at least if there’s a list of importance priorities, it’s time to go through your list once more to make sure you even its emotional and motivational support for you.
What I mean by this is that when you go through your tasks list for the first time, you normally analyse quickly every task and decide for yourself, how important it is for you to get each task completed by a certain time. And when there’s a timeline involved, there comes the estimation of every task – you usually would have a rough idea whether a particular task is going to take 5 minutes of your time or a whole hour.
And what I do, I spot the relatively quick and easy tasks, which seem trivial compared to other serious and important and time-consuming ones, and place them strategically between other tasks. These quick and easy tasks are my chance to boost my confidence and motivation between the really complicated things. These are my guaranteed sources of positiveness throughout the list of tasks. No matter how miserably I may fail on bigger tasks, no matter how I may just be delayed with them and therefore be frustrated, I know for sure that now and then I’ll get a quick and easy opportunity to feel better about myself, by completing them easy tasks.
Why do I do this? Because unless I feel good about myself, unless I see myself making positive progress in anything, my motivation won’t stay high. And when my motivation comes down, this would surely impact any other tasks I may have further down my tasks list.
Staying confident and motivated
It’s very simple, really. If the first task of your day is very time consuming and very important one, and you manage to do something wrong and feel really frustrated about it, you really have to do something to feel better. Otherwise, your frustration and lack of confidence after the first failure will affect the rest of your day. Things which normally would seem quite possible to you would make you question yourself, relatively easy task will take longer. Having a higher chance of failing again, you’ll start worrying much more and may end up ruining the whole day.
Why do this to yourself? Remember, it’s possible to have the same impact on your day, only in a positive sense. So what if you couldn’t make the first thing on your list happen right away? Do something simple now, something quick and easy, and you’ll immediately feel better. If you still feel vulnerable, do another one of them simple things. You need to regain your confidence and motivation, and once you got them back, easy things will seem even easier, and impossible ones will suddenly seem quite possible.
I use this trick all the time. If I have lots of small things on my list to do, I know my day will be a great one. If I fail to get something done right away, that’s a possibility. There’s nothing wrong with that, we’re all human. But I’m not taking any chances for the whole day – I’ll be sure to have something easy to complete, and having felt better, I then can go back to the previous failure and try get it done properly this time.
Every little helps – it’s really true. If there’s anything which can make you feel better, do it! If it’s something quick and easy – do it even quicker! The more positive you feel about yourself, the more successful you’re going to be overall. So even small successfully completed tasks on your list will help you to cope with bigger tasks.
It works for me, and it will work for you.
Try it, and you’ll be amazed how better you may feel. One of the beautiful things of my approach is that you absolutely DON’T have to be miserable, depressed or unsuccessful to start with. If you’re successfully going through most of your tasks – that’s great! But knowing that even small successes will literally multiply your performance and self-confidence, you may start doing few quick and easy tasks at the same time. They’ll give you a boost to tackle any task and will make sure you always have enough motivation to go through whatever challenges might come your way.