When you really want to accomplish something, it helps to create a system of accountability for yourself. We all have things we’d like to accomplish. However, many of us struggle at times in the pursuit of our goals. We lack motivation, have no energy to get started, or don’t know where to begin. We procrastinate or find excuses. Then we judge ourselves harshly for being “lazy” or “slacking.”
Sometimes all we need is a jump-start, a strategy or two to get us moving when we’re feeling stuck or we’ve been idling too long. Laurie Leinwand, MA, LPC shares some tried-and-true ideas:
Set a timer for 15 minutes.
You know those clothes that came out of the dryer and need to be folded? Or the dishes that magically appeared in the sink? Instead of secretly wishing those things would disappear, challenge yourself and make a game of it. See how much you can accomplish in just 15 minutes; set the timer and go! You may be surprised at the number of things you can complete in a short period of time, especially when you’re racing against the clock. It also helps to know there is an end to the chore. In just 15 minutes, it will be done. Or, by then, you will have tricked yourself into continuing, because you’re on a roll and find you want to complete the task rather than leave some of it undone.
You’ve promised yourself that you’re going to wake up early and go for morning walks, but that pledge was made a month ago and you still haven’t found your sneakers. Find a partner to keep you accountable. Ask those around you if they’d be interested in doing the same thing. Once you find one or two “buddies,” decide to check in with each other the night before to keep yourselves on track. Self-motivation can be difficult. Send reminders and support one another.
Same time, same place.
Consistency helps with motivation. If you intend to read more, decide on a location and time that you can devote to reading regularly. It might be picking your favorite corner of a coffee shop at noon or the comfy chair in your living room at 8 p.m. each evening. Have your book at the ready and devote an hour or so to fulfilling your intention. By being consistent, you may be less likely to hesitate or compromise and allow other things to get in the way. If you have a project you need to work on (college applications, cleaning your closets, putting together a presentation) and you find yourself doing anything and everything to avoid it, schedule a consistent block of time each day to chip away at it. An example would be setting aside 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily until the project is complete. You may find yourself devoting less time to debating yourself and more time to doing. One important thing to note: there is often no ideal time or place. If you’re waiting for that, you may never get started. Just go with what works and take it from there.
This can be scary, for sure, but words have so much power. Once you declare what you want to accomplish, you may have more energy behind what you set out to do. You might be surprised to receive the support of others. While that may not always be the case, you can even be fueled by naysayers. Adopt an “I’ll show them!” attitude and devote more attention to what you want to see happen. When you own your goals in a big way, when you aren’t whispering them into the wind, you may be more likely to take big steps in accordance with them.
Set up a reward.
Go ahead, wave that “carrot”! Think about how you could reward yourself, either at intervals or upon completion. A reward could be as simple as getting up and getting a cup of coffee after you complete some paperwork, or buying a new pair of jeans upon achieving a weight-loss goal. Remind yourself that the reward is something you know you’d really enjoy, even more so having earned it.
Do what you can to set the stage for success. For example, if you’re seeking to work on your taxes, gather all that you might need prior to beginning the project rather than approaching it piecemeal, which may only serve to frustrate you. If you’re trying to make it to an early workout class, lay out your workout clothes the night before and have your bottle of water ready to go in the refrigerator. You want to be able to get up and go rather than face obstacles like not being able to find your shirt in the dark. Another example might be thinking about beginning therapy. Find a therapist whose schedule can accommodate you, whose office isn’t too far from home or work, or who accepts your insurance so you don’t find the cost prohibitive.
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Know your “why.”
Give some thought to what you will gain as result of taking the action you’re considering. Your “why” needs to be for you and not someone else. Having clarity around it may enable you to break through the inertia that held you back. Simon Sinek, in his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, describes the “why” as the higher cause, the vision you have. The mechanics of what you are setting out to do, the “what” and the “how,” are lifted to a new level of meaning when you know your “why,” thereby inspiring you to take action with a greater sense of purpose.
Don’t assume you’ll suddenly become motivated. Utilize one or more of these strategies to begin moving forward. Sometimes all you need is to take the first step or two to begin building the momentum you want to see.
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