Discover more in the Best of OPEN Forum series

Hacks to Help Stay Motivated

Enthusiasm may wane as daily tasks and multitasking take over. These tips may help you and your team stay engaged.
July 22, 2016

Small-business owners often have a drive to succeed and take risks, as well as a dedication to make their dream work. With this, however, may come the challenge of keeping the fires of motivation going, for themselves and their teams.

In an age of multitasking and work overload, how do you keep motivated to push yourself and others, day in and day out, in order to achieve results? Here are some hacks that may rekindle the spirit for you and your team.

1. Monitor Demotivators

One mistaken notion that needs to be abandoned is the idea that we can fuel motivation in others. Motivation is usually an inside job. But it may be possible to demotivate even the best in your team. Your job as a leader includes creating the environment that allows the natural motivation and initiative of people to come through, and watching out for what can dampen the spirit in any team. Examples of these conditions are not keeping your promises, not giving credit where credit is due, and rewarding non-performers the same as high performers.

To stay motivated, people often want to feel they're a part of something bigger than themselves. Consider connecting the dots for people; help them understand how their efforts are directly tied to the bigger picture.

2. Keep an Eye on the Enjoyability Index

As a small-business owner, you may track a multitude of business metrics, such as sales performance, overhead costs and staff productivity. How about keeping an eye on the enjoyability index? Successful entrepreneurs have often cracked the code of building work cultures that keep employees motivated. People often want to feel good about where they work. Enjoyable work environments may help relieve the pressures and stress that can decrease motivation in the long run.

Ask yourself, are people happy to come to work in the morning or do they dread it? There are many ways to create enjoyable work places.

3. Establish Micro Milestones

Working relentlessly on long projects may tire the spirit and result in people losing steam along the way. To help avoid this, at the beginning of each project, consider carving out small milestones for the entire project, and celebrate small wins en route. This simple practice may help reenergize people and keep their motivation going.

4. Keep Everyone in the Zone

Being in the zone describes a state where an individual functions at peak performance. This state of flow might happen when we're involved in activities that are intrinsically motivating and when there's a balance between the challenge and the skills. Being in a state of flow means we're completely absorbed with what we're doing. We experience total concentration.

As a leader, you might consider setting the conditions for people to experience this state of flow by establishing crystal clear, short-term goals, giving people a sense of control, and immediate feedback on how they're doing, not six months later at performance review time. If you can prevent boredom that sets in when people's skill level is much higher than the challenge, and find ways to enrich people's jobs, you may start to raise the bar to keep them engaged.

5. Allow Autonomy

Motivation often increases when people feel in charge. The perception of having autonomy and control over work tends to boost one's energy to pursue a goal. As much as possible, consider giving people control over how they go about achieving the results you're seeking.

6. Focus on the "Extra Milers"

Instead of trying to motivate everyone on the team equally, consider focusing more of your motivation efforts on the "extra milers." They're the ones who go above and beyond their job description, who who consistently put in an extra effort and make it easier for everyone in the team. A study from the University of Iowa, where researchers conducted field studies, reveals that it pays to place these people in more central positions in the workflow where they would come in contact with many team members. A more strategically placed extra miler, the study suggests, has a positive impact on the team and improves the team's overall performance and motivation.

7. Connect the Dots for People

To stay motivated, people often want to feel they're a part of something bigger than themselves. Consider connecting the dots for people; help them understand how their efforts are directly tied to the bigger picture, to the vision and mission of what you're trying to accomplish. At every opportunity, you might remind people of the ultimate goal, of the dream. You cannot over-communicate when it comes to reminding people of where we're going, why we're doing what we're doing, and what will happen when we get there.

8. Guard Against Procrastination

Procrastination may dampen motivation. Understanding the cause of your procrastination may help you manage it. According to procrastination scholar Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation, most procrastination happens for three reasons: lacking self-confidence to achieve a particular goal, being disinterested in the task, and being impulsive, which diverts our focus away from our goals and distracts us. His procrastination equation is based on four components:

  • Expectancy: Your belief in how likely you are to achieve your goal
  • Value: How much value you place on the goal
  • Impulsiveness: How likely you are to be influenced by short-term vs. long-term gratifications
  • Delay: How far into the future the goal realization is

One way to use this equation to help you stop procrastinating may be to split your goals into bite-sized, feasible pieces. Make them realistically achievable, concrete and short term.

9. Digitize Your Goals

If you need an extra push to keep up your motivation to accomplish some goals, consider using one of the many online commitment trackers such as GoalsOnTrack, Stridesapp or Beeminder. You can also use private Pinterest boards to gather ideas and information for your projects, share visual content with your team and keep up the motivation through collaborative effort.

10. Put Pen to Paper

In an age of tech gadgets, using a pen and paper may be the ultimate hack for keeping up your motivation to work toward your goals. A study at the Dominican University of California found that people may be more likely to commit to goals if they write them down. Carry it with you and review what you wrote down periodically to keep the motivation alive.

Read more articles about productivity.

A version of this article was originally published on July 20, 2015. 

Photo: Getty Images