A while ago, we discussed motivation, and what distinguishes ‘fake motivation’ from ‘real motivation’, the first kind being a temporary, external boost that doesn’t last very long, and the latter one being a real, innate drive and desire to perform a task and get stuff done.
The first strategy you ought to implement is to set clear goals and figure out a way to achieve them. In the meanwhile, I hope you’ve been able to think about your goal, and maybe you’ve even taken a few first steps to get there.
Today, I’ll be at your side once more to give you ideas on how to become a real motivation machine.
Build a process and make it automatic
You’ve got a goal. Great. You’re already way ahead in the race.
Still, even if you do have a goal, it will still be very hard to get to the finish if you don’t have a process mapped out to get there.
Take any business, for example. If it wants to succeed, it needs systems, operating procedures and all kinds of routines in place. Any business that wants to be even remotely successful has a detailed plan of everything it needs to do to achieve its objectives.
If the business owner and its employees had to rethink every single task every time again, they’d be destined for failure. Businesses thrive on routine and habit because those provide guidance. Without them, the business will come crashing down.
Let’s talk about money
Last time, we came up with an example of investing. Let’s go back there for a second. Imagine we have two people, both of whom want to make money by investing. We’ll call them Tom and Harry.
Tom and Harry both have the same income and the same basic monthly expenses. But there is a difference. Tom has no system in place for his investments and just invests in the daily hype with whatever money he has leftover every month. One month he might invest 600 dollars in cryptocurrency, the other month he might invest 200 dollars in marijuana stocks. Yet another month he might not have anything left, so he invests nothing
Harry, on the other hand, invests the same 400 dollars each month, and distributes his money over the same type of investments, for example, he puts 60 % in a highly diversified index fund, with an average return of 7 % per year, and 40 % in bonds with a return of 3 %.
There are few things as motivating as an upwards graph, be it for investing or anything else
Now, it might happen that Tom gets lucky once in a while and is able to triple his money in a month. But over time, he’s exposing himself to a significantly higher amount of risk and also stands to have a much higher chance of losing all his money. Moreover, at one point, he might not invest anything and thus see no return at all. Since there’s no consistent reward, there’s also no consistent motivation being built up.
At the same time, Harry sees slow, but consistent gains. His investments will go up and down, but over the long run, he will always win out. He is constantly rewarded because he sees his investments move up towards his goal every month, slowly but surely. This monthly positive feedback creates solid and steady motivational gains.
This is what we’re after.
Let’s talk about college, weightlifting (and fat)
Let’s try another situation. Imagine you’re in college. If you don’t have a process for studying, and if you have to think about your studying methods, what time of day you’ll hit the books, as well as how much breaks you’re going to take and what kind of breaks, how on earth are you ever going to graduate with highest honors?
The same goes for your career, your exercise routine, and even your dating life. Do you think Arnold Schwarzenegger became a bodybuilding champ without using an exercise routine? Of course not. Every athlete has a strict regimen and a schedule that he or she adheres to. Even if you’re some kind of genetic freak, without consistent routines, you will never reach the top.
How about weight loss? Whatever your target weight is, you’ll still need some kind of dieting plan. Whether you’re counting calories, doing intermittent fasting or going keto, without at least some kind of dieting plan, those pounds are staying right where they are.
And just as is the case for the above situations, the same goes for anything else you hope to achieve.
Let’s talk about the system
The benefits of creating a system are manifold: it’s automatic, it’s easy, and creates a consistent flow of positive feedback, thereby slowly building up real motivation.
Now, the word ‘system’ might sound a little scary. When we think of systems, at first we think of complex blueprints, computer systems, intricate and detailed plans, that sort of thing.
This doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. A system can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it.
For example, a workout routine can be as simple as doing a few sets of squats, deadlifts and bench presses every week, or it can be a split routine with lots of isolation exercises, specifically tailored to hit every muscle in the body, even the ones in your little pinky finger.
A system doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective. A good system just needs to be able to give you all the steps you need to do to achieve your goal. When you’re just starting out lifting weights, simply performing a basic routine will already give you great results. When you’re going for a world championship belt, that’s when you might need to make things a tiny bit more complicated.
If all the gears are in the right place, the wheels will keep on turning
Creating complicated systems that are hard to follow is one of the most surefire ways you can kill your motivation, so stick to simple and easy as much as you can, at least in the beginning.
To recap, here are the five steps you need to take to create a good starting routine.
- First, simply have ‘a’ goal
This does not have to be a very ambitious goal. It needs to be simple, realistic and measurable. Remember: before running a marathon, first run a 5K.
- Choose a basic, simple routine (but still be specific enough)
So you want to do a marathon, and you’ve decided to go for a run every day. How long is your run going to be? What distance will you run every day?
- Map out your daily schedule to fit the new routine
Figure out how you can make your routine work within your daily schedule. There’s work, kids, social obligations…but maybe you can go for a quick run during lunch break?
- Go the distance
At some point, you’re just going to have to act. This is the most important stage, because it’s only here, at this point, that we are actively building up real motivation.
- Adapt as necessary
Give your new routine some time and try it out for at least a month. Is it working out for you? Great. But maybe it isn’t? Or maybe you want to take your efforts to a higher level? Revise and reschedule as needed.
The best way to create routines and systems that stick is, of course, by building habits. Habits are a (very important) topic that we’ve talked a lot about before, and we don’t want to repeat everything we’ve said about habits in the past, so here’s a link to our article series about habits.
Create focus and take willpower out of the question
Routine is an issue that is closely linked to willpower. Imagine wanting to study, but not having any habits or routines in place. Without automatic habits already in place, you suddenly need to tap into your finite pool of willpower. Even if we do have habits, there are still hundreds of possible ways we can get distracted. The brain is a fickle and easily distracted organ.
Willpower might work the first time. It might work a second time. It might work many times, but you can be sure that at some point in time, you’re going to find yourself to be out of willpower, and just like that, you’re setting yourself up for failure. And each time you fail, you’re going to lose some of that precious motivation.
As I’ve said before, real motivation is built up by doing, by improving, by getting better and getting closer to your goal. And every time something gets in the way of you doing what you want to do, each time you fail in achieving what you wanted to achieve, your motivation will drop.
Yet again, there’s a similarity to investing. There’s one important investing principle that about every professional investor knows, and that is that you don’t lose money. When investing, not losing money is actually much more important than gaining money, because if you lose money, you’ll have to first earn your losses back before you’ll be able to make a profit.
The same goes for motivation. If you lose motivation, you have to earn it back before you get back to baseline and before you can get your motivation to a higher level.
And every time you rely on willpower, you create a real risk that it will fail, and each time you fail you lose some of that precious motivation.
Obviously, the key idea is: don’t rely on willpower. Completely remove willpower from the equation.
Easier said than done? Maybe.
The truth is, there are always going to be some distractions that are going to test your willpower, so it’s important that you remove these.
Here are some strategies that reduce your need for willpower:
- Don’t be available to others
The first element to consider is other people. You have your own objective to achieve. But your objective doesn’t necessarily align with those of other people. Everyone has their own worries and problems and goals they want to achieve. And if they have need of you to achieve them, they won’t hesitate to make use of your precious time and attention.
At the same time, they’re probably not aware of your own objectives. And why should they be? It’s not their job to be aware of your priorities.
My point is, if you make yourself available to others, that will most likely come at the cost of losing focus on the task at hand. This in turn will hurt your results, and finally, this causes your motivation to plummet.
So you’ll have to start by telling people you won’t be available during the period of time during which you’re working, and cut all methods of communication. Of course, you’ll need to allow your wife or your other close ones to get in touch with you in case of emergency, but the basic rule is: if they’re not essential to success, they don’t get access.
- Clear your physical surroundings
Being able to focus requires that you have a clean, orderly workspace, with nothing to distract you. This starts with working in a clean room that’s free of dust and clutter. If there is non-essential junk in your workspace that you don’t need for your task, it will inevitably distract you. Physical clutter leads to mental clutter. Get rid of everything that isn’t necessary.
No. Just no.
At the same time, don’t work in an environment that has a PS4 or anything of entertainment value in it. Your mind is inevitably going to want to distract you and try and force you to play a game or watch an episode of your favourite TV show. Inevitably, you’ll end up needing willpower, which is the one thing we’re trying to avoid. Even if you do end up resisting temptation, having to use willpower is going to use up those precious mental resources that you need for focus.
Again, this is going to eat at your results and be damaging to your motivation.
Clear surroundings are productive surroundings.
- Clear your digital surroundings too
More likely than not, whatever you have to do, you’re going to need your computer for it at some point. Whether it’s for simply typing, doing research or communication, chances are high you’ll need both a PC and a working internet connection.
Now, just as you’ve got your physical surroundings that can be distracting, you’ve also got your digital surroundings, and those can be even worse.
Video games, YouTube, social media, an unlimited number of blogs,…you name it, it’s out there, and it’s calling for you.
Resisting that call, it’s not easy. It can take massive willpower to handle it and force ourselves not to give in.
But again, why bother? Don’t make it hard on yourself, just block the whole lot. That way, even if you wanted to, you’re still not going to be able to distract yourself from the task at hand.
With our app, FocusMe, this last step is eazzzyyyyyyyyy. Just install the app, create a list of whatever websites and applications you want to see blocked, set a timer, and go to work. There’s no way your monkey mind will breach our digital defences.
With no one to bother you, your environment fresh, clean and clutterless, with your workstation free of distractions, you might just have your most productive day ever.