Setting The Right Conditions For Peak Productivity
You can see the mountaintop. You dream of the heights you will reach once you launch your online business. You think about all the money, recognition, and happiness that such a feat will bring you…but you can’t seem to lift yourself from the couch.
Yes, you want to accomplish a lot of great things for yourself—break from the 9-to-5, become your own boss, make more money than you ever dreamed of—but you don’t seem to have the motivation to do anything about it.
You likely feel lost, confused, overwhelmed, or some combination of the three. Where do you even start? Who can you talk to? Are you even the right kind of person to start a business?
If this sounds like you, fear not, there is hope.
There are a few relatively simple ways that you can motivate yourself to become a successful entrepreneur. All it takes is gaining a better understanding of psychology, and training yourself to carry out small-but-steady actions over time.
How Motivation Works
For most people, motivation is a strange beast. We all know what it is (the root of the word means “to move”), but it’s hard to get it to show up when we need it. If we could know what it takes to get it to show up when the lights are on and the show is about to begin, we could probably achieve anything we wanted to.
The fleeting nature of motivation hasn’t escaped psychologists, who have been studying its nature for the past 100 years. From Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs theory to more current ones related to willpower and many other multivariable approaches, psychologists have also had a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept.
One of the most famous models for understanding motivation is Deci and Ryan’s model of intrinsic-extrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1976), which I explained in an earlier post.
Basically, this model says that people can either be pushed to do something through an extrinsic (external) reward or punishment, or through intrinsic (internal) means.
If you have ever had a hobby—whether that’s a sport, video games, horticulture, whatever—your motivation for doing so was intrinsic. No one told you needed to start playing soccer, Fortnite, or planting tulips in your backyard. You did it because you wanted to.
On the other hand, when your mom told you needed to study hard to pass an important exam that would help you get into a good college, or when a boss told you had a short time to develop a presentation, your motivation was extrinsic.
This kind of motivational model is already quite old—the paper that first presented it was published back in 1976. This is around the same time the most famous motivational model up until then, Maslow’s pyramid of needs, was being challenged (Wahba and Bridwell, 1976).
This article, however, isn’t a meta-analysis of motivational theories; you came here to learn how to motivate yourself, and that’s what you will learn.
This is a topic I’ve personally struggled with over time, and I’ve devoted a lot of time and research into figuring out what works best for me. Over the years, after learning from motivational experts and the latest psychological research, I’ve found some very basic steps can have a big difference on my own motivation.
My approach, while unscientific, is simple: You want to find the right environment where you work at your best—where you are the most motivated—and then put yourself in that place over and over so you can motivate yourself without effort.
Let’s take a look at how this model works.
Step 1: Discover How to Access Your Peak State
There are times where you seem to work like a machine. You just get things done without hesitating, without any hiccups. Compare that state to the days when you can’t seem to get a single email out, and you might think you have some kind of problem. It turns out, you don’t.
During your productive days, you unknowingly slip into a state of high performance, while on the unproductive days you…don’t. This is a very common phenomenon. The challenge is in maximizing that state of high productivity, every day.
Tony Robbins calls this state of high performance “peak state.”
Following Mr. Robbin’s theory, in order to get to your peak state, you’ve got to:
- Get into the right physiology
- Focus your intention
- Use the right language
While you may think your brain is what rules your energy and focus, your physiology—the way you manage your body’s behavior—also plays a key role in helping you get motivated. That’s why you need to get into the right physiology and use the right body language. That includes:
- Lifting your shoulders in an upright position
- Breathing through your belly, called “diaphragmatic breathing”
- Smiling and having optimistic facial expressions
- Moving energetically, which can include doing a small dance, jump, or bodyweight exercises such as squats and lunges
- Talking loudly or even screaming (just don’t scare the people around you)
Your intention, on the other hand, is the energy you put into everything you do. If you put your mental focus on the bad things that could happen, guess what? You will most likely see them come to reality.
Race drivers often say that you need to focus your eyesight where you want to go, not where you are actually going (which may not be where you want to go in the first place). Using a similar analogy, if you put your mental focus on the positive results of your actions, you will reap those outcomes.
Finally, you need to use the right language. As Ludwig Wittgenstein, the father of modern linguistics, said: “The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”
Pay attention to the language successful people use, compared to unsuccessful people, and you’ll see that the former consistently talk in positive terms while the latter tend to be more negative.
For example, if you face a hard challenge that you think you might fail at, you could say, “I will learn a lot from this,” instead of, “I’m going to fail; I can’t do this.”
When you see Tony Robbins speak, you’d think he’s a natural—but he’s not. Every time before he hits the stage, he goes through a routine that helps him hit the right physiology.
See how he moves, claps, and even jumps on a small trampoline before starting his conferences; he’s mastered the use of his physiology to become one of the world’s top motivational speakers.
Whenever you feel like you need motivation, adjust your body language, your focus, and your language. Do a quick routine like Tony Robbins (adapting it to what feels right to you), focus your intention, and frame your challenge ahead positively.
With these three tips, you will start out with a lot of motivation to face any challenge. But remember, reaching your peak state is highly personal and introspective. Maybe it involves meditation, going for a jog, listening to a particular kind of music. These are good starting points, but be sure to turn inward and learn more about what peak state looks like for you.
Step 2: Structure Your Work for Maximum Performance
Our environment—the external stimuli that surround us—sculpt our mind as much as our physiology, mental focus, and language. Try to get into peak state in a loud bar and you will have a much harder time than in a quiet library. At least, that’s the case for a writer like me; if you are a bartender, your situation may vary.
We could call this the “external peak state” (patent pending): the environment that helps you get motivated.
Think about the last time you felt super motivated:
- Where were you?
- What were you doing?
- Who were you with?
These basic questions will give you some insights into the environment where you can become motivated with ease.
You can take this exercise even further and ask yourself the following questions:
- What was the time of the day?
- What was the temperature?
- Where you hungry or full?
- How rested were you?
- What was the light around you like?
The more granular you get, the easier it will be to adjust these variables each time you want to get motivated. You may realize you’re at your best when you work alone in your house in your pajamas, or it may be that you work best in a loud coffee shop with no wifi.
If every time you have worked at your best was in the morning at your house, then develop a routine of working on the most important thing in the morning, while you’re still at home.
The process of developing a routine means you need to be consistent. You need to have a schedule—a place and time—that you need to follow every day.
As the saying goes “If 80 percent of success is showing up, then 20 percent is following up.” By knowing where to show up, it will be much easier to follow up.
Step 3: Develop Healthy Habits
When nothing seems to work—if you don’t know when you work at your best or you feel like you’ve never worked at your best—it may have something to do with your lifestyle and daily habits.
You’ve seen how your body language affects your motivation. But no matter what you do, if you aren’t giving your body the physical care it needs, it will be hard to muster the mental and physical energy to feel motivated.
While none of us are saints, too many unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking, junk food, and little sleep, will lower your energy levels. If this sounds familiar, it may be contributing to your low motivation.
Let’s take the case of sleep, an often overlooked part of our lives.
A 2010 study observed over 4,000 workers at four large American corporations. The study found that the workers who lacked sleep had the largest productivity losses, spending nearly three times as much of their day on time management alone. What’s more, the sleep-deprived workers lacked motivation, mental focus, and had a hard time remembering things and making good decisions.
A good target for nightly sleep comes from the Sleep Foundation, which recommends adults get between seven to nine hours of sleep every night to reap the full benefits.
While it may seem obvious to a grown up like yourself, it’s important to make sleep a priority, and too many of us sacrifice it in order to squeeze more hours into the day. Ways to improve your sleep include avoiding coffee at least six hours before going to bed, making sure to remove all distractions and noises, dimming your bedroom lights, and getting a good mattress and pillow. Not a lot of science there. It’s mostly common sense advice, but the little things make a big difference.
Next, think about eating habits. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, three-fourths of Americans have diets low in vegetables, fruits, dairy, and oils. What’s worse, most Americans exceed the recommendations for added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.
A study by Brigham Young University science professor Ray Merrill looked at nearly 20,000 employees and found that those with unhealthy diets were 66 percent more likely to report having a loss in productivity.
What’s more, the employees who had difficulty exercising during the day and those who rarely ate fruits, vegetables and other low-fat foods at work were 96 percent and 93 percent, respectively, more likely to have a higher losses in productivity.
There’s no right or wrong diet per se—nowadays, you have low-carb, low-fat, vegan, paleo, and many more—what matters instead is that you eat most of your calories from natural sources, like meat, vegetables, and fruits, especially the organic ones which lack antibiotics and chemicals.
It’s also important to stay hydrated, so always keep a glass of water, decaffeinated tea, or an electrolyte-rich beverage (like Gatorade) next to you at all times.
Finally, don’t forget your mental and emotional health. This is especially important for entrepreneurs, who inevitably face touch challenges and setbacks. It’s important to learn how to keep cool and persevere when things go awry.
While reading self-help books and carrying out exercises such as visualization and affirmations are three old-school ways of managing your emotions, meditation is an increasingly popular, and highly beneficial exercise.
Meditation has demonstrated many benefits that can help you not only to keep a positive attitude, but also relax and increase the quality of your life.
A study carried by David W. Orme-Johnson, Ph.D., and Vernon A. Barnes, Ph.D., found that transcendental meditation (a popular type of meditation) can have highly positive effects in individuals with high anxiety and stress levels.
The idea of having a healthy lifestyle is like a meta-exercise for productivity; it’s the environment that encompasses your inner and outer world.
Today you’ve seen that motivation is affected by both your inner and outer world. You saw that if you want to get motivated on the spot, you first can use Tony Robbins’ peak state concept to help you nudge your body into a high-motivation mindset.
Then, you learned that manipulating your environment to increase your motivation also plays a key role.
Finally, you saw that carrying a healthy lifestyle will help you bring the energies from within yourself.
Setting The Right Conditions For Peak Productivity was originally published on Foundr