How to keep working when you’re just not feeling it

By Ayelet Fitchbach

Motivating  yourself is hard. Trying to sustain your drive through a task, a project, or even a career can sometimes feel like pulling yourself out of a swamp by your own hair. We seem to have a natural aversion to persistent effort that no amount of caffeine or inspirational posters can fix.  If you’ve ever failed to reach an attainable goal because of procrastination or lack of commitment—and who of us hasn’t?—I encourage you to read on. These four sets of tactics can help propel you forward.

Design Goals, Not Chores

Ample research has documented the importance of goal setting. Studies have shown, for example, that when salespeople have targets, they close more deals, and that when individuals make daily exercise commitments, they’re more likely to increase their fitness levels.

Find Effective Rewards

Some tasks or even stretches of a career are entirely onerous—in which case it can be helpful to create external motivators for yourself over the short- to-medium term, especially if they complement incentives offered by your organization.

Sustain Progress

When people are working toward a goal, they typically have a burst of motivation early and then slump in the middle, where they are most likely to stall out.

Harness the Influence of Others

Humans are social creatures. We constantly look around to see what others are doing, and their actions influence our own. Even sitting next to a high-performing employee can increase your output.

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