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The Ultimate Guide to Personal Motivation

Photo by Edwin Stemp

This is going to be the last blog post I ever write. That’s it. After this one you won’t be reading any more articles by me online. In fact, the only reason I’m writing this is because I promised Tina I would and I don’t want to let her down.

If I promise someone something I try to follow through, so even though I’ve decided to knock blogging on the head and give up writing for good I wanted to finish with this one post for Think Simply Now first.

Hence the ultimate guide to personal motivation. I like the sound of ultimate because it means final and implies it’s the only guide you’ll ever need. This should be the motivational guide to end all guides because that’s what lazy people need. Reading’s brilliant for entertainment or education yet it’s also a great escape and procrastination device but if you’re reading about personal motivation there’s something you want to achieve. You’re ready to stop procrastinating, spinning your wheels and being lazy because there’s something you want to get done.

What do you want to do or what should you be doing? Is it a long term task like writing your memoirs or something quick but unpleasant like booking a dental appointment or going to it? Why can’t you get motivated? Are you reluctant to vacuum and mop the floor because you know within six hours of completing the job a mob of hungry children will have sprinkled it evenly with bread and cookie crumbs then smeared mud and honey on top? Or is there something deeper holding you back like fear, lack of confidence or perfectionism?

It’s worth working out the answers to these questions for your own interest but in the end personal motivation still comes down to the old problem of getting started on something. I’m a lazy at heart yet I manage to achieve more than many other people do despite that. For example, I wrote over 130 articles for my blog over the last 15 months. I hope some of my tips will help kick start you into action.

Some people seem to have internal motivation which gets them moving and keeps them going when other people falter and fail to cross the start line. But you’re probably not like that or you wouldn’t need the ultimate guide to personal motivation would you?

Maybe you’re more like me. I respond well to deadlines, and although I sometimes start things well before they need to be completed, I never finish them until the last minute. I need a reason to do something. For example, if I need to lose weight it won’t happen unless I know that in four months I’ll be at a family reunion with aunties, uncles and cousins who haven’t seen me for five years.

You might tend to laziness and need a deadline, a carrot or a whip to get you in action but don’t despair, that doesn’t mean you’ll do any worse than someone with an internal drive to rival Bill Gates and his products. You can achieve just as much using external motivators to keep you on track.

If you’re a procrastinator and like to leave things until the last minute, you’ll just have to use a few tricks to get you going. Here are some that work for me:

1. Tell the world

Tell the world what you’re going to do. Announce it on Twitter, tell a friend, tell your boss, promise your cat. That should make you follow through.

2. Set a timer

How long does it take to clean the fridge, weed the front lawn or write a blog post if you put your mind to it? 20 minutes? An hour? Pick a reasonable time, set your alarm clock and go at it hammer and tongue until the bell rings.

3. Reward yourself

Of course everyone deserves to be rewarded for their hard work and no one should be a one-dimensional working machine. Promise yourself a small treat when the job’s done: a cup of tea, a quick call with a friend, a lie on the sofa with your eyes closed, or a walk.

4. Break big jobs down into small manageable chunks

All the above work best for short tasks. No lazy person could stay motivated to write an entire book but if you can work out a way to write 1000 words a day four days a week for a year then the book will have written itself.

5. Hang around with other motivated people.

Some people sap your energy, deplete your confidence, wear you down and depress you. Take note when it happens and avoid them or avoid talking about your pet project with them so they can’t deflate you.

6. Create an imaginary and urgent deadline.

Reporters and journalists thrive on deadlines. My friend Molly worked for Voice of America and she had to get out a report every hour on the hour. If she didn’t she’d be out of a job. Yes, it was stressful, especially at first but her writing got faster and better and she started to enjoy the challenge in the end.

Some of us aren’t lucky enough to be ruled by the iron fist of a stressed out newspaper editor, probably because we chose to work from home to get away from that type of office-based, fear-ruled work. But now we’re experiencing the joys of being our own boss and working for ourselves a deadline can still help. If there aren’t any, just make them up.

Pretend this is your last chance to make your business succeed and if it doesn’t happen at the end of a year you’ll have to go back to the office job you hated. Pretend that this one job is the last thing you’ll ever do, the thing that will leave a lasting impression, your final word. That’s what I did.

Imagining this was the last article I ever wrote created a sense of urgency and helped me get it down faster and without succumbing to the ever-increasing distractions around me.

No, it’s definitely not my last one. I’m on a roll now. Only 9.10 am and I’ve already got something down on paper. I’m going to have a ten-minute stretch now and then I’ll get back to it.

This time I’ll up the ante by promising myself I’m never eating again until the next job is done. I know it’s sad really but if you’re lazy like me you have to take desperate measures.

* How do you get yourself motivated when putting-it-off is an easier option? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below. See you there!

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About the author

Annabel Candy writes about self improvement and small business Internet marketing at her blog Get In the Hot Spot. She helps people get the life they want and win business online. For free updates subscribe to her RSS feed.

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26 thoughts on The Ultimate Guide to Personal Motivation

  1. This was a tremendous article. Procrastinators live in my world (sometimes along with me); thanks for writing it – and I’m glad you’ll be writing more after all.


  2. Hi Laura, thanks for commenting, great to meet you here. Trust me, I have my own issues with procrastination, that’s why I have to come up with all these tips to deal with it. They do work though! Right back to work now:)

  3. Annabel

    The opening about the last post was scary. Fortunately, I scrolled down to the end to see if you were going to say that it was not true.

    Motivation can be tough. Sometimes we lose that umph or that lack of responsibility to ourselves to get something done. So many times what seems to be overwhelming generally gets done faster than we think and that feeling of relief and also a bit of stupidity (for putting it off) when we actually get it down in and of itself a motivator.

    I write things down as a “to do” list and cross them off in red pen. The power of the red pen is my motivator.

    Great post and no more scaring that you are done blogging.


  4. Great Article,
    I am sad to hear it is your last, but you have gone out well :)

    To answer you question about how I avoid procrastination it is through a combination of things.

    Number 1.
    I am very focused on goals.
    I have written down goals in all aspects in my life; career, finance, family and health.
    Both long term and short term.

    I have also written down my top 100 life goals which really helps you focus and every morning I list 10 goals and start working towards them.

    This focus on my goals and dreams really help me stay motivated because it reminds me of why I am working hard.

    I plan each day.
    Each day I plan what I have to do before the day is at an end.
    When I am finished with everything on my list, the day is over and I can relax.

    This is extremely motivating because I know the earlier I start, the harder I work, the more free time I get with my family.

    I always prioritize my list so that I can work on my most important tasks first.

    The 15 minute method.

    This is a technique I recently learned, compliments my Mr. Steve Pavlina, By breaking everything down into 15 minute chunks.

    You never promise to do more than work 15 minutes on a task. But once you start you do it without distraction and work hard for those 15 minutes.
    Once the 15 minutes are up you can choose to take a break or choose to continue, the choice is up to you.

    I haven’t tried it for myself yet but I plan to on days when I feel like working on a task for hours isn’t appealing, instead I’ll promise to work 15 minutes and see how it goes.

    Thanks for the article and good luck in the future.

  5. What a great article, your enthusiasm just shines through.
    I thought that procrastination had to do with “buying time”, so to speak and in reality a lot of opportunities can be missed with this feature in your personality. Working with affirmations works for me personally.
    Not just the obvious happy affirmations but a phrase that will massage and weaken the underlying fear. “I always take advantage of opportunities that change brings”. is a affirmation to consider using for the stubborn part of your being.
    Washing it down with a couple of your favorite bon’ bons’ doesnt hurt.
    Can almost hear Julie Andrews singing in the back ground….spoon full of sugar makes……

  6. What a way to put things. Loved it. I’m happy you will continue to write, but your point came across beautifully (now to read it again)

  7. Reducing the time available to do something can be a good way to get it done faster and cut procrastination indeed.

    Something I find is actually figuring out a reason to do something, actually writing down why it is worth doing it. Once I know why I should do it then I no longer have any interference resulting from hazy thinking.

    Then you can beat out procrastination by believing things like ‘things get done when you start’ or ‘there is no faster way to the future than now’.

  8. Excellent post, Annabel! It was EXACTLY what I needed to read today so thank you so much!

  9. Great article with some very useful tips. I would just add one more tip: “Set SMART goals”.

  10. Great article. I have myself found it very rewarding when I am intimidated by a task, I try to break it into smaller parts and it becomes doable. Thank you for sharing.

  11. I loved the setup on this Annabel! Seriously had me going for a second there… “what?! last post?” But it all came together in the end. In fact, I think I’m going to go write me one of those right now. ;)

  12. Nice post !
    I am not sure that it will be your last one but I am waiting for your book ;)
    Keep us informed on the progress

  13. That was a such an unsual way to begin an article. Great set-up ,like Nathalie says. How do I get motivated? I remember why I want to do this activity, reach this goal , the intention matters :-)

  14. Thanks for all the lovely comments and handy hints! It’s great to connect with you all here and see how we all deal with this problem. It’s such a common one!

    Hi Suzanne – Lol, sometimes being a drama queen helps:) But the red pen trick sounds like a good tip too. Thanks!

    Hi Daniel, more great tips. I find 40 minute spurts work well for me. I can easily concentrate for that amount of task and as you say, if you get into something completely by committing to give it 100% attention for a short period of time often you naturally want to carry on with it.

    Hi Rena, yes, the spoonful of sugar reward is good. I forget about affirmations. I start off well with them but then they start to work and I let them slip. Thanks for the reminder:)

    Hi Wiertz, great, now I’ve committed to a book I can’t let you down:)

  15. I think rewarding yourself is very important. In fact I prefer to reward myself when something does not go as I planned, or wasn’t as successful as I had hoped.

    Really keeps me going. Cheers!

    PS. Annabel just seems to be everywhere these days…

  16. Interesting article but not one I agree with at all.

    There may be some useful information in the post, (And sadly your last?!) however there’s a deeper solution in my humble opinion.

    When you’re inspired you don’t require external motivation. (i.e. alarm clocks, imaginary deadlines etc)

    When you’re inspired you stay up late and get up early because you want to. No one has to tell you to get up, be on time and get after it.

    We all have higher values we operate from and we don’t have to be begged or find motivation to do them. We just do them, because well, they are important to us. (Hence “higher values” we value them and what they mean to us)… See More

    If you require external motivation then perhaps you may want to revisit just why exactly you’re doing what you’re doing and if it serves your higher values.

    Just my 2 cents worth :-)

  17. Unknow Crawling Object

    Interesting point of view…

    If i take a closer look at these article, i can’t find the true motivational reasons in your examples. I agree, your tricks will work and they even made me smile while reading them. They will work temporarily , maybe once or twice, because the true motivation is missing. You’re right these are tricks.

    For example: If you want to break big jobs in smaller chuncks, or create a deadline for the 8th time you need a reason, a motivation again.

    In my opinion true motivation can only be found in others. Everybody needs a kind of spark to get started anyway. In some cases it causes an explosion, others cause a eternal flame.

    What motivates me to write this comment?
    Do i know you,the person who reeds this? > No
    Do i like you? > Dunno…i dont know you
    Will you reward me for this comment? > Not with money..thats for sure. Maybe you will with a follow up.

    I could go on for hours with thinking of reasons that don’t motivate me. Only one motivating reason i’m pretty sure of, is that 1 person, maybe more, will start thinking about the few sentences i wrote down here. And perhaps even will contribute to improve that persons 1 minute of his live. Knowing this makes me feel good and motivates me. In other words: I believe that writing this comment is usefull, it has a meaning.

    Even washing dishes and cleaning up the house or getting up for work are meaningful if motivated by the right people.

    If have to be convinsed that what i do is meaningful and useful to others. Otherwise it’s a waste of my precious time here and now.
    And that brings me to my next statement: One can’t be motivated by himslef, only by others.

    What do you think?

  18. Hi Joshua, I like the idea of rewarding yourself just for trying – even a failure is moving forward, thanks for the idea. Yes, I am all over the place this week!

    Hi Tony, thanks for commenting. Of course it’s brilliant when inspiration strikes at the right time and you can get to it. But I have three kids, a business and a busy house to run. Sometimes I can’t write when I most want to or I need to work even when motivation is low and that’s when these tricks come in handy:)

  19. I suffer from motivational issues sometimes. My big issue is that I get distracted. I don’t want to do things that need to get done because there are other things that should be done that are more fun. I know I have a problem. Now I need to fix it.

  20. Hi James, oh yes, I know that feeling too:) I wrote about it on my blog – How to eliminate distractions in 9 words and the words are: Identify distractions. Remove them. Remember your long term goals. Keep going back to it and bon courage:)

  21. those are useful tips Tina
    especially hanging around with positive people
    certainly we can become more motivated by absorbing their enegry
    keep it up :)

  22. For a final post, that was pretty fantastic! I’ve been thinking about writing a book, so I’ll definitely start to use some of these tips. Thanks a lot!

  23. Procrastination must be the easiest state to be in. Deadlines are important because it is like a mini goal that you have set for yourself. And if it is a tough deadline your as equally as proud. I for one had to almost isolate myself for awhile pertaining to avoiding old negative friends. Now I am focusing on building a daily routine that includes exercise, work, and family.

  24. Thank you for sharing! I really enjoyed reading the post.

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