101 Ways to Find Inspiration, Stay Motivated & Achieve Your Goals

I like to think I’m pretty good at checking off goals. I revel in planning and organizing, am a superstar at getting motivated, and love that sigh of relief when the last to-do is crossed off. If you have a goal in mind or a project you’d like to start, but are lacking motivation, inspiration or battling procrastination, this post is for you. There will never been a better time to start than now!

GETTING STARTED

[ 1 ] Start writing, train of thought. Let your fingers fly. Don’t re-read or edit until your brain is empty.
[ 2 ] Make a vision board with pictures, quotes and a list of steps to achieve your goal and put it next to your bed so you see it every morning when you wake up and every night before you fall asleep.
[ 3 ] Make a timeline for the length of your goal describing the steps you’ll take you get there.
[ 4 ] Tell a friend or family member and get some support and someone to remind you to keep working.
[ 5 ] Blog about it and keep track of your progress online.
[ 6 ] Write a contract with yourself, set specific dates for when things will be accomplished.
[ 7 ] Spread the word. Talk to everyone you meet about your goal – you never know who might be able to give advice or lend a hand.
[ 8 ] Using a big sheet of paper/dry erase/chalk board write out the steps to need to take to achieve your goal. Then cross them off as they’re completed…feels good, right?
[ 9 ] Do or do not, there is no try…Yoda was right, if you try to do something you’re setting yourself up for failure. Just go for it!
[ 10 ] Do your research – see who’s been there before you and what challenges they’ve encountered.
[ 11 ] Tie up the loose ends. What are the few things you need to get out of the way before you can get started?
[ 12 ] Grab a partner. Maybe you can’t do it all on your own, but collaborating with someone might make your goal possible.
[ 13 ] Make someone proud. Maybe doing it for yourself is not enough, but will achieving your goal will make your mom, grandpa or professor proud of you?
[ 14 ] Keep it simple. It doesn’t have to be the perfect time, you don’t have to have a giant project, and you don’t need a ton of money. Start small.
[ 15 ] Set up a website for your project. It will help you keep track of your progress, be a good marketing strategy and can work as a portfolio. (via Mae)
[ 16 ] Keep something in your wallet to remind you of your goal, so when you go to spend money or do something big you can think twice about whether it will negatively affect your progress. (via Mandy)

FINDING INSPIRATION

[ 17 ] When the inspiration comes, drop everything and run with it.
[ 18 ] Take classes, watch a seminar, read everything you can about your goal.
[ 19 ] Do something every day, even if it’s something small, it still puts you one step closer.
[ 20 ] Make an investment and upgrade your tools. If you want to be a photographer and are using an old point and shoot it might be time for an upgrade.
[ 21 ] Be inspired by those who have gone before you. Find role models and mentors and pick their brains if possible.
[ 22 ] Do something fun related to your goal. If you’re working on a novel, take some time and write a poem or a short story. That way you’re still working on your craft, but without the pressure.
[ 23 ] Learn something new – follow a tutorial, take a class.
[ 24 ] Create mood/inspiration boards. Pinterest is a great tool for this.
[ 25 ] A short email with a couple questions to an important person in your field could lead to helpful information or even a mentor.
[ 26 ] Keep an inspiration notebook with you at all times. I use notepad on my iPhone to keep lists when a brainstorm rolls through.
[ 27 ] Surround yourself with motivated, productive people and be inspired by what they are doing.
[ 28 ] Fantasize. Imagine what it will be like in a month, year, or 10 years when you’ve achieved your goals.

KEEPING THE MOTIVATION

[ 29 ] Feeling overwhelmed? Tackle a few little tasks first and then move on to the bigger ones.
[ 30 ] Lost your motivation or focus? Give yourself a break! An hour, a day, a week, a month – how ever long it takes for the inspiration to come back. And don’t feel guilty about it.
[ 31 ] Find others working toward the same goal and bounce ideas off each other or cheer each other on.
[ 32 ] Mark the mile stones by giving yourself a day off or a prize.
[ 33 ] This one applies more to creatives: If you’re feeling stuck in the process a blank page can do wonders. Just scrap what you’re working on and start over.
[ 34 ] Get rid of distractions. If you keep thinking about how you need to pay bills, fold laundry or run errands, then do it!
[ 35 ] Use EFT  – total hippie shit, but it works.
[ 36 ] Exercise. If you’re feeling stuck, a great way to get your brain moving and excited about work is to get your body moving. Run around the block, do jumping jacks, have a dance party all by yourself.
[ 37 ] Try again tomorrow – I know if I’m starting to make garbage and nothing looks right it’s time for me to call it a night. No need to press on if you’re not coming up with anything good.
[ 38 ] Get up early, get dressed and get to work. Don’t stay in your pjs all day just because you can. I swear they zap motivation and put me to sleep.
[ 39 ] Take time each week to visualize how it will feel to achieve your goal.
[ 40 ] Try a change of scenery, work outside instead of at your desk.
[ 41 ] Break up your day – take actual time out for lunch, exercise, a shopping trip. All work and no play leads to burn-out very quickly!
[ 42 ] For exercise goals – pick a show that you only watch while running on the treadmill or stretching (via Jen)
[ 43 ] The Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer for 20 mins and work on one task. When it goes off, set it again and work on another.
[ 44 ] Break it down. If you’re writing a novel, bang out 500 words a day and you’ll get there faster than staring at that giant 100,000 looming in the distance.
[ 45 ] Some projects take time – when writing this list I came back every few days and added more instead of trying to think up 101 items in one sitting.
[ 46 ] Have a productivity night with friends. You might not be working on the same thing, but you can still hang out and support each other while writing, drawing, designing. Plus you’ll have a bunch of people right there when you need an opinion or another pair of eyes or hands.

BEATING PROCRASTINATION

[ 47 ] Stay focused – turn of the TV, shut down your email, close Facebook, Twitter and chat windows, turn off your phone, lock your door and get to work.
[ 48 ] Don’t feel like working at all? Pick three things to get done, two little, one big, check them off and then give yourself a break.
[ 49 ] To stop procrastination – literally stop whatever you are doing, stand up and move. Do anything…unload the dish washer, walk the dog, grab a notebook and start writing.

TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF

[ 50 ] Eat well…Taco Bell doth not propel thee forward (I know I love it too >_<)
[ 51 ] Many restaurants have online ordering and deliver – utilize it. <3 Chipotle, Jimmy Johns and Potbelly!
[ 52 ] Feeling sluggish? Give your brain a boost – sit up straight & breathe deeply, go for a run or brisk walk, eat whole grains, blueberries, nuts, eggplant, fish & dark chocolate.
[ 53 ] If you are spending hours a day working toward your vision, take time away to have meals instead of cramming food in your mouth while in front of you computer.
[ 54 ] Don’t say yes to things when inside you are saying no. You are an adult, you are allowed to politely decline ANYTHING and EVERYTHING.
[ 55 ] Don’t freak out. If you don’t get a single thing on your to-do list done the world will not end and your project will not fail.
[ 56 ] Totally freak out. Sometimes you just have to have an ugly cry and let it all out so you can start fresh tomorrow
[ 57 ] Talk it out – freaking out about how much you have left to do, that deal that fell through, the inspiration you just can’t grasp in the comfort of your workspace will not help. Get out, spill your guts to someone, they might not have the answers, but it will be a huge relief either way.
[ 58 ] Try yoga or meditation to conquer stress.
[ 59 ] Sleep for an extra hour, buy a new mattress or pillows. If you’re not waking up rested you’ll start your day off slow. Make some changes so you are energized when you wake up.
[ 60 ] Take a vacation. If you’re working on a long-term project take a week or a weekend to get away from work and unplug. You’ll come back refreshed, relaxed and ready to get back at it.
[ 61 ] Therapy…it works. Other things to get you in a better frame of mind: exercise, St. Johns Wort, a healthy diet, talking to friends (I said talking, not venting), journaling.

[ 62 ] Stop the presses! Take an hour to reevaluate and figure out how to take your project to the next level. What can you add? Who can you contact?

GETTING PROFESSIONAL

[ 63 ] Are you getting paid to do this? No? Maybe you should be!
[ 64 ] Teach others to perfect your craft. As a kid I struggled with math, so my mom would make me explain the solutions to her, which helped me understand them.
[ 65] Intern – offer your services to someone doing what you want to do. Busy people rarely turn down free labor. Or hire an intern to help take a few things off your plate.
[ 66 ] Interviews, meetings, etc…to be early is to be on time
[ 67 ] Hire help – if you don’t know anything about accounting, business plans, budgets and contracts than it’s worth it to hire someone who does so you don’t end up paying for it later
[ 68 ] Look professional even if you aren’t (yet). Hire a photographer for head shots instead of using your iPhone and an editor to look over your book even if you’re self publishing.
[ 69 ] Order business cards. Name and contact info is all you need. You never know who you will run into that might be able to help.

STAYING ORGANIZED

[ 70 ] Plan your day, hour by hour, so you know what needs to be accomplished.
[ 71 ] Write it down. Get all those tasks out of your mind and organized on paper and you’ll feel much clearer about where you’re headed.
[ 72 ] Don’t worry if everything doesn’t get finished – add it to your list for tomorrow.
[ 73 ] Stack projects – working on one thing day after day is a sure fire way to get bored – having multiple things on your plate allows for change and productivity at the same time.
[ 74 ] Clock your hours: how much time are you in front of the TV or computer, working out, hanging with friends, working toward that goal. Which of those things make you feel good and which make you feel bad? (http://www.toggl.com/)
[ 75 ] Use two different workspaces/computers for boring administrative tasks and creative tasks.
[ 76 ] Make daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals.
[ 77 ] Set deadlines.
[ 78 ] Plan specific days for meetings and days where you never schedule meetings.
[ 79 ] There are 24 useful hours in every day. When you’re waiting for the bus or bored at work use that extra time to make a to-do list, organize, or research.
[ 80 ] Clean up your workspace.
[ 81 ] Take stock of your day – what are you doing during your daily routine that is helping you toward your goal and what is hindering your progress? Then cut, cut cut!
[ 82 ] Download an app. Scatterbrain for notes, Agenda Calendar for scheduling, Dropbox for sending video and pictures, Mint for keeping your finances on track.
[ 83 ] Is this a money-making venture? Plan your budget – where is the money coming from and where will it go?
[ 84 ] Pick one part of your daily routine and make it easier, more enjoyable and more efficient.
[ 85 ] Clean out your digital space – do you really read all those blogs, care about what all those followers say, use all those files on your computer? Use Space Gremlin to help identify files and folders on your computer that take up badly needed space. (via Mae)
[ 86 ] Label emails and keep your inbox spotless. Anything awaiting a response gets filed away.
[ 87 ] Back your shit up. Carbonite will allow you to back up your computer and keep it in the cloud securely. If you don’t want to pay for that, buy an external hard drive which has a dual hard drive and keeps a mirror of your original archive, and use Time Machine to do regular backups of your computer. In the case that one hard drive fails, you will have two backups to take care of your precious work. (via Mae)

DEALING WITH ROADBLOCKS

[ 88 ] Silence the detractors. Only positive and constructive voices allowed. So figure out how to shut them down or ignore them…especially if those voices are in YOUR head.
[ 89 ] If you get half way to your goal and you aren’t really enjoying the process anymore, give yourself permission to stop, give up, change direction.
[ 90 ] Ask for help when you face a problem you can’t solve, but also when you are overwhelmed. Need a proof reader or a taste tester? Ask your friends and family to lend a hand.
[ 91 ] Keep distractions at bay – wear noise blocking headphones w/out listening to music.
[ 92 ] Let it go. If you screwed up, even if it was really bad, taking it with you day after day will only hinder your goal achieving.
[ 93 ] Stop with the excuses – if you want something bad enough there is a way around every road block
[ 94 ] Suck it up. So your report got sent back practically painted red. Do not freak out, do not break down, do not quit. Take a breath (or a break if you need it), let it go and keep moving forward. You cannot change the past, but the future is all yours.
[ 95 ] Get rid of all the negative. Move on from your Debbie Downer friends, take down posters that don’t make you feel happy, let go of the past, stop complaining
[ 96 ] Take responsibility when things go wrong. Others may be getting in your way, cutting you down and pissing you off, but what are YOU doing to sustain the negative situation and what can YOU do to change it?
[ 97 ] Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. The world will not end it you fail.
[ 98 ] You only really fail if still want to achieve your goal and quit anyway.
[ 99 ] DO NOT compare yourself to others who you see as being better or stronger or shooting toward their goal at lightning speed. You are on your own path and they are on there’s. What they need to do and learn is not always the same for you even if you are striving for the same thing. It will NEVER help. It will make you feel bad. Just don’t do it.

CELEBRATING SUCCESS

[ 100 ] Once you have achieved your goal, go back and assess what worked, what didn’t and what you could have done differently.
[ 101 ] Enjoy your success! Take yourself out to dinner, pop champagne, eat a giant ice cream sundae, thank those who have helped and supported you and revel in what you’ve accomplished!

Now that you’ve got a huge list of ways to stay organized, get motivated and defeat the evil procrastination monster, what are you going to do??

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Comments

  1. Jen says

    WOW! Awesome post! And thanks for using my exercise motivator idea :) I also love your productivity night with friends idea! If your friends don’t live near you, you can use Skype, tinychat, or plan ‘ol AIM for this too.

    Hope you don’t mind if I comment on a few of your items.

    61 – Don’t take St. John’s Wort blindly. It’s great if you’re not on any other medication, but if you’re already on antidepressants you shouldn’t take it. Also, it lessens the effectiveness of birth control, so watch out for that!

    82 – I also love Evernote – it’s free and syncs across all your devices (phone, computer) and you can access it via it’s web interface from any computer!

    87 – I HIGHLY recommend giving up a few lattes to pay for Carbonite. External hard drives are great insurance against hard drive failure. But if you have a disaster – fire, tornado, etc – it doesn’t matter how many external drives you have if they’re all in the same place.

    94 – also, don’t take it personally. This is so important, as I’ve found in writing. Just because an editor/agent/etc doesn’t like what you wrote doesn’t mean it’s bad, or they don’t like you. It’s just not for them.

    99 – the flip side to this is look at what these people are doing that you want to do, and use that to figure out how you can get there. But never compete with anyone except yourself. Always strive to be better than your previous self (or your last attempt), but never compete with others.

    I love this list so much! Thanks Sarah!

  2. Brielle says

    Greetings!
    This is soooooo awesome! Thank you.
    Perfect timing, this is exactly what i needed to read today. Going to work on my vision board this evening. :)
    I always enjoy reading your blog.

  3. Emily says

    Excellent list Sarah! Let me also reiterate for your readers the importance of #87 – back your shit up. I almost lost 11 years of digital photos when my EXTERNAL hard drive crashed (it does happen). Thankfully a little tender loving care got me a scant few hours to dump everything on to another one before it died for good. ALWAYS BACK UP IN MORE THAN ONE PLACE!

  4. Rosie says

    This is my first comment on your site, but I’ve been reading it for years! Thankyou for this post, it has come at just the right time for me.

    :-) Rosie

  5. Melissa says

    I love your goal posts! It’s because of you that I sat down and made some new goals for the year. I feel so motivated now to get them done!

  6. Sarah says

    I think I’m going to print this out just so I can physically cross things off of the list. So satisfying! Thanks for your post- I love how no matter what your goal is, it can be applied to your list!

  7. Ayessa says

    Thanks for this list, Sarah. :) I am just starting out to get really serious about blogging and designing and sometimes I feel so uninspired. This list helps! :)

  8. Luke Chapman says

    Great post I just wanted to share a few things

    Finding inspiration
    [ 27 ] Surround yourself with motivated, productive people and be inspired by what they are doing.

    I also think it is very important to distance your self from negative people as well. There has been research that you can do lots of things to train the mind in becoming what ever you believe in, but if you hang around people who are negative and unsupportive then you will quickly fall back to your previous mind set and not achieve greatness that you know that you can.

    I also am now going to look into pomodoro technique it sounds cool. I find that if I write 3 of the most important things that I need to achieve that day 1. is usually fitness 2. is photography related and the 3rd is something else really important, i write them down each day in my diary and I just work out when to fit them in.

    Keep up the good work.

    Luke

  9. Luisa says

    I can vouch for several of these tips. Especially the Pomodoro Technique, mapping out your day hour by hour (though I do it in chunks of 25 mins) and using Freedom the software that blocks you out of the internet for the time you need it.
    This list is great!

  10. Holly says

    I like that you broke the ideas into subsections which helped the list seem less intimidating. I also appreciate your writing style. It was easy and fun to read and made me want to get more motivated.
    Thanks!

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