To help you stay motivated during long-term projects, we asked a group of CEOs, founders, and marketing heads for their best tactics. From viewing projects as learning opportunities to focusing on processes over progress, here are the top twelve strategies these leaders use to keep their drive alive.
- View Projects as Learning Opportunities
- Celebrate Your Small Wins
- Consistently Maintain Work-Life Balance
- Share Your Progress With Teammates
- Track Achievements With Reward Charts
- Practice Emotional Anchoring
- Use Confidence-Boosting Visual Aids
- Connect Projects With a Greater Cause
- Accept and Face Inevitable Suffering Head-On
- Check Off To-Do Lists for a Dopamine Release
- Treat Projects Like a Marathon
- Focus On Processes Over Progress
View Projects as Learning Opportunities
If there’s one thing my entrepreneurial journey has taught me, it’s that there is always something new and useful to be learned.
Learning new skills helps boost my spirits and get me out of the occasional slumps, especially while working on long-term projects. This attention to other activities gives me various outlets to dedicate my energy to, keeping my mind sharp and proactive throughout.
Gaining insight into new abilities frequently helps me tackle projects in ways that were not privy to me before, simultaneously contributing to their success and my overall development.
Celebrate Your Small Wins
I have always believed in celebrating the little wins. It’s easy to become disoriented, always having eyes on the horizon. I find it’s more productive and socially cohesive with our teams to stay present, on top of short-term goals and projects, and celebrate a job well done.
Ultimately, long-term goals comprise a thousand little steps and pieces. It’s great and vital to envision the future, but not at the expense of what we’re doing today. When we stay grounded in our present work, hitting those long-term milestones is even more gratifying.
The little things add up. The marketing initiatives and content success we see today affect our brand reach and sales for the year. Focusing on the little steps is strategic because it enables us to pay more attention to what works. So, break down long-term projects into manageable chunks to help you and your teams stay motivated over the long haul.
Consistently Maintain Work-Life Balance
Based on years of working as a project leader and now as the CEO of a SaaS company, it’s known that the best tactic to stay motivated while working on long-term projects is to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Without it, one will experience burnout, high-stress levels, decreased productivity, strained relationships, and a diminished overall quality of life. Neglecting personal well-being and focusing solely on work inevitably leads to physical and mental health issues, dissatisfaction, and a lack of fulfillment.
It’s difficult to inject some “me” time while on a roll, but the benefits are manifold. Multiple studies and success stories confirm that balance enhances productivity, satisfaction, focus, creativity, energy levels, positive thinking, and a rejuvenating aura that pulls the entire team.
Share Your Progress With Teammates
One thing I do to stay motivated while working on long-term projects is to share my progress with a team member. Sometimes, when you are putting a lot of effort into a long-term project and not seeing progress immediately, it can be disappointing.
What I like to do is share my progress with a team member I’m close with, and they can help build that excitement and energy that you need to complete your tasks. Also, this person or these people can hold you accountable for your work and give you that extra push of motivation.
Track Achievements With Reward Charts
Finishing a long-term project is often a race against time. The closer you are to the finish line, the more motivated you are to keep going. The problem is that sometimes we need to dig deep to find that motivation and keep it going.
If we don’t, we risk losing our concentration and letting the project slide. That’s why I use reward charts as a motivational tool. Every time I reach a milestone, I check off the goal on my chart.
When I’ve reached three or four goals, I treat myself to a small reward. Sometimes it’s a new game or a movie. Other times, it’s finishing early that day and enjoying free time with friends.
Practice Emotional Anchoring
One key tactic I employ when facing a long-term project is called “Emotional Anchoring.” It’s a strategy that involves associating certain milestones within the project with positive emotions or meaningful personal experiences.
This connection creates emotional anchors that motivate me to reach the next milestone, bringing about a sense of accomplishment regularly, despite the overarching goal still being distant. For example, while developing my business, each step—from establishing the website to hiring the first employee, to landing our first client—was tied to a significant life event or a personal passion.
This emotionally charged connection kept my motivation high, making the journey just as rewarding as the destination. It’s a testament that embracing the process is as essential as celebrating the outcome.
Use Confidence-Boosting Visual Aids
Visual aids are a great way to see progress on projects and stay motivated. This could be as simple as crossing off days on a calendar up to your deadline, seeing a pie chart of complete versus incomplete tasks become less and less equal, or using a bullet journal with colorful lists to complete.
Anything that gives you satisfaction at the moment for completing a step in your project will give you that much-needed boost to continue.
Connect Projects With a Greater Cause
One of my unique tactics to stay motivated with long-term projects is to connect them with a greater cause. I think about my country, Ukraine, currently battling to safeguard its territories.
I’ve pledged to support our brave soldiers by donating to the Ukrainian army, and this forms the cornerstone of my motivation.
My team and I often remind ourselves that each success in our project means more resources than we can contribute to this noble cause. Thinking about how much more we can do for our country if our business thrives keeps us focused and energized.
Accept and Face Inevitable Suffering Head-On
Whenever I feel unmotivated, I like to use this thought experiment: Suffering is inevitable. However, you can choose which type of suffering you experience.
You can choose the pain of instant gratification, where you give in to your vices, like social media, junk food, gambling, etc. After five years, you’ll feel the pain of not reaching your goals and wishing you had started five years ago.
Or, you could face pain head-on, work hard, and have something to show for all your suffering and hard work.
Check Off To-Do Lists for a Dopamine Release
Checking something off a to-do list is a more powerful tool than most people realize. Getting things done and keeping promises made to yourself induces a dopamine release in your brain, the neurochemical most directly responsible for motivation.
As you work on longer projects, with continuous periods of steady effort without that grand feeling of relief and accomplishment that comes after finishing a task, you may find yourself depleted.
That’s why I recommend dividing extensive projects into smaller tasks. Write all the little steps that you need to take to get to the finish line, whether it’s writing a certain section of the text or code, or checking in with a coworker involved in the project.
Considering all the tangible actions that bring you closer to the result can help you get that dopamine release just from seeing the progress you’re making, without having to wait until the project is completed.
Treat Projects Like a Marathon
As a financial expert, the key to staying motivated on long-term projects is to treat them like a marathon, not a sprint. Visualizing projects as a cross-country journey is often helpful. Each milestone is a city on the map, and every task is a step on the road.
It’s not about rushing to the finish line, but about appreciating the scenery along the way. Celebrating each minor victory, each task completed, each problem solved—these are the roadside attractions.
They remind us of the progress made and fuel the drive to continue. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but brick by brick. Each brick matters and each one brings us closer to the grand vision. So, take a breath, enjoy the journey, and keep laying those bricks.
Focus On Processes Over Progress
Navigating the challenging journey of growing a project to 222,000 organic monthly visitors took me over four years. Along the way, I learned a vital lesson that keeps me motivated during long-term projects. Instead of obsessing over progress, I focus on processes.
Progress can be volatile and unpredictable, because of factors beyond my control, such as Google’s ever-changing algorithms. Processes are within my sphere of influence. My team and I pour 80% of our energy into refining our methods, dedicating only 20% to tracking progress.