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How the Self-Employed Can Stay Motivated and Productive

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motivated (Image: iStock.com/m-imagephotography)

Real productivity isn’t about being able to use the latest technology and a bunch of apps to get more work done. It has more do with staying motivated and laser-focused.

According to Charles Duhigg’s book Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and In Business, “Productivity, put simply, is the name we give our attempts to figure out the best uses of our energy, intellect, and time as we try to seize the most meaningful rewards with the least wasted effort.” He also notes that, “Motivation is more like a skill akin to reading or writing that can be learned and honed.”

Based on an interview Duhigg did with Money.com, here are some ways you can succeed in business with less stress and struggle.

A sense of being in control triggers self-motivation. Meaning, if don’t have a sense that you are in control, then you are simply reacting to things in your environment. To motivate yourself, you must believe you have autonomy over your actions and surroundings. If you believe you control your own destiny, then you are more inclined to take action, and you’re proactively deciding what to focus on and what to be motivated about. But if you believe external events control your life, you will have a self-defeatist—”what difference does it make”—outlook.

Attach meaning to your choices. Asserting control is a way to trick your brain into feeling self-motivated. If you’re doing something you think is stupid and meaningless, over time you’re not going to care. So, you need to figure out why a task matters. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing what I am doing?”

Talk to yourself. Inner dialogue works on a biological level by creating new neural pathways in your brain. You’re trying to create pathways that are useful instead of pathways that just happen in reaction to the world.

Imagine before you do something what you expect to see. This is another inner dialogue, because you are telling yourself a story about what you expect to occur. It is much easier for your brain to focus on the things that matter and to ignore distractions. We can train ourselves to ignore distractions by spending half a second more visualizing what we want to occur. Good decision making is contingent on a basic ability to envision what happens next.

Don’t let date overload hamper your productivity. When you’re confronted with too much information, it is easy to let your eyes slide over it without absorbing anything. One way to internalize information is to tell someone about it. You might call someone on the phone or send an email to someone explaining an idea. You want to interact with an idea, because that is what makes it real and usable.