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Staying Motivated

Life is a marathon… sort of. Except in life nobody set up water every mile, strangers don’t cheer you on the whole way, and you don’t get a medal for finishing. Other than that, it is very similar. Staying motivated in life, to go out and make sales calls, volunteer, or workout, is tougher than races but requires many of the same skills. You have to be willing to wake up early and get started every day, luckily once you start things will always begin to happen, because you started. But life comes with built in interruptions. These 6 items have helped me and countless others stay focused and motivated to achieve goals. Use them to your advantage.

1. Define in Detail

The first step towards a goal is always defining the goal. The key is to define it in such detail that you know exactly where you are going and what is needed to get there. Simply saying, “I want to increase customer satisfaction” is much too vague. What type of satisfaction? How are you measuring that “satisfaction,” comment cards, sales? The best approach I have come across is a SMART goal, which stands for specific, measurable, accountable, realistic, and time constrained. Following these guidelines will help create good defined goals. Check out this basic template to get started SMART Goal Template

2. Create Accountability

This is probably the single most important thing to do when you are trying to stay on task and motivated. Whether it is a daily sales call with a boss or just a daily 5-minute conversation with family/friends you NEED someone to talk to. Make sure to outline what you are trying to accomplish with the person so they can offer meaningful words of encouragement, or advice.

3. Create “Events”

This comes from my experience as a triathlete. It is always easier to stay motivated and maintain focus when you have an event you are training or preparing for. Sometimes in business this is not always as clear-cut as a race but there are things you can do to solidify the concept. Schedule a presentation with a superior, arrange for a report to be due to a customer, or line up an interview with a source for an article. Whatever it is set a firm date, the preparation will be much easier.

4. Sticks and Carrots

I borrow this from Economic policy. The idea is to create positive (carrots) and negative (sticks) consequences for your goals. This can take some outside of the box thinking so here are a few examples. Carrots don’t have to be monetary; it could be a day off, a snack, or an award from the goal itself (medal, certification, etc.). Sticks are a bit harder to impose but revolve around your ability to clearly visualize the results you want. If you don’t work out you’ll gain weight, no sales calls= no money. The key is to have your goal clearly defined and to revisit that definition daily. Luckily we live in the age of “there’s an app for that,” check out 21habit for a monetary “stick” if you don’t make progress on your goal. Here is a list of some other great apps for sticks and carrots 20 Great Goal Apps

5. Beware of Burnout

One of the most common reasons people lose motivation is burnout. You simply don’t have the will power “fuel” to keep going. Often you start to rationalize about not doing things, you have no/low energy, or you “decide” the goal isn’t what you “really” want. In order to combat this you must constantly be refilling your will power “reservoir.” This takes the form of any activity that gives you a boost. It may involve going out with friends for at least one night a week, going to a movie with a significant other, reading a book, or simply getting some “down time.” Don’t feel guilty about the need to take time to do these things. If you neglect them your chances of being able to overcome the really hard obstacles to your goal will diminish rapidly. Will power is a finite resource and you have to refill your tank consistently.

6. Sharpen the Saw

This is from Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” These things help build a bigger will power “reservoir!” In order to accomplish ever greater goals and maintain heroic levels of motivation you will need a very sharp and precise tool, that is to say you will need to be very sharp, precise and strong as steel. Sharpening the saw involves activities that enhance your current skill set. This includes continuing education, eating healthy, exercise (both physical and mental), and doing things that uplift you. In many ways this is similar to things you do to fend off burnout, but they are more substantial and often use up some of your available will power.

This is the first article in the series “My Life is my Business,” which will look at life management using analytics and strategies from business methodologies.

-Sean