Increase your self-motivation: more productivity and job satisfaction

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Satisfied man with self-motivation in his job
The most important facts about self-motivation

reading time: ca. 5 minutes

  • A high level of motivation increases productivity, passion, and job satisfaction. There are various strategies to learn how to motivate yourself.
  • There is a distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation, where you complete the tasks out of an inner drive, is more sustainable.
  • The most important tips include setting realistic goals and establishing positive thoughts in everyday life.
  • Rewarding yourself for small successes for a short period of time can help you overcome your weaker self.

Motivation at work not only leads to higher productivity, but also to more fun on the job. Those who manage to motivate themselves are happier at work and are independent of others. But what can you do if your motivation decreases or disappears completely? Fortunately, there are strategies to increase self-motivation and maintain it in the long term.

In order to achieve your own goals and be successful at work, you need a good amount of self-motivation. Unmotivated work leads to frustration, dissatisfaction, and declining performance in the long run. It is therefore important to learn to use your inner sources of motivation and develop more passion in your (working) life.

The importance of self-motivation

Self-motivation is the ability to carry out and complete a task on your own initiative – without encouragement or pressure from others. It means taking responsibility for yourself and your goals. In other words, you don't need external motivation to be successful. This applies to the job, but also to private matters such as sport, healthy eating, or household chores.

Basically, every healthy person can motivate him- or herself. How strong this ability is varies from person to person – but it can be trained. How motivated we approach an activity depends not only on ourselves, but also on the nature of the task. Things we enjoy are generally easier.

But tasks that don't initially bring pleasure can also be important. Perhaps, they are a step on the way to achieving your goals or fulfil another important purpose. Here, it is helpful to use certain methods to motivate yourself.

External vs. internal motivation

  • Intrinsic motivation means that someone pursues an activity out of their own incentive. This is the case, for example, if the activity is fun, offers an interesting challenge, or is perceived as important.
  • Extrinsic motivation arises from external incentives. These can be positive incentives, such as rewards or praise, but also negative incentives, such as avoiding punishment or force.

However, external incentives only work temporarily. To be successful in the long term, you need internal sources of motivation.

Tips for increasing self-motivation

The right approach to motivation varies from person to person. Everyone must find out on their own which strategy is most successful.

There are a few tips and methods that can be used to put together an individual motivation strategy.

These are the best tips for self-motivation:

  1. Set personal goals and use them as a source of strength
  2. Internalise positive affirmations
  3. Work in a self-determined way
  4. Use reward systems
  5. Divide tasks into stages
  6. Establish routines and habits
  7. Reduce stress levels
  8. Schedule breaks

Tip 1: Set personal goals and use them as a source of strength

The biggest and most important incentives in everything we do are our personal goals. People who have a goal in mind and see a purpose in their own tasks are more motivated.

Goals should be realistic. If we want too much and don't achieve it, we are more likely to give up. Therefore: set small interim goals. Every completed step spurs you on and brings you closer to your overall goal.

If you are faced with an unloved task, it makes sense to clarify its purpose: Why should it be done? How does it contribute to achieving the goal? Imagining the positive feelings that result from achieving the interim goal makes it easier to get there.

Laughing woman with colleague motivates herself at work

Tip 2: Internalise positive affirmations

Affirmations have a major impact on our actions. They contain our innermost, often unconscious beliefs and assumptions.

Many people carry negative beliefs within them without realising it.

It is important to familiarise yourself with your inner beliefs, identify negative affirmations, and gradually replace them with positive ones.

Negative affirmations that act as motivation killers are, for example:

  • I'm not good enough anyway, no matter how hard I try.
  • My results will never be perfect.
  • I can't fulfil the expectations of others.
  • I will never achieve my goals.

Positive affirmations are, for example:

  • I can do this.
  • I am doing good and valuable work.
  • I have my goals in mind and will achieve them.
  • My work is important, no matter what others think of it.

Regularly speaking good affirmations out loud helps to internalise them and spur yourself on. This was also shown in a British study by the University of Wolverhampton: test participants who cheered themselves on had more energy, felt better, and achieved better results.

»The real secret of success is enthusiasm.«

Walter Chrysler, American industrial pioneer

Tip 3: Work in a self-determined way

Always being assigned tasks by others is demotivating in the long run. A higher degree of co-determination and autonomy ensures more enjoyment and commitment. It makes sense, for example, for employees to organise themselves, determine solutions, or co-decide on goals.

Taking responsibility for yourself and doing things out of conviction instead of doing them for others is particularly motivating.

Those who stand by themselves and their results are automatically more committed to their work. Regardless of whether the results are positive or negative – because mistakes are also important for personal development.

Tip 4: Use reward systems

Did you complete a task? If so, you might want to treat yourself to a reward, such as a good meal or a relaxing spa evening.

This also works the other way round, i.e., with punishments such as abstaining from media or withdrawing your mobile phone. However, research shows that rewards are generally more effective than punishments. A study by Harvard University came to this conclusion in 2009.

With reward systems, it is possible to motivate yourself for a while or to start a new habit. However, it is important to realise that these are extrinsic incentives. In the long term, you should try switching to intrinsic sources of motivation.

Tip 5: Divide tasks into stages

If a task seems too big to manage, it makes sense to divide it into steps. For example, individual work packages, milestones, and associated deadlines can be planned.

This enables a better focus on the specific to-dos. In addition, completed steps can be ticked off one by one. This visualises the achievements already made and motivates you to continue.

It is easier to push yourself to take smaller steps than huge piles of tasks. For example, many people find it easier to motivate themselves to spend half an hour concentrating on one step of a task than to tackle an entire project straight away. And motivation often grows on its own, so that people end up working on something for longer than originally planned.

Tip 6: Establish routines and habits

A well-planned daily schedule and motivating routines help you to stay focussed. Your own needs and biological rhythm should be taken into account. Some people work more productively in the morning, others only get going later.

Working completely against your own productivity phases is inefficient. It is better to be aware of your own ups and downs and plan your working day accordingly.

If you establish good habits at a fixed time, you can develop routines from them. At the same time, you can include motivating and activating elements, for example:

  • Listen to motivating podcasts or music
  • Read success stories or quotes that inspire you
  • Repeat positive affirmations
  • Recount the day's successes to yourself in the evening
  • Insert activating exercise sessions

Extra tip: It makes sense to consciously break your own habits from time to time and do something different than usual. This provides fresh energy and flexibility.

Young woman working on her laptop with motivation

Tip 7: Reduce stress levels

One of the biggest motivation killers is stress.

Nobody can cope with an excessive workload over a long period of time. As a result, tasks are completed on the fly and concentration and performance suffer.

At some point, physical symptoms follow.

A vicious circle: If the to-do list becomes too long, the results are often inadequate, which, in turn, demotivates people.

Anyone suffering from constant stress should reduce his or her workload. A good work-life balance, sensible prioritisation, and planning can help. If this is not enough, the only option is to talk to your manager to reduce the workload – and to say "no" from time to time instead of taking on too much.

Tip 8: Schedule breaks

No one can work productively all the time. Even the most motivated people need to take time out.

It is perfectly fine to take a break from work when the drive is lacking. Motivation often returns all by itself or new ideas arise unexpectedly. After a break, you can usually continue working with a clearer head and a fresh perspective.

It is best to fill breaks with things that are good for you and help you to recharge your batteries. This also contributes to your mental health. Always good: sport and exercise. This benefits both body and mind. With just a few measures, it is possible to stay fit and productive at work.

Self-motivation is no static condition

Motivating yourself is an ongoing process that is constantly evolving. Those who manage to learn effective motivational strategies and methods will face new challenges in life with enthusiasm and energy.

With the right tools, you can pursue your own life goals and enjoy achieving them.

Very important: Don't be afraid of failure. Mistakes and disappointments are part of life. We learn from them and know how we can do better next time.

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