If a goal is challenging (and the most worthwhile goals are!), you will need motivational methods that are effective for you personally. You’ll need to continually practice the methods that help you focus and make progress, no matter how “hard” the task feels.
Below, I describe the methods that have worked best for me and my clients.
As you read this, I invite you to score each method on a scale of 0 to 10. Zero means “I’ve tried many times and this won’t work for me” and 10 means “This is a game-changer for me!”
If you’d like, comment at the bottom of the post with your score for each of these.
Here are the 5 methods:
1. Write down the baby steps.
When I find myself procrastinating, I do this:
1. Write down what is the thing I’m trying to accomplish, for example “Write a blog post.”
2. Write down the baby steps — very doable action steps — for example:
a. Open a blank document.
b. Brainstorm 3 points that I’d like to make in the post.
c. Write a few sentences about each point.
d. Rearrange and edit the sentences.
3. If any step feels daunting, chunk that down into even more granular steps, e.g. “Brainstorm 3 points” can be chunked down to this question — “What’s 1 thing that I feel is true about this topic?” and after I answer that question, then: “What’s another thing that’s true?”
When I look at the list of steps and I think: “Oh I can definitely do this, if I just follow the steps” then I know I’ve chunked it down enough to make it doable.
4. Take a moment and “see” myself doing the actions with calm joyful focus… “I see myself typing ideas about this topic, with a gentle smile on my face.”
And then I get started right away on the first small action step. (Even if I only have time for that first little step, at least I have become unstuck!)
To take this method even further, try setting a little deadline for the various steps on your list. Example:
a. Open a blank document — 2:01pm
b. Brainstorm 3 points that I’d like to make in the post — 2:10pm
c. Write a few sentences about each point — 2:30pm
d. Rearrange and edit the sentences — 2:50pm
What project is important to you, that you find yourself procrastinating on?
Try this method — chunking things down to very next actions that feel doable for you.
2. Five minute method.
I remind myself:
I can do anything for 5 minutes.
Set a timer for 5 minutes, and make any progress on the project I’ve been putting off. (Perhaps the time will be spent writing down the baby steps.)
It doesn’t have to be brilliant. Just any progress is helpful for now.
Here’s the key:
Before I start the timer, I take a moment to place myself in a positive state of mind, by doing my energy reboot practice.
If I am creating something for my audience, then I will also do this: Bring to mind an ideal audience member. It might be a current client, or a reader who comments supportively on my posts.
I imagine that person in front of me, eagerly waiting for me to create this project because it will help them. The key is to bring to mind/heart a person for whom I can do no wrong in their eyes: a true fan.
(Of course, no real human being can be 100% perfectly supportive without mistake, but in this temporary imagination, they are allowed to be perfectly supportive!)
Once I’m in this heart-based mindset, I will start the 5 minute timer and make any progress I can in that time.
What might I actually do in that time? Options include:
- Brainstorming the steps needed for this project
- Writing my first draft
- Organizing my ideas
- Recording an initial video
- Reaching out to one or two people for help
I’ve learned that the landscape changes with every step I make, so it’s more important to simply take a step so that I can see, with a bit more clarity, what is next.
After the 5 minutes are complete, I take a break and celebrate a bit.
Or, if I am on a roll, I will keep going for another 20–45 minutes!
If I do take a break, though, I can always come back and do another 5 minutes, using this method.
This 5-minute technique has unblocked me, and many of my clients, in our projects.
Try it and let me know if this helps you too.
If you are needing some accountability to create content, try content co-working.
For all types of work, I use this strangely effective tool: Focusmate.
If I’m not in a meeting with clients, or on a break, then I am on Focusmate. Yes, several hours every working day!
The way it works is simple — you get paired up with someone else who wants to work. You check-in for a minute about what project you’re working on, and then each person quietly works until the end of the hour, and then briefly checks in again at the end.
(In fact, I’m on a focusmate session right now as I’m typing this!)
This simple accountability method has supported me as I’ve written 4 books, created dozens of online courses, and built a thriving business.
If you haven’t tried it, give it at least 3 sessions. It might just change your life, as it has for me and many of my clients.
Part of why it works so well is that by scheduling Focusmate sessions, you are scheduling an appointment and someone is counting on you to be there, and yet during the appointment, you get to focus on what’s important to you.
Join Focusmate. I hope to see you there!
4. Accountability Partner
This is about having one Accountability Partner for at least 1 month at a time.
Research has shown that when you write down your goals and action commitments, and then share it with an Accountability Partner, and then report back to your partner, the average increase in productivity is 77%. Check out the research here.
An accountability partner could be:
- A kindred spirit from a course or an online community
Meet once a week for 15–30 minutes. Or when something is really important, you might even meet daily. The accountability can go both ways — each person reports on their project. If you can’t schedule time to talk, then message with them once a week or more often.
A simple format for accountability meetings:
- What progress has been made since the last time we talked?
- Did you accomplish what you said you would? If not, how will you ensure that you complete it? If you did complete it, what will you do by our next call?
- How do you want to be / what is the attitude or spirit you’ll embody as you do the project?
You could even consider having multiple accountability partners, if each person can only meet with you once a month or once a week, and you want accountability more often.
After the call, send your action commitment to your accountability partner. Expect them to send theirs (if they are also needing accountability from you.) Again, the research shows that by doing this action, people accomplish 77% more.
5. Public Event Promising A Deliverable
The more people are expecting you to do something, the more likely you’ll do it.
With this method of public accountability, you announce a deliverable with a specific deadline to your network/audience.
You’ll likely complete it by the deadline, so you don’t embarrass yourself! :)
This method is not for everybody, but it has worked extraordinarily well for me. Along with Focumate, public accountability keeps me on track to create webinars, launch books, and other accomplishments in my business over the years.
Here’s a simple way to do it:
Go to Facebook Events — on that page you’ll find the “create new event” button on the left side. Create an event with the date/time being the deadline for accomplishing your project. Invite your friends and ask for their support. Along the way, post on that event page with your progress.
This can work really well if you are creating content for an online course, a webinar, a presentation, a book, or updating your website.
Announce something you believe is doable, but just a bit of a stretch. Not something that will stress you out, but will feel challenging to you in a good way.
There you have it, 5 powerful methods to keep you motivated in doing your important projects.
No matter which method you use, I wish you love as your deeper motivation: the joy and privilege of working on purpose, in service to your higher mission, knowing that all will turn out beautifully.
Your turn — comment below on which method you’re excited to try.
If you have another method that works well to motivate you during challenging projects, I’d love to hear about it below.