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Before I choose to commit to a project, I'm usually very excited about it. But as soon as the commitment actually requires me to put an effort in, the excitement is partly replaced by stress or the feeling of a burden.

What practical habits, especially daily habits, could I try to adopt in order to remain excited and happy about my work?

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Daniel Pink provides some very good advice along these lines in his book "Drive". In it he describes the science of motivation that suggests that motivation is dependent upon autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Autonomy deals with how much one controls the process and performance outcomes. Increasing this at the lowest levels, tends to increase the motivation to perform.

Mastery deals with how much one is able to learn about or pursue development in areas that will contribute to personal and professional growth. Promoting/Adopting practices that allow you to learn about different facets of the performance may enhance this.

Purpose deals with identifying why the performance is important to you. Are you doing it for money, fame or are you doing it because you love it, it makes you happy, it is interesting, it helps others, benefits society etc. Purposes that are bigger than you generally will motivate you to carry through with them.

Goal setting. What is your long-term and short term goals. Write them out. Make sure that the long term goals adhere to the first point on motivation. Make sure that the short term goals will lead you to the long term goals. Make sure the goals are not only SMART goals (specific, measurable, et.) but also are personally meaningful (point #1) to you.

For example: long goal: Be safe- although meaningful and purposeful lacks focus. Be financially safe- Better, but who. To make my family financially safe by establishing a better appreciation of the value of money to enable us to maintain a happy quality of life.

For example Short term goal: Open a long-term savings account for every member of the family. Open family fun trip savings account. . Month 1- contribute 1% of income to each account. Month 2 contribute...., month 3 contribute...

Write it down. Knowing isn't doing. Actually doing something even as small as writing it down, will spur you to continue doing it, and will give you a small "win" in which to measure your successes. The same as having a daily "to do" list that gets things crossed off as they are done. That is a record of your small "wins". More and more small wins elad to big wins.

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Totally agree to @J Kam's reply on autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Another good metaphor is the Horizons of Focus model from ingenious book on personal productivity Getting Things Done by David Allen. The metaphor is perfectly summarized by Arif and Ali Vakil.

So you imagine you look at your life at 50,000 ft and ask yourself...

  • What are my unique Talents?
  • How can I use my unique talents to serve others (such as family and community)?
  • What gives me peak experiences and Joy?
  • What would I be doing if I had just 6 months to live?
  • What would I be doing, if I had all the time and money in the world?
  • What do I love to do?
  • What are the top values I believe in and uphold the most?

Once your 50,000 ft agreements are clear, you then start determining your agreements at the lower Horizons of Focus:

40,000 ft: Vision. What it will look, sound, feel like with successful implementation of your long term visions. This is a picture of where you want to be 3 to 5 years from now.

30,000 ft: Goals and Objectives. What do you need to accomplish within the next 1 to 2 years to make your vision happen?

20,000 ft: Areas of focus and responsibility. Important spheres of work and life to be maintained at standards to “keep engine running”. eg. What is the standard Health you’d like to maintain. How about your standard for your education, family life, spirituality etc. so that you can achieve your 30,000 ft and 40,000 ft goal.

10,000 ft: Projects or Outcomes you want to achieve that require more than one action and which can be completed within a year.

Runway Actions: Next physical, visible actions to take on any project or other outcome.

You get such a sense of power once all of your agreements at each of the different Horizons are aligned. You’ll reach a stage where you know that with every phone call, every meeting and every step you take at the Runway level, you’re fulfilling your life’s purpose; and that feels just Wonderful!

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If you are going to accomplish anything worthwhile, you will have to do some tasks that are not fun and that are hard. It sounds to me as if you like the idea of doing these great accomplishments but want instant gratification and it is not possible to do both. Rather than concentrating on how to make work fun, concentrate on how to be persistent and continue working even when it isn't fun. Set goals as to how much to accomplish a day. Celebrate accomplishments instead of trying to make everything fun all the time. You will find that the things you had to struggle to get through that resulted in a some major accomplishment are far more rewarding than having fun every day doing your work.

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I agree with J Kam - Drive by Daniel Pink is one of those books you read and you feel like "I knew that but just never thought about it".

Others very rarely think of what will motivate you. Others usually are only concerned with the outcome of your efforts, while you of course are concerned with all of your in and day out.

The key is to figure out a way to measure your progress, on projects and in overall competence. Are you becoming a "master" of what you're working on? The only way to know is to set your own goals and move towards them regardless of whether others appreciate them or not. You'll know, and you'll appreciate them!

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First, identify what exactly is causing the stress - do you feel you just have so much to do or do you feel it's too challenging or difficult?

If you feel you have so much to do, try to set daily or weekly mini-goals and keep daily log about what progress you have made towards the bigger goal.

If you feel it's too challenging or difficult, try to break it into smaller pieces and tackle these one-by-one. Identify what do you need to learn or understand today to make some progress.

Remember, a journey of thousand miles starts with a single step. So make sure you make some steps every day and celebrate achieving milestones along the way.

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