Do you find it hard to meet your self-imposed deadlines and work on your personal goals? Well then, this post is for you and covers my way of meeting my own deadlines and goals.
I've become really good at meeting my own deadlines: my papers are always submitted on time and usually a few weeks before the deadline, I haven't had to study the night before an exam since my very first year at university and I developed the habit to start a homework right after the assignment was given in class.
As a result, I feel much more confident and I avoid last minute hasty and sloppy work.
Here's an overview of the 7 key points to increase your inner motivation
1. Take yourself seriously
I used to find it very hard to meet my self-imposed deadlines, as I felt as if they were not real. Deadlines imposted by school or others were the ones I used to never fail, but my own deadlines were rather optional, just in case I don't have anything better to do.
However, at a certain moment, I realized that it is important to take myself, my goals and my deadlines serious. Many of these deadlines help me work towards goals which are important, but not urgent. Those are the tasks which really move my life, studies or research forward, but they just are not urgently burning in my mailbox or on my doorstep.
2. Plan towards it
In my case, I usually try to draft a conference paper relatively soon after the notice of acceptance of the abstract is sent to me. Typically, I will work on the draft 2 or 3 months before the deadline. I won't lock myself down in my office and work on it, but I will schedule a week or two in which that paper is my most important project, while keeping the labwork and educational tasks running at their normal pace. I've figured out that I need to work on the draft that early, since my supervisors are very busy and it can take some time between my finishing the draft and having an appointment to discuss it.
If you have a completely different goal, say training for a 10k run, then too, you need to start planning months ahead and build up your routine bit by bit. And, of course, this is only possible if you take yourself serious and will take the time to go training on the days and times you've scheduled with yourself.
3. Schedule time
As I wrote in the previous point, I for example make writing the conference paper my most important task for the week. I'll try to either reserve blocks of time in my planner to work on it (block of about 1,5 hour work best for me), or just make sure that I can focus on it. Most of the time my planner isn't really fully booked with meetings, as in the end I mostly work on my own research project, but I tend to work around on scattered little projects and administrative tasks. Having my own time management system helps me to schedule time to work on my most important task.
The same holds for the running example. As I wrote before, you can only run 10k after training for it, and scheduling these trainings.
4. Log your process
Visualizing my process is a great way to motivate myself. One of my new year's resolutions is to get enough sleep so I can concentrate better during the day and think more clearly. I've started to keep a little log in which I track my bedtimes. The first two weeks were quite sad, with only one day a week in which I got to bed in time, but the past week I've been having 4 successes and this week it will probably be even better. Just keeping this little log makes me keep this resolution serious.
I've also seen people keeping track of their weight loss by visualizing it on a graph or by keeping it in a log.
5. Talk about it
By making your goal public, you will have some external pressure or additional motivation to work towards a success. Regardless of what I am working towards (drafting a paper, training for running or trying to get enough sleep), I always tell someone about it. That person then will every now and then ask me how my progress is. And of course, it's always nice to share good progress.
6. Track your results
Unlike logging progress, tracking the results is more oriented towards the results. Of all new year's resolutions I started off with, which ones did I keep? Now that I am getting more sleep, how is this affecting my creativity?
7. Celebrate your success
Last but not least, celebrate your successes! I used to skip this point, and rush off to the next task on my list, but now I've started to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. Reaching a goal that I wanted for myself, such as drafting a paper by the time of my self-imposed deadline, is a success in two ways: I've done something that I wanted to do and of course, the result itself is something to be proud of too.
Ending with this positive feeling serves as a motivation to fulfill more of your own goals, as it drags you into a circle of personal wins.
To summarize, the main idea behind this is that you become your own mom, boss, coach and teacher.