Striving to achieve an important goal can be both an exciting and exhausting endeavour. On the one hand, we may feel inspired and proud as we accomplish small feats in our goal’s pursuit, while on the other hand, if progress is slow and we simultaneously have to juggle many other responsibilities (as most of us do), the process could become tiring, and we may grow to resent it. The key ingredient defining both of these scenarios is motivation. In the former it is present, whereas in the latter it is lacking. When we feel motivated, it seems as though nothing could stand in our way; not even sleep-deprivation or endless distractions. On the contrary, when we feel our motivation dwindling, it could be very difficult to accomplish even the smallest task. How then, you might ask, can one sustain their motivation and push forward in accomplishing their goals? This is a great question. Much research by Roy Beaumeister and colleagues has investigated the construct of motivation, and found that it can be explained by ‘will-power;’ a limited resource that is easily depleted. For instance, consider why it might be more difficult to resist dessert after a rough day at the office, or why your patience might run thin closer to the end of the week. Oftentimes, it is because other activities throughout the course of our day and week have pulled at our resources, thereby depleting your will-power reserve. Other things known to quickly deplete will-power is decision-making, emotional distress, and childcare (for its constant demand of attention). Steve Jobs, for example, wore the same thing every day to avoid ‘decision-fatigue’ and optimize his productivity. This is of course an extreme example, but it nicely illustrates how small activities we may take for granted, like what to make for dinner or where to park in the city, have a significant effect on our energy and motivation. Simply being aware of this could go a long way in helping you sustain your motivation and preserve your ‘will power’ after a particularly tough week. Other helpful attitudes and activities may include:
1- Acknowledging and celebrating small accomplishments: try not to let one task bleed right into another. When you’ve dotted the final i on an important task, acknowledge it, pat yourself on the back, and perhaps reward yourself by taking a break. There often isn’t enough time in the day to complete all that is expected of us, but that shouldn’t lessen the sense of accomplishment we feel for completing quality work.
2- Listening to your body: our bodies are fascinating little alarm systems, when we take the time to listen to them. That pain you’ve been feeling in your neck for the past two weeks? No, it likely isn’t normal, and you should probably take a moment to adjust your seating and attend to it. Yes, people could hear your stomach growling – have a snack, or a meal when you’re hungry. Are you having difficulty keeping your eyes open at your desk? Determine why that might be instead of assuming it’s just your unrealistically busy lifestyle. Are you bored or exhausted from something specific? Listening to our bodies and in turn discovering the health regimes that best optimize our well-being, is one of the best things we could do in the way of preserving will-power sustaining motivation, and enhancing productivity.
3- Planning in advance: having your ducks in a row can save you much time and energy in the natural hustle and bustle of everyday life. Planning can extend to every activity in life, even the space you would like to leave in your schedule for spontaneity. Don’t decide who is going to pick up the kids the day of their soccer practice, create a schedule for this sort of thing in advance, so that you don’t have to waste precious energy coming to solutions when it might be too late. Meal planning, laying your clothing out the night before, setting up automatic bill-payment schedules, planning your social calendar weeks in advance – these are all activities that could help you narrow the scope of your daily responsibilities, save some resources for life’s emergency situations, preserve your energy, and sustain motivation as you work towards accomplishing your most important goals.