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Self Motivation Techniques

A warm welcome to the self motivation techniques section of the web site.

I’m sure that most of us have experienced the following at some point in our lives… the tasks are piling up, you have pressing deadlines and yet you just can’t seem to motivate yourself to get started.

If that’s you right now then you’ve come to the right place. On this page I will provide you with a number of techniques that you can use in your work or personal life to kick start you back into action.

Types of Motivation

To start with let’s begin with a quick refresher on the different types of motivation. There are two types of motivation: intrinsic or internal motivation and extrinsic or external motivation.

Extrinsic motivation is motivation in order to attain some specific outcome or reward. An example of which is the famous carrot and stick approach. This idea originates from someone who tried to dangle a carrot on the end of a stick in front of their donkey in order to try and get the donkey to move forward!

Intrinsic motivation is motivation where you are driven by the task itself. That is you enjoy doing it or you find it interesting. It’s motivation that comes directly from yourself.
Self-motivation predominantly falls into the intrinsic motivation arena.

Self Motivation Techniques

1. Create a to-do list – Let’s start with the most basic self motivation technique first – that of simply creating a to-do list. Just sitting down and putting pen to paper and explicitly writing down what you need to do is often a great way to get people motivated into action. If you more of a technical individual than a pen and paper person then type your tasks into your favourite to do list application. There are lots of great to do list applications out there some of my personal favourite are one note, ever note, Google keep and workflowy.

to do list

2. Schedule your time – This is a personal favourite of mine. Just before the start of the week get out a diary or personal planning system and block out times that you will do things. I try and do this every Sunday evening. Scan through your to do list and place a mark next to all the tasks that are really important. Next, for each task that you have marked try and estimate how long it will take you to complete and then block out your calendar for that length of time. Of course you will get some estimates wrong and there are always going to be unexpected events that you have to respond to. But don’t let this put you off simply re-adjust your calendar to accommodate any changes.

schedule your time

3. Reward yourself – Give yourself a reward once you have completed an important task. This could be anything from a bar of chocolate to allowing time for yourself to watch a favorite movie or TV program.

chocolate bar(Photo Credit: Bodo)

4. Follow your passions – If you’re not motivated then perhaps you’re not doing the right things. Take a step back, sit down and really assess your life. Is your life as you want it to be? Day in, day out are you doing things that you enjoy? Think about what your passions are – what things do you simply love to do? What things have you achieved in your life that have made you feel proud? What things do you do where time seems to fly by because you’re enjoying yourself so much? Could this passion turn into your new career? There is no greater motivator than doing something that you love doing. In fact if you’re following your passion then it’s highly unlikely that you will need any self motivation techniques. Of course changing your life so that you begin to follow your passions is no easy feat, but ask yourself what small changes (or baby steps) you can start making today which could gradually ease you nearer to this dream?


(Photo Credit: Anthony Easton)

5. Thin slice – I can’t remember where I originally read about this technique but it’s excellent so I will share with you what I remember about it. The basic idea of it is to take an important task that you have been putting off completing and then to actively decide to complete the thinnest possible slice of that task. So for example if you have to put together a presentation for your next team meeting then perhaps you plan to simply open Power Point and write the title of the presentation on the first slide. It’s amazing how often this technique takes you much further forward than the thin slice that you planned. You will probably surprise yourself with just how much you get complete. That simple of action of starting something is a great motivator. It’s often quite easy just to keep going once you’ve started. I’m a bit of a procrastinator, always trying to delay tasks until later and so I use this technique lots to get me started.

thin slice

(Photo Credit: Robert Tewart)

6. Make a game out of it – Looking down your list of tasks how many are tedious or boring yet important to complete too. Is there a way you could make them more interesting by making a bit of a game out of them? How about seeing how fast you can complete the task. Set a stopwatch and see if you can beat your record time. Or alternatively, split the task into sub tasks and then allocate points for each task. How can you get the most points in the quickest time? It might sound a bit crazy I know but this technique can be a really effective self motivator. Believe it or not there is actually a name for this technique… Gamification, which is the strategy of bringing elements of a game to real-life experiences. Games naturally motivate us. When people play games they perform some action. That action can get the player nearer to completing the games objective or goal or it can take you a step further back. Either way there is a learning process and over time most people improve at the game in play.


(Photo Credit: Tim Reckmann)

7. Go For a Walk – Often we don’t get things done because there is too much going on in our heads and we lose focus. A great way to clear your head and to put things back into a realistic perspective again is to simply go for a walk. Try and go somewhere peaceful surrounded by nature if possible.


(Photo Credit: Hartwig HKD)

8. Speed Task – This technique is where you take a task that would normally take you a couple of hours to complete and instead you make an effort to complete it in say 15 minutes. Of course this is impossible but imagine that you only had 15 minutes. How much of the task could you complete? Could you still produce something useful in only 15 minutes? If you have to write a report for example – maybe you could do a skeleton of the report in 15 minutes with a few summary points for each heading. When it comes to self motivation techniques this is a great one as it can enable you to envision the end result much quicker and the output to this technique is often something that just needs a little bit of tidying up in order to get to the desired end result.

speed task

(Photo Credit: jonel hanopol)

9. Expand your knowledge – Are you putting things off because you don’t feel competent enough to perform your tasks? Or perhaps there’s a better way than the way you know to perform the task in hand? Either way perhaps you could benefit from a little new knowledge. Go to your local library or book store and see if you can get hold of a book that might help advance your knowledge in that particular subject area. If you haven’t time to read a book then make time! Remember most books can be purchased or borrowed in audio versions. Start listening to books that advance your knowledge while driving to work. Alternatively search you tube for videos that might help you advance your knowledge and skills. Another approach is to seek out someone who you know to be a subject matter expert in the particular domain that you are working in and then ask them for advice, support or of they will mentor you. Don’t know anyone skilled in that particular domain? No worries try and find someone using Twitter – Twitter is an excellent tool for finding individuals with particular skill sets and knowledge expertise.


(Photo Credit: Jonathan Cohen)

10. Put a price on your time – How much do you think that you’re worth for an hours work? Put a price on it. Go higher rather than lower. Then imagine that you’re paying for your services. This technique is great for getting you thinking just how valuable your time is and that you’re best using it to do something productive. So take you’re most important task for the week and get started on it – while simultaneously thinking about the monetary cost of the task.


(Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012)

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