Motivation begins with you to excel your day, and it's catchy to those around you...


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So your in a bummer mood, how to make yourself work when you don’t have any motivation

Aytekin Tank

Aytekin Tank

Originally published on JOTFORM.COM

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Don’t break the chain.”

These four simple words helped Jerry Seinfeld become one of the world’s most successful comedians.


Seinfeld’s mantra pushed him to write new jokes every single day.

Using a wall calendar, he drew an “X” through each day on which he wrote. Once the Xs started forming a chain, his motivation grew.


“You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain,” Seinfeld told a young comedian, who had asked for success tips.


Seinfeld’s technique, which ultimately led to him landing a hit television show, is a perfect example of how success doesn’t always begin with extraordinary motivation.


Like a snowball gathering speed, sometimes the motivation builds after you get started.

By nature, I’m not a highly motivated person. I’m not an early riser, I don’t particularly love the gym and I don’t read two new books each week.


But somehow I still managed to launch JotForm, and slowly grow a network of over 4.2 million users over the last twelve years. And I squeeze in a workout many mornings, too.

Getting stuff done doesn’t always depend on motivation. We can accomplish great things, even when we just don’t feel like it.


Procrastination can be a vicious cycle.


The more we avoid something, the higher our anxiety, and so we put it off further.

To stop the procrastination cycle, we need to first identify the reason why we’re avoiding a task. Usually, it’s about prevention or promotion.

  • A prevention focus is when we avoid doing something to prevent a loss. For example, you have to create a presentation for work, but are afraid it won’t be engaging. Worried about embarrassing yourself in front of colleagues, you postpone getting started on the presentation.
  • A promotion focus is when we see a task as a way to end up better off than we are now — like training for a marathon — but can’t summon the motivation to get started. For example, the running club you joined meets at 6:00 am, but the snooze button triumphs every time.

Emotions play a key role both in promotion and prevention focus.

It’s the “feeling like” part that is the trickiest, but as Melissa Dahl shared in a 2016 article for The Cut:


“You don’t have to feel like getting something done in order to actually get it done.“


This is such a critical point. It’s so simple, but often so difficult to apply.

Similarly, if you think something is boring or unpleasant, you need to take your feelings out of the equation and decide in advance exactly when and where you’ll do it.


Say, every day at 7:00 am, you’re at the gym. No emotions. There’s no lying in bed, staring at the ceiling and weighing the pros and cons of exercise. Save yourself the decision fatigue and commit to your previously-determined schedule.


Act now, feel motivated later


“Where I’d had huge success, I had narrowed my concentration to one thing, and where my success varied, my focus had, too … Success is sequential, not simultaneous.”

- Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, Authors of The One Thing


Like my morning pages routine, motivation can be the result of an action, not the cause of it. Once we manage to get started, even in the smallest of ways, momentum will keep us going.


Sustained momentum toward a singular goal creates a compound effect. Which is, in essence, the concept that consistent, incremental changes can result in fundamental changes over time.


Between the ages of 32 and 44, Warren Buffett grew his net worth by 1,257 percent. But it’s the next 12 years that are truly astounding.


From 44 to 56, he grew his net worth by 7,268 percent.

Slowly but surely, he started building up a chain of investments and never stopped.


Don’t break the chain


The power of momentum can be explained with the idea called the Physics of Productivity, which is Newton’s First Law applied to habit formation:


Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Once a task has begun, it’s easier to continue moving it forward.


If we start with a small action — putting on our running sneakers or finishing the presentation introduction — chances are we’ll find it easier to continue.


This is where routines come in handy — to eliminate the decision-making process and decide not only when you’ll do something, but also the exact steps.


Say you want to publish a new blog post but can’t muster the motivation to get started. Commit to completing just one paragraph each day until it’s done.


And to take it one step further: create a ritual to go with the activity. Pour a fresh cup of coffee, practice a couple minutes of mindful breathing and then get started.

Some of the most successful people believe in rituals. Take world-famous author and motivational speaker Tony Robbins.


Every morning, Robbins “primes” his mind before he starts his day. In just 10 minutes, he performs three sets of 30 Kapalbhati Pranayama breaths, expresses gratitude and prays for help, guidance, and strength throughout the day. Then, brain primed, he starts his day.

Whatever you choose, your ritual will reduce the chance that you’ll skip the activity. In fact, sometimes the ritual helps us look forward to it — like slipping on a pair of comfortable slippers the moment we get home.


Kindling the fire


Motivation isn’t the fire that starts your engine.


Jeff Haden, author of The Motivation Myth, writes that it’s…


“… the fire that starts burning after you manually, painfully, coax it into existence, and it feeds on the satisfaction of seeing yourself make progress.”


Many times, motivation comes after we start working toward a goal. The trick lies in getting ourselves to take that first step.


If we beat ourselves up for not having the motivation to start a task, then we’re not making any headway.




A Simple Strategy to Stay Motivated

Put your big goals aside, and set small goals instead.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Are you familiar with this scenario?


You’ve set a big goal that you’re excited about.

And initially, you make some progress toward it.

But fairly soon, life starts getting in the way.

You get interrupted a few times and lose your momentum.


And from that point forward, your goal stops pulling you forward and starts weighing you down.

For each day that passes, it seems increasingly daunting. And eventually, you give up, slightly more discouraged than you were before.


If you can relate to this scenario, you’re not alone.

We’re all susceptible to the planning fallacy: a strong tendency to underestimate the time needed to complete a future task.

When we set goals, we don’t make room for unexpected interruptions. Instead, we assume that everything will go exactly according to plan.

So, when we bring our optimistic plan to our unpredictable life, it quickly falls apart. In the wise words of boxing legend Mike Tyson:


Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.


If you constantly set unrealistic goals, you’ll keep getting knocked down.

As a result, you’ll almost always feel like you’re behind.


And that’s problematic because it’s crucial for your motivation to feel like you’re making progress.

Every step forward makes the next step forward more likely.


So, I invite you to try a radically different approach.

Put your big goals aside, and set small goals instead.


Make them so easy that you’re basically guaranteed to achieve them.

That way, you’ll create a margin of safety that protects against the inevitable interruptions of life.


And that will make it possible for you to consistently make progress, build your motivation, and achieve many more goals in the future.







You Don’t Need More Motivation — You Need a System

Here’s how to create one to live more productively

Darius Foroux

One of my greatest talents has always been coming up with an excuse for putting off something I didn’t want to do.


Skipped the gym? Eh, I’ll just make up for it tomorrow.

Hit the snooze button? Well, I needed the rest.

Brushed off a task on my to-do list? It wasn’t that important.

Procrastination is always an inner battle. But losing it has greater consequences than a missed workout or a blown deadline every now and then.


Six years ago, I tried to pursue my dream of becoming an entrepreneur: I did some freelance writing, built websites, and took on some content marketing and design projects. But, despite all the time I put in, I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted. Why? Because I couldn’t get myself to do the uncomfortable work — the difficult, tedious, and unsatisfying tasks that come with actually building a business. I kept looking for relief from those tasks, often scrolling through the news or going out (yet again) for a coffee break.


That was, and to a degree still is, the story of my life. Right now, I’m writing a book. Writing is hard. I keep fighting the urge to put off the work. But I’m moving along and getting it done. The only difference between my life six years ago and my life today is that I now have a system.


Here’s what I mean. To be truly productive, you can’t rely on hacks or apps or new technologies. Trust me. I’ve tried.


You need to develop your own sustainable system, a set of routines and practices that serves as the foundation of your work.


My system looks like this:

  • I exercise my mental toughness every day. I used to neglect my brain. I didn’t trust my instincts and would spend my time overthinking. So I started reading about Stoicism, Pragmatism, and mindfulness, which helped me to control my thoughts and improve my mental toughness.
  • I exercise my body every day. When I don’t exercise, I lack focus, confidence, and energy. So I now do daily workouts. Overcoming procrastination starts before you fight the inner battle. Soldiers don’t go to war untrained, right?
  • I have a set of daily habits. I journal, read, set daily priorities, and don’t consume useless information. I also make sure I interact with my friends and family every day. Human contact is important. All of these things keep me grounded and help me actually enjoy my days.
  • I carry a list of small, but important, tasks that I must complete. I often think about all the logistical things that come with writing a book besides the actual writing. I do everything I can to get out of adding new words and new pages to my book draft. So I break the big task of writing into more manageable pieces, giving myself small daily writing assignments to complete. It’s about doing the big things first.

As you may have noticed, not all of these things are related to the work directly. That’s okay. My system gets me in the right headspace to get the work done.


It makes me a more disciplined person, so when I sit down to write, I can power through all my distracting thoughts and actually write.


You will always want to procrastinate. But if you have a system, you can be productive in spite of that. Work on creating one today — not tomorrow.


How To Achieve Your Most Ambitious Long-Term Goals

An in-depth look at the approach I used to build a successful business I can run from anywhere in the world.

Man in black shirt and jeans balancing on ladder on top of concrete structure.
Image by Los Muertos Crew on pexels

Setting goals is much easier than achieving them — but with the right approach, you make success almost inevitable.


Most people treat their long-term ambitions like Tupperware in the fridge.

They have good intentions but get distracted by fresh snacks until it’s too late and yesteryear’s Chicken Alfredo has turned into a furry, blue, and inedible baby.

Just like that, they let their goals go moldy in the back of their head.


Data shows only about 50% of people stick to their New Year’s resolutions for more than a month. After two years, about 80% have given up.

But that’s not all.


When you fail to achieve your goals, you lose trust in yourself. “Why can’t I follow through for once?” “I’ve messed up again.” “’l’ll never get it right.”

I’ve been there, but since mental self-flagellation isn’t as fun as it sounds, I vowed to change something.

Instead of tackling my long-term goals with an, I’m feeling lucky attitude, I designed a foolproof, straightforward system to achieve them.


This helped me build a writing and coaching business in under two years from scratch.

In a few months, I’ll be moving to South-East Asia with nothing but a backpack and my laptop to fulfill a long-held dream of mine: Travel the world, live in beautiful places, and make money while doing so.


Whatever your long-term goals are — financial independence, a great relationship, or being in the best shape of your life — here are the strategy and tactics that will get you there.


Are You a Strategist or Tactician?

That’s the question a friend of mine used to ask people.

Most responded with “What’s the difference?”


Strategy is an overarching plan and set of goals to turn your vision into reality.

Building a location-independent business to work from anywhere in the world, cutting expenses and making smart investments to retire early, or creating a rigorous nutrition and training plan to compete in an Ironman.


Tactics are the individual steps and decisions to follow your strategy.

Creating an offer and finding clients, looking for undervalued stocks and cheap apartments to live in, or going for three runs a week and improving your swimming technique.


“Strategy is buying a bottle of fine wine when you take a lady out for dinner. Tactics is getting her to drink it.”

— Frank Muir


Take a sip of that wine bottle and fasten your seatbelt, because it’s time to dive into the nitty-gritty of achieving your biggest goals.


The Clearer the Water, the Easier the Swim

The human mind is amazing, but your imagination isn’t limitless — which often curbs your success.

Look at the bright yellow circle in the sky, the catalyst for Vitamin D, the origin of skin cancer, and the facilitator of climate change — our sun.


It’s bigger than the earth, but it’s hard to grasp just how much — you could fit 1 million Earth’s inside it, akin to putting 25kg of rice grains into a very hot barbecue.

Sounds like a lot?

Well, you could also fit 1.6 billion suns inside Betelgeuse, one of the largest known stars.

These numbers are almost impossible to imagine.


When you set long-term goals, you face the same challenge.

Your weekly plans are on your radar, but what about the goals for next year?

In three years?

In five?


It’s hard to grasp these timespans if you’re living in 24-hour cycles.


They seem so far away that you always think you have enough time left — until you don’t anymore. But if you instead break them down into small, tangible steps, you’ll know exactly what you have to do every month, week, and day. Here’s how to do it.


Use the power of OKRs

In the long list of productivity and planning techniques, OKRs are one of the most undervalued.

Getting clear about your Objectives & Key Results will help you obtain razor-sharp focus and move the needle-like an underpaid child worker in a Bangladeshi sweatshop.


Your Objective is what you want to achieve.

For example, I wanted to hit a minimum monthly revenue from a business I could run from anywhere in the world using nothing but my laptop.


The Key Results are measurable, specific milestones you need to pass to achieve that objective.

This means that every month, I aim for two new clients, ten articles, and some extra money through a third income stream for additional safety.

Also, I need to outsource some tasks so I have time to travel instead of working 80-hour weeks.


Little strokes fell big oaks

Once you’re clear about the path, all that’s left is to create small, tangible steps so you can eat the proverbial elephant one bite at a time.


Separate your key results into monthly, weekly, and even daily action steps.


If your objective is to have a one-million-dollar stock portfolio and retire by 40, this means spending some hours analyzing the stock market and investing money every week.


If your objective is to place Top 100 in an Ironman, this means a bunch of regular training sessions and healthy meals every week as well as getting at least eight hours of sleep a night for recovery.


Strategy & tactic lesson #1: Get crystal clear about your objectives and key results. Break them down into tangible monthly, weekly, and even daily actions.


Consistent Progress Equals Consistent Success

Running a marathon is easy — just take a lot of steps, one after another.

The problem is most people don’t approach their goals that way.

Instead of making steady progress, they use motivation to burn the candle from both ends, which creates a lot of heat but isn’t a sustainable strategy.

Instead, build the right habits and improve consistently.


Crash-diets lead to yo-yo effects, sustainable changes in eating patterns help you lose weight and keep it off.

All-nighters burn you out, consistent progress helps you build your legacy.

Ten hours of reading get you through a book, ten minutes a day through a library.


Small habits and improvements aren’t as sexy as posting #sleepisfortheweak and #nodaysoff on Instagram, but they have one significant advantage — they work.


Dashrath Manjhi, dubbed the “Mountain Man” of India, lost his wife when she fell from a rock and he couldn’t get her to the neighboring village because it was too far away. To deal with the grief, he tackled a seemingly impossible feat.

He set out to dig a 110m long gorge through solid rock with nothing but a hammer and chisel to reduce the distance between the two villages from 55km to 15km. The villagers called him crazy, but 22 years of daily effort later, he had accomplished the impossible.

Constant dropping wears the stone.


“If you get one percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done.” [1.01³⁶⁵ = 37.78]

— James Clear


Here’s how you can build habits that stick like superglue.

Start small — standardize before you optimize

I’ve trained in gyms for over a decade now and every January, I witness the same spectacle.

New Year’s resolutioners swarm in like locusts, high on endless hours of motivational YouTube videos, throwing dumbbells like Tom Brady footballs.

They work hard and sweat their butts off, literally.

But two months after the initial storm, most found six workouts per week too hard and are back on the couch in front of the TV.


Humans tend to overestimate what we’re willing to do.

But if you want to build a solid habit, how often matters more than how much.


Make it easy and start small — read for ten minutes a day, go for two runs a week, and spend half an hour on your side-hustle after work.

Only increase the load once the habit is solid.

Standardize before you optimize.


Leverage environment over willpower

Through evolution, we are all hardwired to opt for the path of least resistance — use this to your advantage.

Have you ever wondered why auto-play features on YouTube and Netflix work so well?

It’s easier to stick around for another video than lean towards the screen and click it away.

To resist the temptations of endless episodes, tasty cookies, and sleeping through your home office hours, you have to use willpower.

Unfortunately, it’s a limited resource, so forcing yourself to do things is neither fun nor sustainable.

Use the power of your environment instead.


Want to read more?

Put a book on your couch and hide the TV remote.

Want to eat healthier?

Stop buying cookies and stack fruit on the kitchen counter.

Want to use the morning hours for working on your dreams instead of scrolling through social media? Have your phone in airplane mode and use app blockers.


The possibilities to design your environment are endless, but your willpower isn’t. Act accordingly.


Track & reward yourself

With all our modern inventions, technological advancements, and intellectual achievements, it’s easy to forget how simple humans are.


Your brain craves rewards.

You work for money, buy fast food for fat and sugar, and whisper sweet nothings into someone’s ear for a round of horizontal tango.

If you get the reward, your brain will make a mental note to repeat the behavior.


Reward yourself and it’ll be much easier to stick to your habits.


Create a list of what you like and use the items as incentives.

Accomplished everything you wanted today?

Awesome, make yourself some tea and relax with your favorite show.

Had a productive week and stuck to your habits?

Great, treat yourself to a massage and a nice dinner at your favorite restaurant.

Using the right rewards can do wonders for your motivation and long-term progress.

Work hard, play hard.


Strategy & tactic lesson #2: Employ a mindset of consistency and gradual improvement instead of burning the candle from both ends.

Design smart habits that stick like superglue and help you make progress even on rainy days.

Stalactites and stalagmites in a white and blue cave.
The ultimate master of consistency: It can take thousands of years to form these stalactites and stalagmites, one drop at a time. | Photo by Matteo Panara on Unsplash

The Ultimate Tool Box to Stay on Track No Matter What Happens

Everyone who’s had a few trips around the sun knows that life doesn’t always go as planned.

There will always be unexpected circumstances.

The spontaneous meeting or requests from your boss.

Catching a stomach bug that makes your intestines dance the macarena for a week straight.

A partner or friend who gets into trouble and needs your help.

These can get you off track quicker than black ice a 90s pickup truck — but only if you let them.


Life is unpredictable.

Stay agile, learn from your mistakes, and adjust the course.

That’s how you become unstoppable.


Think about your journey like a road trip — you wouldn’t drive for eight hours straight without ever checking your GPS, hoping you don’t end up in Alberta instead of Alabama.

Instead, you take regular breaks to check your route, stretch your legs, and make sure everyone’s happy with how things go.


This is why reviews and planning are crucial to your success

To stay on track and don’t get derailed you have to regularly check and adjust your path if necessary.

I use weekly, monthly, and yearly reviews to track my progress and identify areas that need polishing.

This might sound tedious and over-the-top, but as productivity guru and author of over 80 books Brian Tracy said:


“Every minute you spend in planning saves you 10 minutes of execution; this gives you a 1,000 percent Return on Energy.”


Here are the questions I use for my weekly review.


  • What were some of last week’s wins?
  • What key lessons did I learn?
  • What can I do differently to raise my average performance?


  • What responsibilities/deadlines are due next week?
  • What challenges do I anticipate and how will I prepare for them?


  • Do my daily tasks get me closer to my long-term goals?


  • What are the three highest-leverage tasks that move the needle most?


  • What key habit or task will I accomplish next week? What’s the specific one thing that will move me forward?

My monthly reviews follow a similar structure, but I also set three big milestones to achieve and a reward for succeeding.

For my yearly check-ins, I use this template.


Strategy & tactic lesson #3: If you get off track, you’ll waste time and energy.

A few minutes of planning can save you hours of detours.

Do weekly, monthly, and yearly reviews to succeed in the long run.


Recap to Help You Achieve Your Biggest Long-Term Goals

  1. Get crystal clear about your objectives and key results. Break them down into tangible monthly, weekly, and even daily actions.
  2. Employ a mindset of consistency and continuous improvement instead of burning the candle from both ends. Design smart habits that stick like superglue and help you make progress even on rainy days.
  3. If you get off track, you’ll waste time and energy. A few minutes of planning can save you hours of detours. Do weekly, monthly, and yearly reviews to succeed in the long run.