Have you ever given up on a project? Maybe it was too ambitious? Maybe you doubted yourself? Or maybe you lost motivation somewhere along the way?
Imagine if you had finished your project. Wouldn’t that have been cool?
If you think so, maybe you should try again! Pick up your old project! You can make things different this time–and there are all kinds of tricks you can use to help yourself along.
Whatever they are, don’t give up on your ambitions!
The problems with ambitions are they are both your friend, and your foe… It’s easy to get swept away by a romantic thought of achieving something great, too easy to get excited with all of the things you know you could do.
It’s very easy to overwhelm yourself.
You can limit your goals, and this is usually a pretty good idea, but if you are picking up on an old lofty ambition, you might not have this luxury. (Also, that’s not what this post is about)
Luckily, there are tricks that can help you keep at it–so when you pick up your ambition again, you will be able to stick with it, even when your motivation runs dangerously low!
So try again! Try again, but prepare yourself.
One good way to do this is to use…
Streaks are an unreasonably effective way to keep yourself doing something for a long time.
The idea behind streaks is the longer you have done something every day, the less likely you will want to stop. They create this kind of pressure where the bigger your streak, the more disappointing it would be to break it.
The problem with most streaks, however, is that as soon as you break them, you are very likely to lose motivation very quickly. They can also put an unreasonable amount of pressure on you when your time gets limited.
One way around this is to make your streak permissive. But what exactly is a “permissive streak”?
A permissive streak is a streak (of course!), except you add some allowances for yourself and let yourself rest. How permissive your streak is, is entirely up to you–but as an example allow me to explain how I’ve been handling mine:
I have a calendar on my wall; not Google Calendar, not a phone reminder, but a physical calendar that I can see every day. Each day when I do one of the five things I’ve set as goals, I mark the calendar.
However, every single week, I get a free day I can save up and use without worry. If I slip, my streak isn’t broken because I already set rules that allow for me to goof off every once in a while.
I think this is important for anyone who wants to stretch their streak out as long as possible, otherwise it would be easy for you to get strung up by a strict regiment. This could make you become too hard on yourself.
I had a strict Japanese study streak going for over 500 days, and while I did progress a lot, I had basically no life and it made me lose motivation in a way I found really hard to regain. I don’t recommend this at all.
Be nice to yourself.
When you start a streak, it is easy to plan that you will do something for an hour, or half an hour, or fifteen minutes every day. This might sound nice in theory, but I think even that is a little too strict.
You should allow yourself to do just one thing, and have that be enough to maintain your streak. For example, if you are learning to draw, on days you just aren’t feeling it, just draw a single line.
This might sound incredibly lazy, but in actuality, it not only helps you extend your streak, it also often turns into more than just one line, because sometimes getting started is the hardest part.
But if that isn’t the case, and you are dead-set on getting something done today no matter how much you don’t feel like it:
There are just some days when you aren’t feeling it. Here are a few tricks you can use to still accomplish a surprising amount during those days:
Maybe you’ve done something similar to this before, but the idea of the 30-30 is to alternate between two tasks. Sometimes these are both things you need to get done, but sometimes one of the two things is something you like doing!
The basic idea is that you spend a maximum of 30 minutes on one task before switching to the other.
Notice I didn’t say a “minimum” of 30 minutes? I said a “maximum”.
The magic behind this trick, is that 30 minutes is the absolute maximum time you can spend on either of the tasks before switching. When the end time is set in stone and it’s not a dubious “soon”, it’s easier to convince yourself to sprint it. You know exactly how much time you have.
Of course, if 30 minutes is too hard, you can do 10-10, or maybe even 5-5. The trick is to be consistent. You can get an amazing amount done even when you feel like doing exactly nothing at all.
This one is more obvious, but, because focus is the end goal here, anything that can break your focus is an enemy.
Working on a computer? Fullscreen it!
Is there noise around? Maybe listen to lyricless music, or something ambient, like Rainy Mood. Video game music is actually really good here too because it’s usually made to be played while a player is focusing.
Also, playlists of game music generally seem to start really calm, and then gradually get more and more intense. So on top of blocking out other distractions, if you are in the zone this can really actually affect your pace. You might start working really fast without even realizing it!
Make your environment something you enjoy
You probably like things.
Coincidentally, I happen to like things too! Maybe to the point someone might claim I am obsessed with them. Sounds like a bad deal, right?
Well I have a secret for you. These can actually give you an enormous amount of willpower.
If you customize your work environment into something that constantly gives you good vibes, you are less likely to become apathetic. This means that you will be able to leverage your obsessions; they can be motivation factories.
That’s because the things you like–the things you would happily spend a lot of time with. These hold a well sought-out influence: Inspiration!
Inspiration might not always be easy to find, but it is much easier to find hidden in the things you appreciate. So if you surround yourself with the things you love, you might be able to occasionally snap out of an unproductive day with an explosion of inspiration.
That chance is somewhat small and highly dependent on the person, but it is definitely worth it for the times it does happen. Inspiration can jolt you out of ruts, and have effects that last for weeks.
However, hard problems have a way of killing inspiration…
Beware of brick walls
Dead ends can put a huge damper on our will to do anything… But knowing how to tackle hard problems is probably the biggest key to succeeding with any goal.
The trick here is, surprisingly enough, not actually solving the problem. Instead, look for a way to get you closer to figuring out the problem.
You can’t step over an entire mountain in one go, so why try to think of ways to solve monumental problems like this? That’s an easy way to get frustrated and quit. Instead, look for nothing more then a step in the right direction, and after you’ve done that, do it again.
As satisfying as it would be to be able to tackle things like this in one go, steps like this are still important. They are progress. It might not feel like you are getting any closer to your goal by doing this, but if you combine this way of thinking with a streak, you will surprise yourself.
It might not even be long before you can tackle these hard problems like it’s nothing–to become sagely.
But more importantly, your project? Your goal? Your ambition? Those are mountains too. If you can climb mountains, you can absolutely realize your ambitions.
Never give up, and accomplish what you’ve set out to do!