“If life were measured by accomplishments, most of us would die in infancy.” A. P. Gouthe.

Motivation is the essence of productivity. You can’t get much done without it, but you can achieve exceptional results if you know how to use it.

There are two ways to gain motivation. The first one is more effective but hard to manage, and the second one is a bit less effective but very easy to manage:

  1. Create an emergency. The first method to gain immediate motivation is to create an emergency. You are generally more motivated to do your work if you are late on delivery dates and your boss is watching behind you at what you are doing. You are also very motivated to do something if that would save the life of someone you love. While this method is effective, it has two major drawbacks: first, you can’t apply it to achieve what you really want, and second, it creates stress, and I don’t like stress.

  2. Just get started. The second method is just getting started. If you want to do something, it may be too overwhelming to focus on the whole process at once. Instead, you can focus your energies on doing the first step, and motivation will follow.

Naturally, I prefer to apply the second method over the first one. It’s easier and more productive if you don’t have to worry about the whole process, and it really works. I can think of many applications of this method that you can easily try for yourself:

  • Getting up early. If you want to get up early in the morning, make sure that when your alarm clock rings you get off of your bed immediately and you just go to another room. That way you’ll not be likely to procrastinate in bed.

  • Doing your daily workout. If you have to go running, just make your goal to put on your shoes and get out of the door.

  • Writing your next article. If you keep a journal, and you are demotivated to write your new entry, hurry up and just open the text editor or notebook.

  • Doing your home-works. If you are procrastinating on doing your home-works (school, projects, etc), make your goal to do a three minutes analysis of what you have to do.

Why this works

It might look too simple for many, but this method actually works. I do it every time and I’m not the only one suggesting it.

This method is so effective because our mind feels less stressed if you just focus on a straightforward task. And once you’ll get started, it will be easier to continue. This follows the theory of inertia, which states that it’s easier to continue motion rather than starting it.

But how do you know that you shouldn’t be doing something else?

It’s nice to know how to gain motivation when you already know what to do. Perhaps you can set an alarm clock every day for your tasks, like running, but usually you don’t know really what you should do, and you end up doing low value activities.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to get around this. The following is a list of action steps I regularly take to ensure I’m really working on what matters to me.

  1. Know what you are doing. Before trying to optimize anything, it’s helpful to know what you are already doing. Make a list of what you do during the day. Try to be as precise as possible. Here’s the rule: every time you start doing something (browsing the internet, checking email, filling out a form, going to the bathroom) write it down, along with the current time. At the end of the day you’ll have a list of 2-300 items. You only need to do this for 1-2 days every few months, but don’t skip this step.

  2. Analyze your tasks. Now that you have your data, try to analyze how you usually spend your days. You may found that you are checking emails every 30 minutes and that you are consuming more time browsing the internet than working on your cool project. If you can, try to use colors to highlight similar tasks. For example, I would highlight in red all the time consuming tasks, yellow for all the things I have to do even if I don’t particularly like them, and green for all the activities that contributes to my goals and dreams.

  3. Bunch similar activities. This is where the fun begins. You should now try to group all your similar activities to avoid multitasking as possible as you can. For example if you are checking emails 7 times per day, try to do it only 2. Set specific times when you are allowed to do low value tasks.

  4. Enjoy your new free time. Now that you hopefully don’t have to check your stats or emails 7 times per day, you’ll have more time to do what you really like.

I do this process every few months, and it’s the most efficient methodt I’ve ever used in order to be productive without killing yourself. It’s also easy to maintain a decent level of clarity if you adopt a few simple rules:

  • Turn off distractions. This includes both your computer setup, and the environment where you are working.

  • Make a list of activities you have to do.

  • Don’t invent new things to do just to avoid the important.

  • Don’t check emails first thing in the morning.

  • Do the important tasks first.

  • When you don’t know what to do, do nothing.

  • Actually, do nothing sometimes, just relax.

  • If you don’t know if a certain task is important, ask for feedback.

  • Don’t focus on more than one thing at once.

  • Aim for less, not for more.

You don’t have to work to be perfect, because you already are. But learn to use motivation to accomplish the important tasks that really matter to you.