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How to Stay Motivated on Big Projects

When you’re working on something big, you often start off with great intentions … only to find your motivation gradually slipping away.

Whether you’re studying for a qualification, tackling a mammoth project at work, or writing a book in your spare time, you’re only going to succeed if you can stay motivated. (That’s particularly true of goals where you haven’t got a boss/parent/mentor checking up on you…)

So, here’s how to keep going:

Step #1: Break Your Project into Small Chunks

If you get a little way towards your goal then flounder, there’s a good chance that you’ve not broken your project into sensible chunks or milestones.

Sometimes, your project is already segmented for you – for instance, if you’re studying a degree program, you’ll have a certain number of classes that you need to take in order to graduate. You might want to create a list of these and put it in a prominent place, so you can cross off each one as you complete it.

Other times, you need to come up with meaningful divisions. Maybe you’re trying to write a book. Your “chunks” could be individual sections or chapters – or specific pieces of research that you need to complete.

Do it: Even if you’re not sure of all the steps to get to your goal, write down the next five major ones. You might want to add a deadline – make it a bit challenging, but realistic.

Step #2: Take the Time to Learn – and Implement

Whatever your goal is, you’ll get there faster if you spend some time learning things that can help you. And the more you learn, the more confidence (and hence motivated) you’ll be.

  • If you’re writing a book, get a good “how to” guide to help you
  • If you’re taking a qualification, learn about good study techniques
  • If you’re preparing to deliver a big presentation, take some public speaking classes

Don’t fall into the trap of learning without doing, though. I see this a lot with would-be writers who’ll read about writing – or attend courses and seminars – but who rarely finish work on an article or a short story. Every time you learn something new, look for ways to apply it to your project.

Do it: Find one good book or website that can help you. As you read it, jot down any ideas, questions or new tasks that relate to your project.

Step #3: Keep the Big Picture in Mind …

Whatever your project is, you’re probably motivated by the end result. You’re thinking of how great it will be to see your book in stores, or to get that qualification which will help you take your career to the next level.

Don’t lose sight of that big picture. It can be hard to stay motivated when the tasks on your list seem relatively mundane – editing a chapter of your book, for instance, or memorizing some facts before an exam. Create a reminder of your ultimate goal to keep you going.

Do it: Find an image that represents your goal. Keep it somewhere visible – you could set it as the wallpaper on your computer, or put it in your wallet.

Step #4: … But Focus on One Piece While You’re Working

Once you sit down to work on your project, you need to mentally “zoom in” to look at just one piece. If you keep on thinking about the whole finished thing, it can be hard to concentrate on what you need to do right now – and you might start to get overwhelmed.

For each “chunk” of your goal, write down specific action steps, like “read article X” or “write section Y”. Focus on one of these at a time, and don’t let yourself get distracted. If you can see yourself making clear progress, you’ll stay motivated.

Do it: Write down three – five tasks that will help you meet your next project milestone.

What project(s) are you working on right now? Have you got any motivational tips to share? If so, let us know in the comments!

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16 Responses to How to Stay Motivated on Big Projects

  1. Point number 4 is probably the biggie for me. For years I thought that if I kept as many projects going as I can I would get much better results in more areas. Gradually as I’ve reduced the number of projects I work on it’s enabled me to stay far more motivated as I don’t have to juggle so many projects and my mind doesn’t become overwhelmed.

    Great share!

  2. Clint Cora says:

    The first point about breaking the big project into smaller pieces is crucial for me, having written several books and audio projects.  Self discipline to schedule time allocated to do each chunk is important in order to get work done but equally important is to take many breaks in between to recharge and stay healthy.

    For certain projects, it also helps to involve others or at least to get ideas from others to help stay motivated.  Sometimes certain things are better done in group efforts rather than solo.  But even some sort of networking to discuss progress on each other’s projects can be helpful too.

    Other times, a change in location is good in order to keep the productivity up.  I’m doing that as we speak.  I’m bringing some work on a big personal development resource I’m working on during my trip to a speaking engagement at a university.  It will take about 12 hours of travel time in total and this will be good time used productively at the airport terminal as well as on the flights.  I expect significant chunks of the project will be done during this trip.

  3. Kashyap says:

    the question is why the motivation level goes down? what the actual reasons for that? its mainly due to our freaking mind that doesnt allow us to remain focus on a single activity. to make the  mind focus one single object or in the present moment we have to take help of meditation or mindfulness whatever you call it. once we are aware that we not fully in present moment we can get back into the moment. that simple awareness can bring great deal of focus in our life.

    some tips to get focus on present moment in office learn at

  4. Justin says:

    For “Big” projects I am a big fan of breaking them down into segments or groups. This keeps my brain from getting overwhelmed and frustrated.

  5. D.O.L.L.S. says:

    Breaking projects into small pieces had been the only way I have ever been able to get things done. I had to learn to do this the hard way of course, but I live by this rule now!

  6. Grey Wright says:

    My motive is usually very solid but my daily focus needs a jolt every now and then. I find that my motivation does increase at the same rate as my momentum on any particular project I’m currently working. It becomes more enjoyable to be making progress and that keeps multiplying.

  7. guest says:

    i definitely like step number three..I’ve never thought of that, a novel idea is always a good read and definitely helps motivate me with my projects

  8. Great advice. It is hard to follow but if done is very helpful 

  9. Enda says:

    The Key is… Just Do it

  10. Drmartin1981 says:

    I am going back to complete my masters degree on monday, I start my 5 week project so I am a bit nervous about it, This post has given me some tips on how to cope better so I d like to say thank you!

  11. BeccaMoteevates says:

    Setting a goal is easy, but keeping the moteevation to accomplish a goal is truly the journey.   This article offers great constructive tips on how to manage your personal motivation when you feel overwhelmed. Another way to manage and track your goals is to join is a social network that allows users to create profiles based around personal goals. Track your accomplishments, connect with experts, and join an encouraging community of fellow moteevators to help you achieve greatness!

    Go be great, Moteevate!

  12. Thomas says:

    I have been working on a big project for the past months that i have already proposed to a big company and now i’m in a waiting period. i know patience is key in at this stage but i found myself sometimes frustrated because this is one project i know will open every door to achieving bigger goals but i know this is mostly because of the financial challenges that i’m facing at the moment. i need tips to help me keep my focus and patience? 

  13. Pingback: How to Keep Motivation Boiling | Goal Setting Workshop

  14.  I really like nearly all your content articles. I always check back here often to see in case you have modified. Continue blogging! 

  15.  I really like nearly all your content articles. I always check back here often to see in case you have modified. Continue blogging! 

  16. Pingback: Seeing projects through… | Jordan Henderson

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