Thank you for asking about motivation and not inspiration. There’s a big difference between the two!
Reactive vs. proactive.
- There’s something reactive about inspiration: we associate it with getting it from somewhere else, which puts us in a passive role (“I feel so inspired!”).
- With motivation, there’s plenty of room to be proactive and get it from within (“Achieving this goal is important to me, so I will do X to motivate myself to work on it every day”).
One vs. many.
- People often say they get inspiration in one moment or by seeing or hearing one thing (a piece of music, a painting, a sentence said or written by someone else).
- With motivation, it’s more a set of ideas or techniques that, when linked together, can propel us to move forward (for example, doing a mini-workout for 15 minutes each morning to create an exercise habit to lose weight or prepare for a marathon).
Abstract vs. concrete.
- Inspiration is often described in abstract terms and is subjective in nature (“It just moved me!” or “When I heard those words, I wanted to change everything about my life!”).
- The things that can give you motivation are more concrete and can be applicable to and practical for many people (“I customized my morning routine to motivate me to get up early in the morning” or “I prefer to study early in the day when my brain can focus better and I don’t have interruptions from my environment”).
There are several habits that I practice daily and that have helped me motivate myself to write (and be productive in other areas of my life):
Habit #1. I accelerate my focus on what’s most important with a question I ask first thing in the morning: What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?
- How it helps: It makes things simple: I know that, out of the dozens of things I want to accomplish during the day, there is that one area that is super important to my progress. All I need to do is identify it, then everything I do will be geared towards completing it.
Habit #2. I set weekly and monthly goals for my work.
- How it helps: A goal serves as my roadmap for the work I need to finish: once I define it and give it a name, it’s easier to follow and it’s also hard to ignore! I know which milestones (weekly goals) I need to reach in order to make progress towards my monthly goal. For example, I will write 3 blog posts each week on the topic of focusing and concentrating, so that in a month I will have enough material that I can use to write a longer piece on how to study more effectively for exams.
Habit #3. I schedule my day by dividing it into 2 hour time blocks.
- How it helps: It helps me gain a sense of how long it takes, on average, to do my work. It also is in sync with how my brain likes to focus and keep its attention on work that’s in front of me. For example, my first 2 hours are for brainstorming and writing new material; 2 hours after lunch may go towards easier tasks and meetings; and 2 hours in the evening can be devoted to reading.
Habit #4. I feed my brain constantly.
- How it helps: New brain food means new information, but it also gives me a chance to take my curiosity about certain topics to the next level. It helps me work on strengthening my current skills and building new ones. It also boosts critical thinking while I am absorbing new information, sorting through it, and deciding what’s useful to me, my personal development, and my professional goals.
Habit #5. I practice delayed gratification.
- How it helps: Putting off doing something that makes you feel great and gives you pleasure has its advantages. It’s about instilling a good dose of self-discipline so that you do something difficult first in order to reward yourself later (to find out the benefits, read about the Stanford Marshmallow experiment and how delayed gratification can increase your chance at succeeding in many areas of your life). How this works on a daily basis: If I want to finish the last 50 pages of an exciting book I am reading, I leave it for the evening after I am done with my daily plan (and if I’m not done by then, I finish working even if it means I can only read 20 pages before I fall asleep).
If you’d like to try out some brain food ideas that can boost your motivation, start here:
- Listen to music to improve cognitive abilities and get you in a good mood for working.
- Read books to shape your life strategy, absorb life experiences of other people, figure out how far you want to take your career and personal development, satisfy your curiosity about a particular topic, and to sharpen your critical thinking skills.
- Listen to podcasts to enhance creativity, learn new skills, and hear how experts motivate themselves in their everyday lives.
- Prepare your personalized list of must-haves in order to work more productively.
- Discover a new website for ideas on how to learn new skills, get motivated and focused, increase your knowledge and get tips on how you can apply this knowledge to your daily life and your own personal interests.