Time to Dig in and Get It Done

By Ali Luke

May 27, 2012   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

What do you do when you put loads of time and energy into a project … and you still don’t get any results?
It’s often tempting to just give up. Even if you normally find it easy to stay motivated, there’s nothing encouraging about feeling like you’re running hard and going nowhere.

Whatever you’re struggling with right now – whether you’re trying to lose weight, trying to make money from your own business, or trying to write a book – these four steps can help.

    1. Step #1: Write Down What You’ve Already Achieved
      Even if it feels as though you’ve poured hours of your life into this and gained nothing at all, you have achieved something. That might be:

      • You’ve made some progress towards your goal (even though that progress wasn’t as much as you hoped).
      • You’ve learned new skills, or developed existing skills fur
      • You’ve made new contacts, or developed existing relationships with people who might be able to help you with other projects in the future.
      • You’ve figured out some things that don’t work – which means you’ve got a better shot of figuring out what does work.

      It’s important to write down your achievements, rather than just thinking through them. Not only does this give you a record to come back to in the future, it also aids the thinking process – you’ll find more ideas coming to you as you write.

    1. Step #2: Read About Other People’s Experiences
      When we look at other people, especially personal heroes, we often think that they had a smooth path to success. Inevitably, they didn’t. Every entrepreneur has had failures; every writer has received rejection letters. Every person who’s successfully lost weight or got fit didn’t get there overnight.

      You might want to read biographies of people who share some of your dreams and goals. You could also listen to interviews with these individuals, or look on their websites or blogs for their story of how they got to where they are today.

      The path to success is never smooth, straight, and easy. It’s normal to struggle and to work hard without any rewards in sight … and when you find out more about the lives of your heroes, you’ll realize that they went through just the same things as you.

    1. Step #3: Focus on the Process, Not the Results
      If you’re spending hours of your life working towards a goal, you want to enjoy the process as much as possible. Sure, some goals have more excitement along the way than others – writing a novel is probably a lot more fun than paying off your debt – but you can always find something to enjoy in the process.

      And enjoying the process generally won’t slow you down … it can actually make you move more quickly and easily towards your goal.

      Let’s say you’re trying to lose weight and shape up. If you struggle away each week, trying and failing to stick to a monotonous diet, and putting on a pound as often as you lose one, it’s no surprise that you’ll quickly give up. But if you decide to focus on finding healthy meals and snacks that you genuinely enjoy, and exercise that’s fun rather than a chore, you’ll be much more likely to succeed (and you’ll enjoy the process).

  1. Step #4: Look for Ways to Work Smart, Not Hard
    Of course hard work is important … but it’s not always a sign that you’re doing the right thing. You might be working long days as a freelancer, for instance, when you’d be better off raising your rates by 50% and working a bit less. You could be struggling to get chores done around the house, when you’d be better off paying someone to do the cleaning while you get on with building your small business.

    Don’t make the mistake of thinking that long hours, or boring work, are an inevitable part of success. If you can find ways to work smart instead of just hard – perhaps by delegating or automating routine tasks, or by focusing on the 20% of your efforts that are bringing 80% of your results – then you’ll find that your hard work begins to pay off sooner.

How do you stay motivated when it feels like your hard work just isn’t paying off? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments.

Written on 5/27/2012 by Ali Luke. Ali is a writer of fiction and non-fiction and a writing coach. She blogs about writing on her site, Aliventures.com, and has a free ebook “How to Find Time For Your Writing” available when you join her writing newsletter here. Photo Credit: Joe M500
Ali Luke

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