Monday, March 7, 2016

Staying on track and motivated

Ever find yourself with a to-do list with things that just don’t get done? Sometimes these are tasks or activities that are in someway off-putting to you, so how can you motivate yourself to do them?

Louise Barnes-Johnston suggests an approach that enables people she is coaching to acknowledge (and celebrate) the fact they have completed something - and it’s the completion that matters rather than what a coachee may think about the ‘quality’ of the outcome. She suggests that coachees focus on mini-goals, and notes down 5 achievements every day “especially if they tend to dwell on all the things they ‘should’ have done but didn’t!”. The mini-goals can be tasks such as sorting out filing, going for a run with a friend, or even doing the ironing! Louise Barnes-Johnston indicates that once you get into the habit you may start to enjoy the sense of achievement you get from acknowledging and recording things you get done in a day, to the point where revisiting your list makes you feel good even after a day of challenges.

I frequently work across several projects so being organised and remaining motivated are a must. However, I find that there are things I need to do but don’t necessarily want to do (the uncomfortable phone call or email for example). I have two systems that help me stay motivated (less likely to procrastinate) and organised, both with an element of visual ‘reward’ when I’ve accomplished something.

The first is a Kanban board app on my phone, which enables me to colour code according to project, and to shift things from ‘to do’, into ‘next’, and then either ‘working on’ or ‘waiting’, until the task can then be moved into ‘done’. The notes area down the bottom provides space for recurring tasks (ones that happen every month), or to jot down a reminder of things to have a look at that haven’t, as yet, become tasks.

The other system is a good old-fashioned book. I have 2 pages with the names of each project across them, and then ‘to do’ lists underneath. Once something has been accomplished I cross it through, and if it requires follow up I write that in below.

The two systems mean that I remain on track. I really like the combination as the Kanban board allows me to capture the more detailed aspects of a project, whereas the book seems to work slightly differently, partly because of the process of writing things down rather than typing them in.

So, to build on Louise Barnes-Johnston’s exercise you could work with your coach to identify a way of recording tasks in a way that feels most comfortable. The discussion might be around trialling different ways of acknowledging progress until you find one that you feel will continue to work for you, such that you continue to use the approach. The keys are usability and sustainability. If it feel like more work to keep track of your tasks, it possibly isn’t the approach for you because it’s likely that once the pressure goes on the planning and tracking are likely to go by the wayside.

Image: 'Kölner Frühlingslauf 2015 ; Found on

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