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6 ways to improve your self-motivation

6 ways to improve your self-motivation

Self-motivated women take responsibility for their lives – they make things happen rather than sitting around waiting. They make decisions and back themselves.

That isn’t to say they don’t have self-doubt or fear of failure, but they know how to move through the fear to pursue what’s important.

A core part of the ability to make things happen is taking action. And this can be really hard. Having the discipline to achieve your goals is difficult, especially when motivation has left you.

But here are six things you can do to become more of an action taker and improve your self-motivation.

1. Just start

One of my mentors said, “action begets action”.

She meant that once you start something, you start to build momentum, you get into a routine, and good things happen.

If there is something you really want to achieve, just start.

My friend Sarah knows that sales calls are a necessary part of her business, but she finds them awkward to make as she doesn’t like talking on the phone. So she employs a trick to break the barrier. Every day when she sits down to make her daily allotment of calls, her first call is to a friend. This quick, two-minute call gets her in the groove, and she is then comfortable enough to call everyone else on her list.

I like to take imperfect action. Rather than overthink something, I now just try to start. Remember Winston Churchill’s words, “Perfection is the enemy of progress”.

2. Map out a plan

My love of planning can be traced back to my event management days when we reverse-engineered all our conferences. That meant we knew our goal (e.g. a successful conference on a set date) and worked backwards to unpack what needed to be done and by when.

Today, I have a three-year strategy for my practice, chunked into ninety-day action plans.

I love the ninety-day concept as it’s enough time to achieve something tangible and work out whether it is likely to succeed.

I have even used the ninety-day plan when I was single and looking for love (yes, my friends thought I was a bit mad!). My view was that if I spent a few hours each week with the man I was dating, I should know by about the ninety-day mark whether or not I wanted to continue seeing him. Of course, I often knew far earlier, but the timeline was a good indicator of whether we had some sort of future.

To use this concept in my work, I sit down at the end of each quarter and map out what I need to do over the next ninety days to drive me toward my three-year goals. I look at everything, including client and personal commitments, anticipated commitments, holidays, long weekends, etc. Then I work out what can I achieve with the time that’s left.

Next, I work out what I need to do each day and week to achieve my goals. I review it regularly and tweak it where necessary.

3. Create the right habits and routines

Having an embedded set of habits and routines means we are more organised and can save time. It can also help us achieve better outcomes, reduce anxiety, have greater confidence and improve performance.

Whether simple or complex, every habit has the same habit loop structure. When repeated often enough, you do it automatically, with little conscious thought. At that point, not doing it feels uncomfortable.

One of my daily habits is to brush my teeth before going to bed. The cue is that I am about to climb into bed, the routine is that I brush my teeth, and the reward is that my teeth feel lovely and clean.

You might have a habit that includes setting your intention for the day, reading, journalling, a gratitude habit, regular exercise, or meditation.

A routine is a behaviour or a set of behaviours that we frequently repeat. Unlike a habit, we can skip or change a routine and not feel awkward about it.

Many fully connected leaders have a morning routine that sets them up for the day. It might include exercise, meditation, family time, breakfast, a cup of tea, watching or listening to the news, or perhaps doing the day’s Wordle.

Perhaps the greatest benefit is that habits and routines remove decisions, saving time and reducing overwhelm.

If you want to create a new habit or routine, start simple and start small. Pick one thing you want to start doing and create a habit loop around it.

For example, if you want to start meditating, don’t immediately plan to do so for thirty minutes a day. That’s too hard, so start with meditating for 10 minutes a day and work your way up to a time frame you can sustain.

Leadership and communication expert Mel Kettle.

Leadership and communication expert Mel Kettle.

4. Be ruthless about distractions

My favourite book a few years ago was Nir Eyal’s Indistractable. The premise is that if we aren’t interested in what we are doing, we will always find a way to be distracted.

Many people say social media is a huge distraction, and it can be, but if you love what you’re doing, you won’t be randomly scrolling through Instagram.

And let’s face it, people have always found ways to distract themselves from what they should be doing if they don’t want to be doing it. Distractions can get out of hand, so we need to find reasons to focus and set ourselves up for success.

5. Track your progress

I’m a big list-maker. Ticking off something I’ve done gives me a huge dopamine hit.

A great way to stay motivated is to measure and track what you have achieved, so you feel good about what you’re doing.

Researchers Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer found that out of all the things that can boost our mood and keep us motivated during the workday, “the single most important is making progress on meaningful work”.

Here are some ways to track your progress:

  • Break your goal into smaller tasks and set metrics for them
  • Monitor your progress frequently. As one of my ninety-day actions is to make one hundred sales calls, I have a piece of paper with checkboxes and lines so I can tick the box and write the name of the person I called.
  • Have a weekly and a monthly review to identify what you have completed and what you will do next.

Business Chicks Global CEO Emma Isaacs tracks her progress by checking her business cash position each day. Knowing your numbers is an excellent way to track progress, especially if you are responsible for budgets, are a business owner, or have financial goals.

6. Celebrate the wins

We often celebrate our big wins – major milestones and achieving important goals – but it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of work and life and forget to celebrate the small wins.

Psychologist and author of Tiny Habits, BJ Fogg, said that celebrating is a great way to reinforce small changes and pave the way for big successes.

It could be as simple as doing a happy dance every time you have a small win, or something more significant, like buying yourself something you have wanted for a while when you have a big win. For many years, I celebrated gaining a new client by adding a new cookbook to my collection.

If you use the ninety-day plan model, could you build in a few celebrations? Think about how you could break large goals into smaller goals, create small milestones and reward yourself.

By employing some of these tips, you’ll not only feel empowered to take action and build momentum, you’ll no doubt improve your self-motivation too.

This is an edited extract from Fully Connected by Mel Kettle. You can purchase a copy of the book here.

Mel Kettle

This article was written by Mel Kettle.

Mel is an internationally recognised expert at fully connected leadership and communication. With more than two decades of experience, Mel is a valuable asset to leaders and teams that want to achieve real connection and sustained engagement. She is the founder of the award-winning menopause blog Just as Juicy and host of the podcast This Connected Life.

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