There are any number of posts, books and videos that will talk to you about motivation and offer all sorts of advice. Some of that advice can be useful, and some not so much, but what I want to talk to you about today are five motivational techniques that can be highly effective, but rarely get talked about.
Here are the 5 creative ways to maintain your motivation:
1. Understanding your core values
If you don’t understand what your personal core values are, then you don’t understand yourself. Values will drive your actions, define you as a person, and can be incredibly motivational. If used correctly that is.
Imagine you have a core value of freedom. To you, that means reaching the position of earning enough money so that you can become location independent. To achieve that requires some hard work and it may mean you have to get up a couple of hours earlier in the morning before going to your current job.
One morning your alarm goes off at 5.30am in the middle of January. It’s bitterly cold and your heating has quit on you. You immediately focus on what you don’t want to do, which is to leave your nice cosy, warm bed to start work.
And therein lies the problem. You are focusing on what you don’t want. What if you brought that core value of freedom to your mind? What if you reminded yourself of it’s importance and how badly you want to be working from Bali, Italy or Thailand?
Suddenly you are exponentially more likely to get yourself out of bed and do the work because the importance is now front and center in your brain giving you a burst of well needed motivation.
You may be thinking, ‘well visualization is hardly unusual Tim’ and you would be right…up to a point.
Most people who employ visualization get it all wrong. They think of what they want and then zoom in on it with a laser like focus. Unfortunately, this has two huge drawbacks.
Firstly, for some people it can send the message to the brain that the goal has already been hit. Sadly, this can lead to a very subtle and often imperceptible reduction in motivation.
Secondly, people have a tendency not to visualize the potential (and inevitable) problems they are likely to encounter. If you are doing something really worthwhile, then it’s probably not going to be easy – life doesn’t work like that. Ask Joel if he got this site to be where it is now without any stumbling blocks, making any mistakes or working hard?
If you visualize yourself breezing through to your goal easily, then when you do encounter difficulties your motivation will drop. Definitely employ visualization because it’s scientifically proven to help and can be very powerful, but when you’re doing so, anticipate the potential problems too. See yourself dealing with them efficiently and effectively to make that far more likely.
“I visualize things in my mind before I have to do them. It’s like having a mental workshop.” – Jack Youngblood
3. Keep your blood sugar levels up
Your brain needs two things to create energy: oxygen and glucose. Unfortunately glucose depletes through the day and you start to become less effective as that happens. Your willpower dips massively, as does your ability to motivate yourself to do the work rather than taking the easy and more appealing option of chilling out in front of the TV.
You can boost your energy levels by drinking a high energy, high sugar drink or even eating some candy, but this is a last resort tactic and not something I would recommend.
You will indeed get a boost of energy as the sugar is turned into glucose quickly, but you will then get a crash between an hour and 90 minutes later causing a dip in motivation and a craving for more sugar to maintain the ‘high’.
So apart from the long-term negative health benefits of adopting this approach, it’s also not really effective as a long-term strategy for maintaining motivation.
The best way to maintain blood sugar levels it to adopt a low glycemic index diet. By doing this your body metabolizes the food into glucose at a much slower rate delivering it to your brain consistently, rather than in spurts. This way you avoid those surges of energy followed by huge crashes and the desire to just quit or binge eat.
4. Take regular breaks
On average your brain can stay engaged on one task for between 90 and 120 minutes before it starts to lose focus and thus motivation. When people push past this they start to get into the law of diminishing returns and their performance suffers – often without them even realizing.
Every 90 minutes or so incorporate a 10 to 15 minute break. Taking a walk or doing some light exercise is cool, as is doing a mini-meditation or even having a power nap. As long as whatever it is, takes you away from your task, you are going to return fresher, more motivated, and perform to a higher standard.
5. Get enough sleep
You may think that working into the small hours is a great idea. Especially if you’re not an early riser and have a big goal or plan you are working on.
However, if that means you are only getting 5 or 6 hours sleep then it’s highly probable that over time you will see a drop off in your performance with the resulting dip in motivation.
A lot of people think they can exist on such little sleep, but very few can for anything other than short periods. Your brain needs time to reenergize itself. There is a growing amount of research that too little sleep can have long-term implications for cognitive ability and to stay motivated and on task. So get enough sleep.
“Sleep is the best meditation.” – Dalai Lama