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How to Make Self-Motivation Easier, Part I

Strategies and goals

Piece of cake

Changing habits, making good choices, or really pushing hard toward a goal can get very difficult when it comes time to act. Probably you’ve had experiences, like I have, where good intentions beforehand weren’t enough to force a good choice when the time came. Continuing to try despite not always succeeding is key in developing good habits, but it’s not the only way to be more successful with self-motivation. In fact, there are a lot of things we can do to make self-motivation easier. While you might already know some of these ways, especially if you’ve been reading this site, the reason for this article is to ask the question, “Are you doing everything you can to make progress toward your goal easier?”

To help provide a good answer to that question (and to offer some areas to look at in case the answer is “no”), here’s a list of many ways to make willpower and self-motivation easier. After all, making the task easier usually means getting better results for less effort: it falls into the category of the time-worn advice “Work smarter, not harder.” There are limits to how much willpower we can summon up on a moment’s notice, but there may not be limits to the advantages we can stack up beforehand.

Decide what to do and make plans
Probably the single most important thing any of us can do to facilitate good choices is to understand what those choices should be ahead of time. If the task is studying, then how much studying needs to be done, and when should it happen? If the task is some kind of daily upkeep, like following up on e-mails within the day or keeping the dishes from piling up, what’s the exact plan for how these things will be handled?

Anticipate problems
If you ever find yourself explaining away self-motivation problems by saying “I was going to ____, but ____,” this may be a sign that you need to work on anticipating problems. Someone who’s trying to eat more healthily will be much more successful if they figure out what the options and dangers are before they walk into a party or a restaurant, for instance. Someone who’s self-employed and is trying to get in more work time will want to figure out ground rules for situations like when friends visit from out of town or for how much time–if any–it’s OK to spend doing things like volunteering or socializing during the work day.

Improve your tools and environment
In other posts I’ve gone into some detail about the value of choosing the best tools and setting up an encouraging environment for work on your goal. For example, a more welcoming environment can help a writer write more; having the right software or paper system can help another person organize much more easily.

It can help sometimes if we think of ourselves as our own assistants. We have large, important goals, but often moving toward those goals is much easier when we do some grunt work ahead of time. To help facilitate a study session later in the day, try laying out books and other study materials on a table or desk so that starting requires just sitting down. To eat better, shop better.

On Monday I’ll continue with Part II and five more ways to make self-motivation easier.

Photo by Somewhat Frank

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