How to Skyrocket Your Self-Motivation and Get Things Done!

Whenever I tell people I work from home, this is the common reaction, “I could never do that because I would spend all my time sleeping or watching T.V.”

It’s pretty amusing to hear a statement like this because I’m not a very motivated person.  I don’t live my life like an over-caffeinated Tony Robbins clone.  Like a lot of people, I have those periods where I don’t want to do anything.  Yet, I always find enough motivation to work on my goals and get a lot accomplished each day.

I’d say the trick to self-motivation is a combination of different factors.  There isn’t a magical pill that makes you want to get things done.  Instead it comes from understanding what makes you motivated and using this information to push you towards success.

Today, I’d like to talk about different techniques for self-motivation.  These are all tricks I personally use to get a lot of things done in my life.  I’m not an expert in this area, but deep inside I’m a lazy person.  So I guess they do work because I’ve managed to Forrest Gump my way to success.  With that said, let’s talk about how to skyrocket your self-motivation

What Do You Want to Accomplish?

The first step to motivation is to identify and set specific goals.  Most people aren’t self-motivated because they don’t have a clear sense of what they want.  They’ll say meaningless words like “I want to lose weight” or “I want lots of money,” but won’t take the time to establish a specific outcome.   You can’t be motivated until you know exactly what you’re trying to achieve.

Self motivation starts when you break down a general idea into individual activities that can be tracked and adjusted.   So instead of saying something like “I want to become healthier,” you’d break down the concept of health into smaller chunks that can be measured:

  • Eating better
  • Getting more exercise
  • Reducing stress
  • Sleeping better

“Health” is a meaningless word.  Yes, it’s important to have a major goal.  One of mine is to become “financially free,” but I don’t use this phrase because there isn’t a clear parameter for what this means.  Instead it’s important to take a major goal and break it down into small chunks.  Which brings us to…

Establishing a Specific Goal

Like I said before, most people aren’t self-motivated because they don’t know where to start.  For instance, you’d probably fail with a goal of “I want to get into shape” because you don’t have a clear outcome for what this means.  You’re not motivated because there’s no way to know if you’re successful or not.

On the other hand, you can create motivation by setting a goal like “I want to finish the local half-marathon race in September.” This works because it lists an outcome that will be completed on an exact date.  You’re not focusing on an arbitrary goal of getting into shape.  Instead you’re establishing an outcome that has a clear yes or no answer.   Either you complete it or you don’t.

Trust me it’s easy to be self-motivated when you know exactly what you want.

Let’s give an example of how I use this technique in my personal life… In a recent article I discussed my “Having, Being, Doing” list.  Here I listed everything I want to accomplish in the next six months.  One of my goals is to “create the first information product for the Steve Scott Site.” Notice how I didn’t say something like “make more money with this blog.”  Instead I gave an actionable item that either gets done or it doesn’t.

To take it one step further, I’d create a goal like, “Create my first information product by March 1st, 2011.”  So if you came back here in 4 ½ months, you’ll see I either completed this goal or I didn’t.  This is all the self-motivation I need because I just gave you my word.  I don’t want to run the risk of looking foolish by not following up on my promises.

Once you have established a clear outcome, it’s time to break down the goal into manageable steps. The trick is to incorporate them into your daily activities.  With this method, you’re not worrying about a massive project that happens with long-term goals.  Instead you’re taking tiny baby steps towards success.

It’s important to identify what’s a daily activity and what’s a unique, one time action.  We break it down this way because motivation works differently with short and long-term goals.  So let’s cover how to be motivated on a daily basis…

Self-Motivation on a Daily Basis

As you’ve probably learned, it’s hard to be motivated every single day.  Sometimes you’ll be tired.  Other times you’ll doubt yourself.  The problem with motivation is it’s a slippery slope.  If you decide to skip one day, it’s all too easy to make excuses for why you can miss another.  Then suddenly you find yourself completely giving up on a goal.

The good news is there are a few ways you can find motivation – Even when you’re not in the mood to do something.  To help you out, here are three different tricks you can use to give that little push when you need it…

Daily Motivation Trick #1: Shift Your Identity– A common problem people experience with a goal is a feeling of doubt.    Often we don’t feel like a particular activity is part of who we are.   For instance, it’s easy for a newbie marathoner to give up simply because he or she doesn’t feel like a runner.

A trick with any new goal is to convince yourself that you already have success with a skill.  Even if you’re just starting a new blog, tell yourself that you’re already a successful blogger.  Or if you’re trying to become the top salesman at your business, adopt the mindset that you’re already the best in the business.

I know this seems like a psychological mumbo-jumbo, but you’d be surprised at how motivated you can become when you have a confident attitude.

Daily Motivation Trick #2- Schedule the Activity- A daily goal should be as (or more) important than the things you do on a daily basis – Eating, showering, and brushing your teeth.   The best way to do this is to schedule a specific time each day for completing a daily activity.  If you can help it, try to do this first thing in the morning before starting your day.  That way you’ll complete the most important activity before you’ve done anything else.

Daily Motivation Trick #3: Make it Impossible to Fail- This technique is not for the faint of heart.  What you do is create an agreement with someone known as an “accountability partner.”  Basically you make this person responsible for making sure you follow-through with a daily activity.

For instance, let’s say you want to develop a writing habit.  You would write out a check to your accountability partner for $100.  If this person doesn’t receive text or phone call from you each day, then he or she will be allowed to cash this check.

The trick to this technique is to make the price of failure more uncomfortable than doing the daily activity.  Find something that really makes you not want to fail.  An example I once heard was a Jewish guy who agreed to write out a check to the Ku Klux Klan whenever he didn’t complete a regular task.  I guarantee he didn’t miss a day with that kind of incentive!

Self-Motivation for an Ongoing Project

It’s not hard to be motivated for a long-term project full of steps.  In fact, I think this is a lot easier to do than a daily activity.  The first thing is to brainstorm/mind-map all the steps you need to take to complete a goal.  This is a process where you ask what needs to be done after one task is completed.  As an example, here is what my list would look like for creating an information product:

  • Write the eBook (Part of my daily activities)
  • Create the sales page
  • Outsource eCover and salespage graphics
  • Create affiliate marketing tools
  • Contact Clickbank to set up credit card processing
  • Test every part of the sales process

Next, put all these activities on a timeline.  You don’t have to go crazy here – Just make sure there’s a rough estimate of how long it takes to complete each step.   This helps track your progress along the way.   There will be times when it takes longer than planned to complete a step.  The trick is to adjust your schedule and keep up the momentum.

The final step is to create a weekly to-do list.  Here you’ll schedule specific blocks of time, dedicated to completing a long-term goal.  Make this list a sacred part of your week.  Just like other things in your life, there should be no excuse for why you’re not completing these items.

What I recommend doing is using “time blocks” to complete long-term projects.  For instance, I dedicate 45 minutes for each task on my to-do list. After time is up, I simply cross off a single task.  This works well because it creates a feeling that I’m making progress on a major goal.

Additional Self-Motivation Techniques

In addition to tackling short and long-term goals, there are a number of ways you can increase self-motivation.  This section will cover a few different techniques/resources I’ve encountered on this subject…

Death as the Ultimate Self-Motivator

One of the books my dad read after his bypass surgery has the straight forward title of Change or Die.  The premise is simple, how do people go about changing their lives when faced with a simple choice – Either change your lifestyle or face a very negative consequence…like death.

In Change or Die, Alan Deutschman talks about how we all have the ability to change our behavior.  The problem is most people don’t do it, even when the action is simple as taking a pill every day.  The key to success is to follow a simple three step process—Relate, Repeat, and Reframe:

  • Relate– Gain new hope that your life can change.  You do this by finding people who have similar background and experiences.  They provide a support system because they know what you’re going through…kind of like a sponsor with Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • Repeat– The daily practice of this new skill or lifestyle.  For example, eating a specific diet on a regimented basis, not allowing for slack days.
  • Reframe– A complete shift to a new mindset.  You become a new you who simply doesn’t do the behaviors that were hurting your life.  One of the tricks to this mental change is to surrounding yourself with examples of how your life has changed.

I mention the Change or Die book for one simple reason…

When given enough a strong incentive, it’s easy to be motivated to make a change.  I bet if someone literally put a gun to your head and said to change you’d find a way to do it!

When my father had his bypass surgery he embraced the principles of Change or Die.  He even went as far as taking a weekly course on The Ornish Diet which is a program designed to reverse the effects of heart disease.  I know this diet hasn’t been easy on him, but he’s now faced with a simple choice: Either he changes his lifestyle or he dies.

Self-Motivation through Confidence

Another key to self-motivation is a little bit of confidence.  I like the quote from Matthew McChonaughey’s character in the girly movie “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.”  In a scene when he’s accused of being too cocky his response is simple: “No, not cocky – Confident.”

This quote is a great mantra for self-motivation.  Have confidence in your ability to complete a goal – Even when people are telling you it can’t be done.  Nobody is going to knock on your door every day and say “you can do it.”  Your motivation has to come from within.  Be a little overconfident (or even cocky) about your chances for success.

It sounds crazy, but I have the mindset that I can achieve every goal I set.  Sure they’ll be obstacles.  But these roadblocks are designed to make me a better person.  For instance, I started this blog back in January with the belief that it will succeed.  I haven’t achieved this goal yet, but I know it’s around the corner because I’m nailing all of my milestones.

How do you develop this kind of confidence?  I believe it comes from drawing on previous achievements.  We’ve all had success in some area of our lives.  All you have to do is set up a constant reminder of what you’ve accomplished.  You can even go as far as reciting your previous successes on a daily basis.  This should give you enough motivation and confidence to push forward when the going gets tough.

Using Music to Find Self-Motivation

We all love music.  Some songs make us feel happy, while others make us sad.  The funny thing is you can use music to create a “self-motivated mindset.”   Think of all the people who bring an iPods to the gym.  Most of the time, they’re listening to something high-tempo because it gives them a psychological boost necessary for working out.

Music is great for motivation because we tie specific emotions and feelings to certain songs.  What you can do is create a playlist of songs that make you want to tackle the world.  Then whenever you’re feeling a bit lackluster, play this list and you’ll get a boost of energy.

For example, in my post about how to improve your writing I mentioned that I listen to one of fifteen different albums when working.  The cool thing is this music instantly puts me in the mood for writing – Even when I’m not in the mood.

I can’t really tell you what type of music to play.  We all have our own personal preferences.  The trick is to test out your favorites and see which ones provide the best kind of motivation.

Embracing the Self-Motivated Lifestyle

A core theme of this site is the idea of “Lifestyle Design” which I learned from The 4-Hour Work Week.  Initially I was interested in this concept because I wanted to automate my business, travel the world, and have more fun.  But when you really think about lifestyle design, I think it’s more about achieving mastery over how you spend your time.

We’re all given the same hours a day.  It’s how you choose to spend this time that makes the difference in your life.  In this post, I gave many techniques for improving your self-motivation.  These shouldn’t be isolated from the rest of your life.  They should be part of an entire lifestyle – In which you control every aspect.

You should be motivated to work…motivated to spend time with your family…motivated to exercise…and motivated to do what you want to do in life.

There will be times when you’re not up to working on a goal.  The trick is to make everything part of your lifestyle, so it becomes unthinkable to miss a day or slack off.

Final Thoughts on Self-Motivation

Motivation comes from within.  While I can sit here and write 2,500+ words about how to be motivated, the harsh reality is you are solely responsible for taking action.  I’ve done my best to list every technique I know for getting excited about tackling a goal.  The rest is up to you.  Don’t just read this post – Take action and become motivated to get what you want out of life.

Take Action. Get Results.

31 thoughts on “How to Skyrocket Your Self-Motivation and Get Things Done!”

  1. ROFL, I love the hire a witch, have to say I am gonna borrow(steal) that one for my blog, giggle.

    My favorite is music. When I need that extra vvvvaaaroooom throw on youtube and listen while working=SHAZAM!

    • Michele,

      Yup those outsource witches are powerful critters. Music can be a powerful motivator. It can really pump you up!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Michele!

  2. Steve, You gave us some golden nuggets in this post! As you said, most people aren’t self-motivated because they don’t have a clear sense of what they want. How true is that. Sadly, most people don’t know that they want- no wonder they don’t go anywhere fast. People need tools and guidance to enjoy extraordinary results – but before that – they need a crystal clear sense of direction. I carry my vision card in my wallet, with my 3-month, 12-month and 5-year goals. I read it every week and in this way I make sure that what I do on a daily basis aligns with my long term goals. Thanks for your post. Alex Papa

    • Thanks Alex.

      Having something like a vision card is an awesome idea. Really a great way to go about solidifying your beliefs and giving something concrete to reaffirm your direction. A really good addition!

  3. Hi Steve:

    Everyday it is one blog post that has priority for me to read and today I had two of those, yours, because it is a daily ritual, and then I remembered Adam will come up with something special.

    Steve your blog post is extremely actionable. it figures out step by step how to follow your motivation to make it a habit and make it successful. I am thinking of printing it and leaving it on my board In my room that reminds me of the things that I have to do. So I may do some things that I want to do. I want to add three different things to my daily routine but can not do them because of what I am already doing. I always feel bad about it once I do not do it. Like many other things I want to make it my second nature. Your post brought a certain determination.

    It is a beautiful post.


    • Fran,
      Wow very nice post. You made me blush. Thanks for saying such such awesome comments. I am really glad you liked it and think that it is good and actionable information.

      I hope you really do get motivated to add those things to your routine and kick their butt!

  4. Hi Steve,

    Very excellent post on motivation. One of the best things I do to keep me motivated is focus on my long term goals. When I focus on the benefits that I will get when I do take action, this ignites the desire inside me and it helps keep me motivated. Thanks for sharing

    • It certainly is easy to ignore long term goals as a ” I will get to it when I have to” philosophy. When people do that it is way to end up rushing to complete a long term project when it approaches a hard deadline.

      Focusing on it early, like you say, is a great way to avoid this emergency last minute efforts.

  5. That’s a massive one Steve! I can see how much effort would have gone into it, and therefore, I hate to say that I have something to disagree here.
    I am of the opinion that self-motivation is an inner job. When external factors like planning, organization, fearfulness, stimulation of body and mind through means and methods, etc. come into play, it becomes motivation – an external factor.
    You cannot self-motivate someone, not even yourself. Self-motivation just happens, when you find your passion. It is something that springs forth from within, and from a strong sense of purpose, desire, interest and enthusiasm. It is what helps you move forward even when all external factors may be pulling you back.
    What do you think about that?

    • Mark, I see what you saying…and you may be right…to a point

      Ultimately “True” self-motivation can only come from with-in. to a certain extent you have it or you don’t. People can get “motivated” from external factors also, IMO

      IF you need money to get food to eat, you are motivated to go out and work. IT may not drive a person to succeed at the same LEVEL as self-motivation, but it can help to get the job done, on those days when motivation is not present.

  6. Hi Steve, Thank you so much for this post which I will definitely print and hang up on the wall! I’m actually in the process of writing a blog about how overwhelming it can all get especially to a relative newbie like me! I find it really difficult sometimes getting myself focussed and you know what…you’re absolutely right…crystal clear planning is what I need at this point. I also love the getting motivated by music. That works for me as a mood lifter/calmer depending on the tune and what I want to play. So next step is identifying clear goals and also time lines for each project. Brain storming and mind maps then goals, lists and timetables all to the tune of Led Zeppelin…that should get me moving!

    • Glad you liked the post and thanks for the great comments.

      It is truly hard to top the power of planning and motivation. In fact Led Zeppelin is a great choice. I always find myself getting very motivated by the opening strains of a song like the Immigrant song and Kashmir Just the little intro is sure to get my blood pumping…. always a good motivator. Although I would never “write” to it…too distracting

      Anyway thanks for stopping by and commenting. I hope to see you here again soon!

  7. Hi Steve,

    I love this post. I’m fascinated by what makes people do what they do or not do as the case may be.

    The trigger is different for everyone. I think you have to be clear about what you really want and why you actually want it.

    For me, I always find it much easier to get through the tough times when I know why I’m doing something. So, I have a lot of pictures of the people that matter to me near my computer.

    I could have pictures of a great house and a cool car but they don’t motivate me anywhere near as much.

    Oh, and I love the thought of having an accountability partner. I think that would definitely work.

    Great post.

    • You are right. Triggers are certainly a case by case basis. What works for one will not work for others. Experimenting and finding what works for you is excellent.

      It says something really good about you that the things that act as inspiration for you are not material things but people that you care about. That is really good, and touching.

      Glad you liked the idea of accountability partners. That is definitely one of those things that would give an excellent external motivation for some people, but may be completely useless for another.

      The important thing is that for those it works for, it will work very well.

  8. Wow Steve

    There is so much in this post I am bookmarking for reference. It is a quality article and covers so much. I am highly motivated about the things I enjoy doing on my blog.

    Visiting other blogs, commenting on other blogs, writing articles, tweeting but I do tend to procrastinate when it comes to the hard things like all things techie! Have sorted that now I think as found some new techie friends who have offered to help me in that area.

    So many good points I can’t pick just one so will sign off and reread then get going with my daily tasks. Thanks Steve.

    Patricia Perth Australia

    • Glad you liked it Patricia.

      And glad you are getting some great help with the techie stuff. I am sort of in the -in between- on a lot of that myself. I know more than enough to get by on any aspect whatsoever, but I still am not fully a master of any techie business yet. With all your expert advice, I will be coming to you for help soon!

      Have a wonderful day and thank for another lovely comment!

    • Mike,

      It may not be for everyone, I can see that some may be helped by the rigid formality of office “hours” but I love how well working at home has worked for me!

  9. Hey Steve

    could this list be anymore comprehensive….. I think not. its awesome!

    I use a vision board and music to get me going if I’m having a particularly sluggish day 🙂 Ive noticed that you write a lot of great stuff on goals. I can only suspect that you are very much a goal oriented person and have had a lot of success because of this?
    Great info

    • Nat

      Thanks, glad you liked it. 🙂

      Yes, it is easy to say I am definitely a goal oriented person. Having set and defined goals really can keep people on track. At least it always works well for me, personally. To answer your question I would also say that I do owe a lot of the success I have achieved to setting firm (but realistic) goals for myself

  10. Wow this is a very thorough post! I am a work from home fitness professional and I am often asked the same question about how do I not spend the day watching TV or goofing off. Admittedly, there is some of that, but I think when we want something badly enough we have intrinsic motivation to succeed and I don’t need tips or tactics to stay motivated. So, my number one issue with someone saying they want something badly enough but lack the motivation to work for it is that they could not possibly want their goal badly enough.

    However, I realize when one has a lofty goal tat takes a longer period of time such as losing 50 pounds or building an online business there can be times when we lose our way and need a little help. Thanks for the tips.

    • Susan,

      First of all thanks for dropping by and commenting. It is nice to hear from new people, I hope you stop in again.

      You are right, I can’t say I have never been distracted by TV or a household task when I could (or should) be working. But it is also nice and easy to get inspired at midnight and work until 3am, something that is unlikely to happen at ANY brick and mortar job.

      I think that motivation should come from within to succeed, but there are always -parts- of any task that are disagreeable. For me it is social bookmarking most of the online stuff. I know it needs to be done…but doing it is rote and boring.

      External motivation does work -to a point- but it is always a pale and cheap imitation of real and true motivation, which can only come from inside you.

      Something like music, IMO, doesn’t ‘create’ motivation, it just helps you to ‘remember’ the motivation you already have.

      Thanks for a great and perceptive comment, I hope to hear from you again soon.


  11. Hi Steve, what I really like about this post is you discuss why people don’t get things done. For me, it’s usually that something seems too hard, or I don’t know how to do it. With exercise, I think it’s such a long-term thing that you can always push it off to another day, unless you have a goal like you mentioned.

    One hidden cause of poor motivation is the fact that people deceive themselves. They say they want X, but do they really? I have a friend who says he wants kids, but hasn’t been on a date in years. Clearly this isn’t that important to him, at least for now.

    If I can’t get something done repeatedly, it’s probably because I don’t value it very much, or I haven’t figured out how to make it fun/doable.

    • Yup I think you nailed it. Until you at least take a few concrete steps in the right direction goals are just dreams really. The steps can be a simple as formally writing them down. Of even making very actionable specific steps, but those opening moves must be decided and/or action needs to be taken

  12. Thanks Scott. Though in general I consider myself a motivated person, you make some incredible points. One other thing is when I find myself unmotivated I have to step back and ask myself: is this something I really want? I’ve often found that I’ve embarked on a goal, worked hard and then lost the passion for it so my motivation suffers. I keep going because I think that I MUST accomplish it, even though deep down, my desire is not truly there anymore. How do you know when to keep perservering and accomplish the goal, or to put the goal to rest?

    • Sometimes it is best to let a goal go if it is something you do not really desire. If you still have a long way to go, but have a lot invested also, you may ask yourself if knowing what you know now if you would bother starting it.

      I am not much for quitting on goals. but sometimes you may make a goal which is something you really do not desire.

  13. Hi Steve,

    You have definitely hit the nail on the head with regards to motivation. Very often, there isn’t anyone around to motivate us, so motivation basically has to come from within 99.9% of the time.

    Also, a person has to set goals to accomplish tasks that they will at least enjoy doing, otherwise those goals will be extremely difficult to accomplish.

    Speaking from experience, making lists of what needs to be done, and crossing the items off one by one as they are accomplished, is also an excellent motivator.

    Thanks for the articles. They are always well worth the read.


  14. Howdy Steve,

    Its pretty cool how much we talk about motivation these days and I have to think that its because so many folks are doing things that don’t interest them.

    We seldom have to talk to kids about motivation as it’s rare they tackle anything they aren’t already interested in.

    I can see big spaces around the edge of my hole and I know it’s my “squareness” that’s keeping me from slipping right through!

    Thanks for this post, pal.


  15. A very concise and insightful post, Steve. One part which stood out for me was the need to motivate yourself everyday. I think its easy to not remind yourself of your motivations and get into bad habits which shift you off course and mean that you aren’t as motivated as you should be.

    I also noted the bit about health. I think food and exercise are very important when it comes to motivation as they determine how you feel which is obviously key!

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