Why Motivating Yourself Matters and How To Do It

How To Motivate Yourself

Image by: Arya Ziai (Flickr)

Before you can lead others to higher results, you must master your own motivation. Learn why motivating yourself matters and six motivation strategies you use today to increase your productivity and satisfaction.

Increasing complexity and the pace of change make it difficult to know if we are making progress. If your work involves knowledge and creativity, our day to day work swings between satisfying and frustrating several times each day. For our purposes, I define motivation as follows:

The (conscious or unconscious) stimulus for action towards a desired goal, esp. as resulting from psychological or social factors; the factors giving purpose or direction to human or animal behaviour…. : the reason a person has for acting in a particular way, a motive.

Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Why Motivation Matters To Your Productivity

Motivation improves the quality of time spent at work. I can speak from personal experience on this front. On high motivation days, I’m certain that my output is significantly higher. Even better, I also notice that the quality of my contribution increases when I have high motivation. Aside from my experience, here are three other findings showing the cost of low motivation.

  • $300 billion: The annual cost of disengaged employees to the U.S. economy (source: Gallup study reported in The New York Times)
  • 70% of U.S. workers are not reaching their full potential according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report in 2012 (even worse, this figure has not changed significantly since 2000 when Gallup began collecting data).
  • No progress, no motivation. Teresa Amabile Steven J. Kramer reports a compelling relationship between motivation and making meaningful progress in work (source: Harvard Business Review, May 2011).

In addition to these research findings, there is another reason to demonstrate high performance and motivation. Demonstrating high motivation is one way to lead by example, whether or not you have staff reporting to you.

3 Strategies To Build Your Motivation Foundation

Self-knowledge and self-care are fundamental practices that build your motivation. Without this foundation in place, your motivation and productivity will be built on a castle of sand – likely to collapse at the slightest stress.

  • Good sleep habits. Lack of quality sleep progressively slow your ability to function. According to a case study reported in Brain Rules by John J. Medina, prolonged sleep deprivation leads to anxiety, depression and numerous other problems.
  • Understand your career priorities. Over the course of our careers, our career priorities may evolve especially as we achieve goals and obtain new responsibilities.
  • Setting exciting goals for your career and life. Setting exciting goals is one of the best ways to maintain your motivation – a key insight I learned from Michael Hyatt (learn more: The Missing Ingredient in Most Goals). A sense that you are simply drifting through each day will destroy your motivation levels fast.

3 Sources of Motivation To Take You To The Next Level

“The ultimate reason for setting goals is to entice you to become the person it takes to achieve them”  ― Jim Rohn

Once you lay the foundation for motivation, it is time to add to your motivation. In this section, I will cover emphasize intrinsic motivation factors. If there is no intrinsic attraction to your work, it will be difficult to remain engaged. Finally, let’s be clear that the drive for increased compensation is an important and legitimate motivating force. Without further ado, here are three sources of

  • Autonomy

The freedom to shape your day to day actions is an asset. As Daniel Pink explains in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, the drive for autonomy is a major economic trend impacting the lives of many people. Autonomy means YOU decide how to achieve a goal. IT also means that you decide how to run your day.

 The drive for autonomy is one reason why many people are attracted to the life of a university professor. It’s also the reason why Google became famous for the 20% rule: encouraging staff to spend 20% of their working time on their own projects.

  • Increased Compensation

Making more money is an important goal. At one level, increased income is a requirement to keep up with increased living costs today (e.g. ) and the need to save and invest for the future. For others, increased compensation means more options – the money to buy what you want when you want it. Increased income also means the capacity to cross items off your bucket list.

  • Mastery

Achieving mastery in work that matters is the Holy Grail of motivation. Achieving mastery tends to bring recognition (though not always in your lifetime!) and increased rewards. As Robert Greene explains in his book Mastery, the path to excellence is a long road that is worth the price. If you have not achieved mastery yet, you may be in the wrong field. Greene shows many examples including noted scientist Michael Faraday who took time to reach mastery.

Next week, we will cover how to motivate others in projects and other environments.

Discussion Question:

What motivation strategies have made the difference for you in reaching your goals?


Three Ways Humility Improves Your Effectiveness At Work

Work Hard Stay Humble

Image Credit: John Hope (www.johnhopephotography.com)

Your attitude plays a key role in shaping your approach to work. As John C Maxwell explains in his book The Difference Maker, a good attitude is a valuable asset that keeps you going. Cultivating the right attitude for professional success takes effort however. Appreciating the importance of humility is a key way to sustain your attitude.

Defining Humility: Nobody Has All The Answers

Being humble has several meanings. In the definitions I have read, it is favourably contrasted with pride and arrogance. In that sense, I see humility as being open to new ideas. Further, it is a realization that the complexity of the world makes it difficult to have all the answers. In the world of knowledge work, this is an important perspective for us to keep in mind. As Karin Hurt points out, a humble attitude helps leaders adjust to new challenges: 9 Ways Confident Leaders Remain Humble.

In this article, I will explain three ways that a humble attitude improves your effectiveness at work.

The Humble Approach To Planning

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” Paul J. Meyer

Planning your work is a valuable exercise whether you are organizing your own work or coordinating a large organization. In some circles, planning has a poor reputation because it has become a procrastination technique. In other communities, planning is criticized because it suggests an inflexible approach to changing conditions. Fortunately, a humble approach to planning provides a solution.

  • The humble planner asks: Who else has tried to do this? What can I learn from them?
  • The humble planner seeks feedback: Who can I show my draft to? How can I make use of their comments, positive and negative?
  • The humble planner understands the challenge of planning the future: I am confident about planning the next month of work but I know that planning activities a year from now is challenging.

The Humble Approach To Meetings

Meetings are one of the key professional techniques that professionals use to achieve important work. Some commentators have estimated that a professional is likely to attend thousands of meetings with thousands of people over the course of their career. Given how many important decisions are made in meetings, it makes sense to improve our meeting habits. The humble attitude helps us have better meeting experiences whether we are running the meeting or not.

  • The humble meeting reconsiders using jargon: Once I didn’t know all of these terms and perhaps others do not know them either.
  • The humble meeting organizer helps new people: Attending a recurring meeting for the first time is challenging. A humble professional emphasizes with those challenges and looks for ways to help colleagues.

The Humble Approach To Continuing Education

Continuing education is one of my interests and personal best practices. Since completing my university studies, I have taken continuing education courses in accounting, economics, project management, financial planning and other fields. In part, my continuing education studies are designed to address the fact that my university studies had limited coverage of traditional business disciplines. In that case, I was humble to admit what I did not know and sought out education to address those gaps. Admitting that you do know something and then taking action to address that gap puts you into the curious elite.

  • Technical Skills. Many of us can become more effective by developing stronger technology skills. You start with simple ad hoc solutions such as watching a short tutorial on YouTube. For added depth, I suggest taking a course through Udemy.com or Lynda.com. If you use Excel or Access all day, the Internet is filled with resources to help become more effective.
  • Business Skills. There’s no limit to how much more effective you can become ain your business skills. For example, if you are interested in becoming more effective at sales or management, you have many courses, books and coaches to consider.
  • Industry Knowledge. Becoming knowledgeable about trends in your industry gives you a broader perspective and it puts your efforts into context. For example, you can learn how your company’s financial performance compares to competitors using measures such as return on equity or revenue growth. To get started, consider buying a subscription to an industry magazine (e.g. if you work in the financial industry in North America, American Banker is a great place to start building your industry knowledge).
  • Personal Development and Emotional Intelligence. Recently, I attended an excellent presentation by Geoff Crane who pointed out that emotional intelligence improves performance in project management. His studies are far range from goal setting and other vital soft skills. Many of these topics are covered at length in books and courses on goal setting (e.g. 5 Days To Your Best Year Ever course by Michael Hyatt – I use his course), motivation (e.g. The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard looking forward to reading it) and mindfulness.

Share Your Thoughts:

In the comments section, share your experiences with achieving progress using the humble mindset. How are you going to change your approach to planning, meetings or continuing education as a result of reading this article?

How To Advance Your Career With Associations – 8 Career Advancement Tips

Career Advancement Tips

Career advancement – more money, more recognition or simply more options – is a driving goal for many of us. Yet, the Web and everyday conversation is full of frustrated people who can’t catch a break. Consider the following insights from recent articles and research studies.

Those rumors you hear of the highly educated person performing a job that does not draw on their capabilities is a daily reality.

Underemployment and Frustration: A Growing Trend For Many Professionals

  • 23% of recent U.S. college graduates held part time jobs (35 hours per week or less) in 2011 compared to 14% in the 1990s (Source: Are Recent College Graduates Finding Good Jobs?, Federal Reserve Bank of New York)

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s research found that similar trends occurred in the last two recessions (early 1990s and early 2000s).

  • “17 million Americans with college degrees are employed in jobs that do not require college-level skills.” (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data reported in Forbes, Educated and Underemployed)

Large numbers of young people with significant education are struggling to identify opportunities that match their capabilities.

  • According to a 2012 Harvard Business Review, successful and rising stars in management are also dissatisfied with their career growth.

 “Young high achievers—30 years old, on average, and with strong academic records, degrees from elite institutions, and international internship experience—are antsy. Three-quarters sent out résumés, contacted search firms, and interviewed for jobs at least once a year during their first employment stint. Nearly 95% regularly engaged in related activities such as updating résumés and seeking information on prospective employers. They left their companies, on average, after 28 months.” (Source: Why Top Young Managers Are in a Nonstop Job Hunt)

Whether you’re a recent college graduate or a more experienced professional, career advancement is becoming more challenging. Yet, there are still excellent opportunities to be had.

Opening The Door To Career Advancement: No Magic Bullet

There’s no single solution that unlocks the door to career advancement. Instead, you get ahead by experimenting with different strategies and measuring the results. Expecting a strategy to deliver results immediately – salary increases, job offers and more – is magical thinking.

In today’s article, you will discover one career advancement strategy that few people understand. Associations can dramatically advance your career prospects. Consider these eight practical benefits of leading associations

Associations: 8 Career Advancement Tips For You

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

– Benjamin Franklin

The ABC Problem Solving Strategy

Problem Solving Strategy

Change and challenges are constant realities in our work and personal lives. Occasionally, we enjoy surprises – Amazon delivers a package early or our investments deliver higher than expected performance. Such surprises are easy to understand and appreciate on their own merits. Problems, especially those from the external environment, are more frustrating.

Consider the following challenges I’ve experienced over the past few years:

  • Unexpected household furniture delivery.

Furniture was delivered a week ahead of schedule and required much more household work than expected to get the furniture in place. This experience shows that early delivery can cause problems. Arriving on short notice at the end of a busy weekend, this was a challenge to get through.

  •  Urgent Management Request.

 Recently, I walked in the office with a full agenda of tasks to complete. There was plenty to be done. However, I was surprised by an urgent management request. I had some concerns to overcome initially because the request involved a new type of financial analysis. Once I determined my approach to satisfy the request, I reviewed my other tasks and appointments for the rest of the day for impact (there was limited impact that day). Fortunately, this type of challenge is rare so I can generally accommodate these surprises. Senior managers have plenty of problems to contend with so I like to help whenever I can.

  •  Asking For Marketing Help (and being refused!)

 From time to time, I ask for assistance to grow this website. I’m proud of the work I’m doing and want to share that message. That means getting the word out (i.e. marketing). Marketing efforts do not always pay off. This is a challenge that I encounter with regularity. Getting through these disappointments is tough! In these moments, I’m often reminded of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s famous  ”In The Arena” speech of 1910.

Coping with challenges is unavoidable on the path to success and satisfaction. While preparation and good habits do reduce the likelihood of negative events, you can never eliminate them entirely.

That’s why I’ve been working on the ABC Problem Solving Strategy to respond to unexpected challenges, disappointments and problems. Like many techniques, it takes practice to get it right. I hope you will join me in using this strategy to improve your effectiveness in the office and beyond.