How to Stay Motivated

On these cold, dreary days, it’s not unusual to feel a bit—meh. But we all have a bunch of work we need to get done, so we must find ways to keep our motivation up in the face of the doldrums of winter. Thankfully, scientists have studied motivation and have found some best practices that seem to work for most people. 

Before proceeding, it’s important to define intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes from within—usually because you find the activity you’re engaged in interesting, rewarding or fun. Extrinsic motivation comes from external factors—whether that’s because you’re being paid or someone asked you to do something. 

Research has found that people driven by intrinsic motivations are likelier to stick with their long-term goals because intrinsic motives tend to be more resilient. Extrinsic rewards can be reduced if external rewards aren’t provided every time or become perceived as less valuable over time.

Ditch the Goods

A common technique people use to motivate themselves to do something they don’t want to do is to treat themselves with some kind of reward afterwards. But, unfortunately, this has been shown to diminish any intrinsic motivation that the task might’ve previously had, and it’s tough to get it back. 

Look Inside

You’ll want to ask yourself what your intrinsic motivations are. What do you like about the task? Is the task challenging or fulfilling in another way? Does it make you feel helpful? Figuring out what you actually like about the task and then focusing on that while you do it will help you remain more enthusiastic. 

Have Some Fun with It

Let’s say you have some very dull spreadsheet work to do and getting into it is always a struggle. Maybe to make it more interesting, you could listen to music or podcast while you work, which you might not be able to do during your more mentally demanding tasks. Now, this thing that was the most boring part of your job has this novel, fun aspect that will make it more interesting. 

Find Someone to Follow

If there’s something about your job you struggle to stay engaged with, but you have a coworker who is keener about that part, ask them what they like about it. Or better yet, ask if you can work with them on it. Motivation is contagious, and you can increase your perseverance by learning from and emulating others. 

Skill Up

When you do something a lot, you naturally get better at it. It can take a long time to improve at something noticeably, but gaining competence in something will boost your feeling of intrinsic motivation. As you’re doing a task, focus on how you’ve improved. Think about how much harder the task was previously compared to now. By paying attention to your own development, you can make any task its own reward. 

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