Lack of motivation is something most everyone has experienced at some time in their lives. We can often jump into action if we are prompted by someone else, but when it comes to self-motivation, we must be both the motivator and the motivatee. 

Practical techniques to improve your self-motivation by Stephen Haunts

This isn’t always easy, as we can be prone to procrastination and, let’s face it, laziness. True, we can be too lazy to do something we need to do. It’s so much easier to ask someone else or convince ourselves that it’s not worth the effort to perform a specific task or go to a particular place. 

I should write a book, but I doubt anyone would read it. 

I’d love to become an teacher, but going back to college… no way. 

The boss wants me to represent him at the award ceremony tonight, but I’d probably say or do something stupid.

I’m too tired to go to the gym today. Maybe tomorrow. 

Demotivators are continually looking for an excuse to avoid doing what they need to do to succeed, to reach their goals, or to simply do something or go somewhere. As shown in the above examples, there can be varying reasons for a lack of motivation. Whether it’s a headache or other physical ailment, a lack of self-confidence, or a lack of desire, you’ve probably been guilty of at least one instance of demotivation. 

We all have. And that’s why this article was written. We’ll explore some tips and techniques that will help you to get up and go, do the unthinkable, and conquer the world. 

Okay, so maybe you won’t conquer the world, but you can conquer your world. So, let’s get started!

Types of Motivation

There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic is when internal desires motivate people. They have goals and they pursue them. They have the inner drive to succeed.

Extrinsic motivation comes from an external source, such as your boss telling you that you need to be more productive.  These two types of motivation can be broken down into subcategories. They include fear, achievement, competence, power, attitude, and incentive. 

Of course, self-motivation is easily achieved when we fear something or someone. If we fear our boss will fire us, and if we want and need the job, self-motivation will kick in and we’ll perform better. If we come face-to-face with a bear when camping, we won’t need a push from anyone to take protective measures. 

Incentives are motivators for many people as we’re programmed to take action for a reward. Power motivates us to take risks, and achievement prompts us to do the best we can. Competence and attitude are also driving factors to do better and improve our lives. 

The purpose of this article is to focus on self-motivation so that we can improve our lives at home and at work. It’s important to recognize the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, as they can cross over at times. And we will examine techniques to get and keep you self-motivated!

Let’s Get Motivated

You’ve decided that you need something to kick you into action. You need to be self-motivated and you no longer want to procrastinate. Today is the day! But where should you begin? 

First, you’ll want to determine what in your personal or work life needs motivation. You might know the answer to this, or you might need to do a self-evaluation. Whichever applies to you, it’s time to stop thinking and start doing. We’ll begin by examining some techniques that will have you on your way.

Goal Setting

The first thing you can do to get yourself in the groove is to set goals. Large or small, goals will help you to get moving. 

You can give yourself one goal or break it down into sub goals. No matter which you choose, be sure to give yourself a time frame to ensure you stay on task. 

Practical techniques to improve your self-motivation by Stephen Haunts

Let’s say you need to finish an important proposal for work and your boss needs it within the week. You haven’t had the motivation to do the research, let alone write a 30-page proposal. Not only do you have this project due at work, but your spouse has also been begging you to help close the pool for the summer.

You know you need to do these things, but at work you’re busy with day-to-day responsibilities, and at home you’re too tired to think about the pool or the proposal. When the weekend comes, you want “me” time, and it’s also the only time you have to mow the lawn, play with the kids, and have some quality time with your partner.

There’s so much to do and so little time. 

Instead of living in a constant state of fluster and having six things to do while only accomplishing one, goal setting can organize your life and provide you with the self-motivation you need to git ’er done. 

You should start by listing all the things you need to do. Yes, that’s right; you’re going to write a “to-do” list with short and long-term goals. You’ll prioritize your goals and keep them realistic so that you can adhere to them.

Taking the above example of writing the important proposal, you can commit to writing so many pages each day by dividing the word count into the number of days you have until the deadline. You’ll need to find a time each day when you can work on it without distractions. Pencil in your other commitments and make time to close the pool. You might want to add that to a weekend schedule so that you don’t get thrown off of your work schedule or return home from work too tired to take on a large task. 

Be sure to keep your list within reason. You don’t want to overschedule and defeat the purpose. Keep in mind that to be self-motivating, you also need to be realistic with your goals. This will ensure your motivation won’t turn into demotivation. It’s easy to set goals; sticking to them can be another story. The more realistic your goals, the more likely you’ll be successful.

Eliminate Distractions

You might find you’re motivated to hit the pavement running, but the kids need a ride to football practice, and you forgot you promised to mow the neighbor’s lawn when they’re away, and your phone is ringing non-stop. 

Practical techniques to improve your self-motivation by Stephen Haunts

You need to remember other commitments when setting goals, and when you do have the opportunity to work on a project, be sure you eliminate anything that can distract you. Turn your phone ringer off or put it on vibrate, in case you do get an emergency call. Work in an area where you won’t have kids or co-workers disrupting you. If you like silence, find a place where there’s no noise. If you prefer to work around others, head to your local coffee shop or diner. If you work well on a sandy beach, do so. Wherever you choose to work, be sure you’re comfortable and you are in a place where you can do your best work. If you find you’re becoming distracted, you’ll be more likely to abandon what you’re doing, using the distraction as an excuse. 

You need to ensure that your time commitment is met, and that means if friends call and ask you to play tennis or golf or go to a movie, you’re prepared to say no. This is another reason why it’s wise to turn off your phone or silence it. And that means don’t check it every 10 minutes. Learn to live without it until your task is completed or your time commitment has expired.

Do your best to eliminate as many distractions as possible, and you’ll have a better chance of accomplishing your goals. 

Be Enthusiastic

Okay, so admittedly it might be hard to find the enthusiasm to go a pool for the summer. It’s about as exciting as changing the kitty litter. Whichever you do, you’re scooping, whether it’s leaves or pet evacuation. 

You’re probably thinking, “How am I supposed to be enthused about such a dirty, boring job?”

There’s a two-word answer to this question: think positive. 

That’s right. A positive attitude and motivation go hand-in-hand, like two lovers taking a leisurely stroll along a white sand beach with the hot sun meshing with a cool breeze.

Practical techniques to improve your self-motivation by Stephen Haunts

All right, so perhaps it’s not that romantic, but you can make it much more satisfying if you take on the task with a positive attitude. Think of it this way: these chores need to be done. Winter will come and the pool will be ruined if it’s filled with snow and ice. Not to mention the greater task ahead when you open it the following summer if you don’t close it properly in the fall. And not tending to the litter box will leave you with one or more angry felines that will likely take it out on your new carpeting. 

Whatever you undertake, a positive attitude makes it go faster and smoother. You know you have the ability to do the task at hand, so it’s only a matter of self-motivation.   

A way you can be enthusiastic about a difficult or humdrum task is to keep your mind focused on the satisfaction of being finished. You’ll have the feeling of relief and accomplishment.  You’ll be able to sit back and say, “I did it.” You also might want to treat yourself to something special that you enjoy and don’t have very often. 

Be your own cheerleader and start chomping away at your goal’s list. You can do it!

Remember the Reason

As described above, you must remember the reason you need to do something. You know if you don’t finish a work project by your deadline that you could jeopardize your job. You know if you don’t close the pool for the winter, there’s a high probability it can be ruined or that you will have double the labor to do when you reopen it. 

There will always be a reason to do something and a reason to look forward to the end result. You change a flat tire so you can safely drive without causing more damage to your vehicle. You put out a bonfire, so a spark doesn’t cause a large, uncontrollable fire. You go to work on time each day, so you aren’t fired. You eat so you don’t die. 

For everything we do, there’s a reason. The reason should provide you with self-motivation to complete even the most mundane task. If it helps you, when writing your to-do list, state the reason you need to complete the task. You can gain motivation from the reminder of the reason. 

Learn It, Live It, Love It

You walked into work one day expecting the ordinary grit and grind, but before you could grab your first cup of java, your boss was at your desk giving you a new directive. Suddenly, you find yourself upstream on a river without a paddle, and there are no coworkers who can throw you a life vest. 

Somewhere deep inside, you need to find the motivation to succeed. There’s no one to help you, and the assignment you were given is uncharted territory. You don’t dare question the boss because he obviously had faith in you to get the job done; the problem is that you don’t have faith in yourself.

It’s a large undertaking, and you know you have a lot to learn. You don’t want to invest the time because your boss never presented an incentive, not even encouragement. 

How can you motivate yourself to get the job done? 

  • Learn it
  • Live it
  • Love it

You need to go into the project with a positive, go-get-’em attitude. Stay positive and stay focused. Learn what the project is about. Do the research. Take an interest and make a commitment. Let the project become your life at work, as time allows. If your boss allotted you three hours each day, take it and use every minute. 

We sometimes feel as if we can’t keep up, or catch up, with the projects that are due. This is why you need to take the initiative and start immediately. Don’t wait, don’t procrastinate. As the saying says, “Just do it.” 

The more you ponder and hem and haw, the more behind you’ll become, and the more you’ll wish you had more time. That’s why you need to learn it, live it, and love it. 

You might be surprised at how rewarding the project is when it’s completed, and you can hand it to your boss with pride and a feeling of accomplishment. And, unless your boss is a complete jerk, you’ll be recognized and possibly rewarded for a job well done. 

More Motivational Techniques

Thus far, we have discussed some of the ways you can motivate yourself to do what needs to be done. There are more tips and techniques to explore. Let’s review them, and perhaps something will appeal to you.

Remember, we are focusing on self-motivation. There’s no one to give you the nudge you might need, and there’s no one holding you accountable. You only have yourself, so you’ll need to do whatever it is that works best for you.


Music is a great motivator, and it’s something that takes little effort. Simply turn on your favorite tunes on your favorite mode of play. You’ve probably seen joggers and runners with earbuds, and you know they are listening to music to stay motivated. 

Practical techniques to improve your self-motivation by Stephen Haunts

There are scientific studies to back the effect that music has on our brains. The term used to study the function of the brain in music processing is called neuromusicology.

The research has shown that music can increase productivity and happiness. It can induce creativity and increase efficiency. 

Let’s take a look at what some of these studies concluded.

  • Those doing repetitive tasks work more efficiently when there is background music (Applied Ergonomics, 1972). 
  • Surgeons are more accurate and efficient when they operate with background music. The research suggests that surgeons who work with music playing perform better than those who operate with no music (The Journal of the American Medical Association, 1994)
  • A study conducted to correlate number identification and classical or rock music concluded that participants were able to identify numbers faster and with more accuracy while listening to music (Neuroscience and Behavior Physiology, 1999).
  • For software developers, music is proven to aid in positive moods, better quality of work and improved efficiency (Journal of Psychology of Music, 2005).

As we can conclude from these studies, music certainly is deserving of its title as a motivator. Think about how many places you’ve been and there was music playing in the background.

Does your dentist use it to relax you? Is soft music being piped into your doctor’s office? Do you listen to the radio when you’re driving? Do you rock the tunes when you’re shopping at Walmart? 

There’s a reason our lives are surrounded by music. It relaxes us, de-stresses us and motivates us. To use music as your motivation, be sure it’s music you like, not random radio play, and that you keep the decibel level within reason. You don’t want to play your music so loud that it distracts you. You want it just loud enough to be motivational. 

If you’re a classical music kind of person or you prefer rock, throw in some earbuds or surround your ears with headphones and get to work. You might want to avoid music that’s depressing with lyrics about breakups and death. You’ll want music that will pump you up and get you moving. 

Artists, fitness gurus, teachers and many others in all walks of life use music as a motivational tool and you can too. Sometimes we forget to turn on and tune in when we’re working or working out, and it’s something so simple that can give us such rewarding results. 

Give it a try the next time you’re looking for self-motivation. 


Movies can also be a great means of self-motivation. Who doesn’t feel motivated when watching the final scene of Dead Poets Society? This is a move that makes anyone ready to conquer the world, dare to stand up for oneself, and accept challenges and overcome obstacles. 

Practical techniques to improve your self-motivation by Stephen Haunts

Who hasn’t been inspired by Atticus Finch? And Mr. Holland’s Opus is a movie that many can resonate with when it comes to finding inspiration and desire. Rocky, of course, has inspired many–not only the movie but the film soundtrack. Who hasn’t been inspired by the The Greatest Showman? The soundtrack alone is perfect if you’re in need of motivation. 

Perhaps you find cartoons as motivators because of the humor. Laughter is the best medicine, and it can be very motivational. The more upbeat we are, the more likely we will be to tackle even the toughest project head-on. 

Motivational Quotes

The internet is saturated with motivational quotes. We see them everywhere, on wooden signs and in picture frames. They hang on our office walls and in school halls.  Some folks have them on their phones as screensavers and others receive daily motivational quotes. 

Practical techniques to improve your self-motivation by Stephen Haunts

Visual motivation has been proven to work. Here’s a small selection of quotes for your visual stimulation. 

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” ~ David Brinkley

“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” ~ Winston Churchill

 “Opportunities don’t happen, you create them.” ~ Chris Grosser

“Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.”        ~ Albert Einstein

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

 “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ~Thomas A. Edison

Motivational quotes and sayings work for many people and that’s why there’s a large demand for posters, wooden plaques, and refrigerator magnets. Hallmark cards are another example of popular motivational sayings. Most everyone has given or received a Hallmark card. 

If you glean inspiration from quotes, then by all means surround yourself with them. Hang them on your walls at home and at the office. 

Vision Boards

We talked about making a to-do list, and it’s similar to a vision board; however, a vision board is something larger and more visible, and it’s something you want to look at least twice a day for self-motivation. 

You’ll want to list a goal or an inspirational quote or both. You can add a graphic if you’d like as well. All you need is a dry erase board, some markers, and an eraser. You can change your board daily, weekly, monthly or never. It’s up to you. What’s important is that it’s in your pathway more than once a day.

Practical techniques to improve your self-motivation by Stephen Haunts

If you don’t want to purchase a board and markers, there are websites that provide software to make an electronic board. 

Do you remember the days of passbook banking? When you’d want to save for a car so you’d tape a picture of the car you wanted to the front cover to keep you from making withdrawals for frivolous things? Consider your vision board as something like this. Your board will keep you on track and keep you from taking a detour from your goal. 

A vision board might not inspire you to change the kitty litter box, but it can inspire you to complete your work project. 


There are those who can find inspiration by reading their favorite blog. If you’re looking for motivational blogs, you need look no further than Google. A search will return a plethora of blogs that serve to motivate you to do most anything. Whether you’re looking for a blog that will provide you with home, work, play, religious or exercise motivation, you need look no further than a search engine.

You can do a generic search for “motivational blogs” or you can search for subcategories such as “motivational blogs for students” or “motivational blogs for professionals.” If you have the time to read an inspirational blog and you find it helpful, by all means bookmark your favorites and indulge yourself. 

You may find that you want to write a motivational blog, and that will surely help you with self-motivation. You’ll need motivation to keep blogging. You’ll have readers who will depend on and look for new content. If you have the time to devote to blogging, start one today. There are plenty of people looking for inspirational blogs and there’s always room for one more. 

You don’t need to blog every day, but you will need to add new content every few days to keep things fresh and keep the interest of your audience. 

The Commitment

We have covered a lot of ground in these pages, but we haven’t talked about commitment. You see, you can have all the audio and visual aids in the world for self-motivation, but it won’t mean anything unless you’re committed. 

Self-motivation won’t work without a commitment to yourself. You need to follow your goals, grab your inspiration and spark your desire. Commitment will keep you going when your motivation takes a dip. Even if you employ every suggestion thus far, without commitment you will accomplish little. 

Sure, you might start out strong, but you can easily run out of steam, and staring at your inspirational quote will do nothing to get you back on track. 

You need to remember that even the most successful people fell off course a time or two, and failure can be one of life’s greatest motivators. If you commit to remaining positive, if you commit to achieving your goals, if you commit to staying on the path, then you can fully commit to self-motivation.

Be accountable to yourself and you’ll be better equipped to be accountable to others. Celebrate small victories and aspire to reach your ultimate goal. Commit to good habits. Commit to commitment. 

As mentioned above, a commitment to writing a blog is great for self-motivation. You can inspire others while inspiring yourself. It’s a win-win for you and for your blog readers. 

The only thing stopping you is you, so take the vow now to commit to self-motivation. You can do it, and once you do, you’ll be happy you did. 

Closing Thoughts

Self-motivation is a broad topic, and this condensed treatment of it is packed with helpful tips and techniques to start you on your way to self-motivation and keep you there. You might want to try one suggestion or several. You’ll want to do what works best for you to achieve your goals.

Practical techniques to improve your self-motivation by Stephen Haunts

If you are already self-motivated, you can use this article to strengthen it. There’s always room for improvement, and there are always new things to learn. 

It’s not always possible to stay motivated. Life can get in the way. We might experience personal difficulties that slow us down. Health, family issues, work issues… they can all have an impact on our motivational efforts. We can become demotivated when we experience the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the loss of a pet. 

It’s important, too, that we don’t confuse self-motivation with drawing inspiration from others. Just because someone motivates us, it doesn’t mean we aren’t self-motivated. 

You might work with a colleague who is perpetually upbeat and accomplishing all they set out to do. You can be inspired by their motivation and draw from it. That person isn’t consciously motivating you, and they aren’t pushing you to do anything. They are simply providing you with self-motivation. 

Remember, everything we do takes motivation. It took motivation to research and write this article, it takes motivation to get out of bed when the alarm sounds, it takes motivation to get to work on time each day, and it takes motivation to motivate ourselves to do the tasks that need to be done. Hopefully, you’ve learned some tips and techniques to help you with your self-motivation goals. Whether this article inspired you to change the litter box, goto the pool or finish a large work project, you have begun your motivational journey. Stay on course and reach your goals!


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