How Do You Stay Motivated?

ocean-waveSometimes motivation hits me at the strangest times: late at night as I’m falling asleep or in the middle of an important client meeting. A sudden wave of determination strikes and my thoughts race as I mentally develop a plan of action that will help me achieve this new goal. Within minutes, I have it all figured out. But, lately, I’ve noticed that if my goals aren’t career-oriented, the motivation to achieve them disappears as quickly as it surfaced.

In the work place, I am ambitious. I hold myself accountable. Every morning, I create a task list and I don’t leave until every last “to-do” has a check mark next to it. But being as motivated about my personal life as I am my professional one is something I’ve been struggling with recently. To-do lists and writing down my goals just aren’t enough.

I understand the importance of achieving work-life balance; I wish I could transfer some of the drive I have at work over to my other goals.

Take the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run, for instance. Ever since I moved to D.C., I’ve been determined to finish this race. A week ago, I got the sudden urge to start a training program. So far, I’ve stuck to it, but in the back of my mind I’m wondering how long it will be before I lose the motivation.

It’s not just running. It’s starting a book club or finding an organization to volunteer with; it’s writing a novel or going on architecture tours once a month. When these ideas first occur to me, I am elated and passionate. But the momentum wanes as soon as I walk through my front door after a long, stressful day at work. Even though I know I’ll feel better after a late-night run or a morning spent volunteering, it’s maintaining the motivation to keep going for more than a couple weeks at a time.

For me, finding a work-life balance isn’t only about making sure I don’t overwork myself so that I have time for friends, family, and a social life. It’s having the motivation to achieve personal goals as well as professional ones. And, unfortunately, I’m not quite sure how to do ride the wave when it hits.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated after leaving the office?

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13 thoughts on “How Do You Stay Motivated?

  1. To keep myself motivated to go to the gym I schedule it on my calendar. When I don’t it can get pushed aside for other things like happy hour and sleep, but when I have an appointment with a trainer or I just put it on the calendar, it gets done.

  2. I’m struggling with motivation for “life” right now as well. With 2 weeks of “forced” vacation upon me for the holidays, my goal is to outline what I want to accomplish in 2009 personally and professionally, then take the time to really plot out how to get there and start taking the necessary steps. Whether it’s dusting off the ol’ NordicTrack and doing a 30-minute workout while watching holiday specials or cleaning out a closet to serve as a pantry or coming up with a list of topics for blog posts, I AM going to do it!

  3. This is definitely one of the hardest things for me. I’ll have sudden bursts of motivation and make a to-do list of all the things I want to do in that moment, but finding the motivation to accomplish all of them rarely happens. I wish I had some really good, insightful advice to give you, but I don’t. I think this is a problem a lot of us struggle with and everyone’s answer (if they even have one!) will be different..

  4. I have an accountability partner. It helps that he’s my best friend and he’s phenomenal at it. He texts me every night to ask me if I’ve worked out yet and how it went. He’ll ask me how I’ve been eating, how the new vitamins are going, how I’m liking the new strength training I started, if I ever made it to yoga.

    I know he’s going to ask. At that moment where I’m floundering, I go ahead with it. Because I know he won’t take my lame-ass excuses and because I can’t lie to him. I don’t know why, but that works for me.

    Also, try just sticking to it for 30 days. I think so often the problem is that the finish line (like say, March) is too far away. If you can stick with it for 30 days, you have a new habit. And good habits are worth forming.

  5. Put a dry erase board by your bedroom door. A big one, and put different big picture goals on one side, then the little parts to do to get there. Make sure to leave yourself derogatory notes to do things you hate, calling your self out works wonders.

  6. All of the above are great, but you have to remember to surround yourself with positive people. The more you hang out with positive goal-oriented people, the more you’ll want to get done and be active.

    Just my two cents.

  7. Thanks for all the great advice, everyone!

    @Tim That’s great advice, and I know it works for a lot of people. Scheduling sends a mental reminder, and I keep hearing that doing something enough turns it into a habit.

    @Melissa I love your determination! Winter break gave me the opportunity to focus on my goals for the New Year, too, but this year is full of travel. Perhaps I’ll do some hardcore planning in airport terminals! Good luck with all your goals!

    @Nisha It’s good to see that I’m not alone. I know there isn’t a magical answer, but I thought I’d try… or at least get some other ideas I hadn’t thought of yet!

    @Holly That’s a great idea. I tried to rope a friend into the training program with me, but she was less motivated than I was. I think I need to find someone who can really push me, and it will make a big difference. Thanks for the suggestion!

    @verbal Great idea… I used to do the whole “tape your goals to the bathroom mirror” thing, but that just annoyed my inner Monica Gellar (yeah, neat freaks). A white board sounds like a great fix.

    @Brian So true. I’m always more motivated when I am in a group setting and have that horrible feeling that I could let someone else down.

  8. For me, the main thing is keeping the “work” and “life” separate, esp. when it comes to my social life. It’s real easy to allow those things to blend, and thus lose sight of what’s going on.

    Other than that, I find motivation for things that I actually WANT to do, and not what I SHOULD do. Which is harder than I thought. After my wife and I had our son, and my ‘personal’ time shorted to almost none, I had to make a decision on what to spend it on. Doing that, it was easier to be motivated.

  9. Ah, my darling Meg.

    I don’t have an answer for you, really. I know I don’t do everything I plan to, but I get to most of it.

    How? By not procrastinating. Use that motivation while it’s still hot! That way, when you have a lazy day, it’s not a big deal.

    The motivated/lazy days are very cyclical, at least for me. There’s no need to beat the system if you can just work it.

    And I work it 😉

  10. I keep in mind that life is too short! 😉
    Indeed, I keep in mind what I have to do and what I would like to do. Thus, I have a continuing emergency of doing things… I try to achieve them in a positive way. Unfortunately, it does not work everytime… but most of the time it works.

  11. The most valuable things I come up with at work are never on the todo list.

    Sometimes I get to the end of the day and have accomplished nothing on the todo list. And it was a great day since I had a great idea.

    This makes work a whole lot more fun, and that helps with the balance.

  12. Meg – I am right there with ya! One thing that has helped is that I’ve gotten into a routine of walking my dog, making dinner, and then doing one hour of solid work I get home.

    No email. No Twitter. And absolutely no Mario Cart.

    If I can do one hour of focused work, it’s enough to keep me satisfied. Then the rest of the night I don’t have to stress out about whether i’m getting anything done or not.

    I can’t say this is a proven method; I’ve only been doing it for two weeks… but it seems to be working so far.

    If you think of anything else that works, let me know.

  13. Pingback: Ryan Stephens Marketing » Top 10 Gen Y Blogs: February 2009

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