High-Gear Motivation: How to Hit Your Peak Day After Day
As challenging as your work and personal life can be, sometimes the biggest challenge of all is just staying motivated to Step It Up™. We have a hundred tasks vying for our attention. Or perhaps we work or live with difficult people but lack the authority to affect any change. Events happen in our personal and professional lives that can get us off course. They can all take their toll on our motivation levels.
And yet these days, most of us don't have the luxury of performing at anything less than our peak. Hitting that peak day after day is a test in its own right. But if we pay attention to the basics, and lock them into place, we can stay on a strong course.
The very first place to start is to assess whether you really believe you can achieve your goals. This may seem obvious, but the importance of this point is easy to overlook. As motivational speaker and trainer Brian Tracy puts it, you simply cannot achieve something you don't believe you can achieve. A related point has to do with making sure your work is aligned with your talents and your values. To work at your peak, what you do must, over time, be in sync with what you enjoy doing and with what you believe in.
Even when you are completely in sync with your goals, you are still bound to hit occasional psychological roadblocks when you look at the piles of papers, the seemingly endless to-do list, the voicemail light flashing, the email alert blinking and it all seems too much.
Here are some ideas to get going and stay going at a peak level:
Start each day with a review of your goals. In a 24/7 world, it's easy to lose sight of where you ultimately want to go. Take the 30 minutes at the beginning of each day, when your mind is still clear, to review your goals. Start with your big goals and then put today's work in the context of achieving them. If there is a chronic discrepancy between your long-term goals and what you are planning to work on today, it will unmistakably emerge in these early morning sessions.
Figure out your "next actions." When you are overwhelmed with a seemingly endless to-do list, many motivational experts recommend starting with anything in order to "get some points on the board" by checking something off the list. While doing something may be better than doing nothing, doing the right thing is better still. David Allen, a well-known productivity consultant, recommends identifying the next physical action required for each of your open projects. That way, your to-do list is not encumbered with everything, but just with the "next things." No matter what you do on the list, you will be accomplishing something that matters.
Do nothing. Another way to sustain your motivation is to periodically do nothing. Turn off your Blackberry, hibernate your computer, shut down your iPod—actually take 20 minutes or so to truly do nothing but sit and relax. If you are unfamiliar with this process, the first time will seem like torture after about five minutes. But with a little practice you will find that a brief respite of real quiet can be tremendously rejuvenating.
Look to your energy levels. Consider the advice of performance consultants Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz who say, "Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance." After years studying professional athletes, they realized that in many ways, your brain is exactly like the muscles in your body. Too much work will strain it and you will perform below your peak. (Too little mental work will cause the same result, but not many of us face that issue.) In their book The Power of Full Engagement, Loehr and Schwartz say that stress is important to maintain motivation—provided that you build in sufficient recovery time. Their techniques for managing your energy levels range from taking 10-15 minutes for a walk around the block every couple of hours, to changing your diet, to building in recovery time after the work day ends and it is time to re-engage with your family or with your partner.
Having these blocks in place doesn't guarantee smooth sailing, but it does set you up to have the best possible chance for sustaining a level of motivation that will contribute positively to your success and your desire to be Stepping It Up™ to your life purpose.
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