Using “Small Wins” to Advance Your Work Career
How to motivate yourself to excel.
Posted January 2, 2012
A new program of research has discovered a powerful motivator: the idea that "small wins" at work can increase your motivation, your productivity, and your work engagement and satisfaction. Small wins can include completing a significant assignment or part of an assignment, solving a vexing work-related problem, or getting positive recognition from a supervisor or colleague.
In their recent book, The Progress Principle, psychologists Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer discuss the program of research that discovered this powerful source of motivation, and, to their surprise, few supervisors or leaders were aware of the effect that small wins could have on motivation.
Interestingly, Amabile and Kramer discovered what the designers of video and computer games have known for years. People will become strongly motivated (and even "addicted") to games that allow a sense of small accomplishments: getting to the next level, finishing a challenging quest or task, solving a problem, or overcoming a foe.
So, how can you use this motivational tool to challenge yourself at work?
See your job as a series of discrete tasks. Rather than viewing your job as an 8-to-5 work marathon, break your job down into individual elements and tasks. Keeping a daily "to do" list, and crossing off each task as it is accomplished is a good way of monitoring your progress.
Keep a journal of accomplishments. Drawing on research that notes the benefits of keeping a daily journal, the authors suggest that taking 5 minutes at the end of each day to list the events that stood out during the day, good or bad, can help you see the small wins, as well as the setbacks (and you can then work to overcome the setbacks).
Celebrate the small wins. Try to create some way of recording or reflecting on your daily accomplishments, Take a moment to enjoy the feeling of the win. It will help sustain your motivation going forward.
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