Three Tricks to Stay Motivated
One of the most common questions psychologists get is, “How do you become more motivated to do something?” This “something” can be anything from studying to physical training. Sometimes the question comes from managers who want to motivate their employees.
Get more motivated
Regardless of who asks, they almost always expect some magic response, an insight from psychology that they just didn’t know and that will now change everything in an instant.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. You can’t just buy essays online like students do to solve the problem.
But, there are a few things that can make it a little easier for you to get started.
1. Identify what you want to do using SMART goals
One problem that I often see is that people do not really know what it is that they want to increase their motivation about.
“Exercising more” is surprisingly one of the more concrete goals one can hear.
You can solve the problem of vague goals by creating so-called SMART goals.
For those of you who have not read Psychology A or Business Economics A (or any of the 100’s courses that take up SMART), SMART stands for:
- Specific — the goal should be clear
- Measurable — your goal should be quantifiable
- Accepted — by the one who will achieve it
- Realistic — it is possible to perform it within a particular period
- Time-specific — decide when the goal is to be achieved
Okay, now it was a super basic start, but you will never stop being surprised at how few people work towards goals that are fairly SMART.
Students want to “get better at studying,” and entrepreneurs want “more committed employees.” But, motivation problems usually start because of vaguely specified goals.
Test yourself: If you recognize yourself in the phrase “no motivation” you should start by getting precise about what you want to be more motivated to do.
Spend a few minutes on the SMART acronym and see if you can land in something specific.
2. Zegarnik effects: mental cliff hangers
Have you ever started a task, not been able to finish it, and continued to think about it during the rest of the day?
Do you also feel an intrinsic satisfaction as soon as you have accomplished a task and can, with good conscience, put it aside? Then you have been affected by the Zegarnik effect.
The name comes from a Russian psychologist who in the 1920s noted how skilled waiters remembered orders, but they then forgot them immediately as soon as the dishes were served.
In a nutshell, the Zegarnik effect means that once we start doing something, the task of being mentally present will only occur until it is completed.
Many suffer something similar to the Zegarnik effect when they sit down and write. People just can’t leave the keys without finishing the text. As you can see, the effect is a brilliant tool to increase your motivation.
Test yourself: The Zegarnik effect is not really a motivational boost. The only thing that teaches us is that the best way to finish something is simply to start doing it.
Take a look at your answer from the previous tip. What would be the least you can do to “get started?” Just set off and, hopefully, the Zegarnik effect will keep you working towards the goal until you feel ready.
3. Simplify the task instead of trying to boost your motivation
Let us tell you about Jerry. Five years ago, Jerry was really eager to learn how to edit photos in Photoshop. Almost daily, he encountered occasions when he saw how he could use such skills.
Full of motivation, Jerry decided to get started. After about three hours he had finally managed to get a pirated version of the program, found the right activation codes, and installed it. Despite this route, Jerry was still motivated.
But, after spending another hour with the program, it no longer looked as bright. The learning curve for the program was simply too high, so he shut down the computer and hasn’t looked at Photoshop ever since.
We would argue that Jerry’s story is not about the lack of motivation. It is rather about what happens when tasks you take care of do not match your ability.
BJ Fogg, a researcher at Stanford University, has popularized this with his behavior model. The model shows that it is always more effective to reduce the difficulty of a task than to try to increase the individual’s motivation.
In other words, we think completely wrong when we say that we need to be more motivated. If you are to believe Fogg, then it is more about lowering the difficulty level.
Test yourself: Let’s say you can’t be more motivated to do what you want to do (see an answer to paragraph 1). Instead, try lowering the difficulty level of the task.
Is it about you not being able to start exercising? Limit the time you can spend at the gym to 15 minutes. Can’t make yourself study another language?
Try learning five words a day instead of 50.
These are just some of the tips that can help you. There are many approaches you can take, and the choice depends on many variables.
Try to find something that fits your task and mindset.