Internet Self Improvement

How to Stay Motivated on Long-Term Projects and Not Give Up

Joel Lee 13-01-2016

Motivation is fickle. For most people, the drive to do something — anything — can flare into life out of nowhere and completely fizzle out within the next 24 hours. This is a huge problem for long-term projects.


And it doesn’t really matter what that long project entails. Whether you want to create your own mobile game, develop the next trendy web app, write a novel (or a series of novels), or double the profit margin of your business, motivation can be difficult to maintain 5 Mistakes That Make You Quit Your New Year's Resolutions How tough is your struggle with New Year's Resolutions? If you are on a never-ending cycle of quitting on your goals every time, these tips should be motivating for the year ahead. Read More .

The good news is that we have several tips that might help, but be aware that there are no shortcuts.

If motivation was easy to cultivate, nobody would have any problems doing so! But if you’re feeling lost, these following words may prove fruitful.

Avoid Rushing or Over-Committing

The first thing to know about long-term projects is that they require a long-term commitment. And while this truth may seem obvious, it can lead to two mistakes that will sneak up on you and kill your project before you even realize what went wrong.

Impatience. It’s so easy to look at a project that realistically needs a few months or years and believe you can get it done in half the time if you just make a few sacrifices. Why spend weeks doing things “the right way” when you can take a few shortcuts and get it done now?



The problem here is that you’re just pushing your problems into the future. At some point, your code or your novel is going to run into a dead end, and you’ll be stuck with two options: start over or quit. And by that point, you’ll be so frustrated that starting over won’t seem like a valid course — so you’ll quit.

So if you start feeling impatient and wanting to rush things, take a deep breath and relax The 5 Best Ways To Relax Using Online Tools Read More . If necessary, take some time to figure out why you need things done right now.

Could it be an addiction to technology How to Recognize and Overcome Your Tech Addiction Overcoming tech addiction doesn't mean ending your use of that technology, it just means using technology to improve the quality of your life. This guide shows you how to manage your online cravings. Read More and the instantly gratifying nature of the Internet Take A Break From the Internet - You’ll Thank Yourself Later [Opinion] Oh, the Internet. One of the most world-changing inventions of the past century, perhaps even in all of human history. Never before has everything been so available in so little effort for so low a... Read More ? Either way, meditation and/or prayer Learn Meditation On Any Device & Don't Spend A Dime Contrary to popular opinion, you can meditate without a yoga mat, religious guidance, a peaceful personal space, incense candles, and any other apparatus. Here's a simple tool to help you begin. Read More may prove helpful.



Overcommitment. This problem can manifest in several ways, but the most common form of overcommitment is focusing so hard on one project to the detriment of every other aspect of your life: mental, physical, spiritual, marital, social, etc.

When you’re committed to a long-term project, it’s important that you learn how to maintain a proper balance between work and life What Do You Do On A Sunday? 4 Tips To Plan & Balance Your Work Week It's becoming tougher to keep a right balance between work and life. There are 168 hours in the week. Where does it all go? Here's how to reclaim it by planning for the week. Read More . Make sure that you’re getting enough sleep Sleep Better & Improve Your Health By Changing How You Use Your Computer Computer work must not be hard on your body. Simple changes that only cost you minutes each day can have a great impact. Here are some tools to help you out. Read More and exercising on a regular basis 7 Best YouTube Workout Channels To Exercise at Home Home gyms and personal trainers help the moneyed get up straight from their beds and hit the gym. We lesser mortals have to call on our powers of self-motivation and discipline to trudge the few... Read More . This will help prevent the onset of burnout Programming Burnout: How to Regain Your Lost Motivation Feeling tired of programming? Suffering burnout and can't see a way out? Here's how to begin regaining your motivation to code. Read More .

Overcommitment can also cause you to bite off more than you can chew. In that case, remember that it’s okay to take a step back, re-evaluate your goals, and reduce the scope of your project.


Split the Project Into Milestones

The aforementioned problems of impatience and overcommitment both point to the biggest difficulty in long-term projects: they’re so big and demanding that they can start to seem insurmountable. It’s easy to feel like you aren’t making any progress How To Spark Personal Growth: 5 Tricks Of The Entrepreneur Not everyone has to be an entrepreneur, but everyone can learn something from the entrepreneur. By tapping into some of those entrepreneurial traits, you can radically alter your own life in an upward direction. Read More , which can convince you to quit.

That’s why it’s so critical that every long-term project gets broken down into milestones. You can think of these milestones as sub-projects, or chapters, or incremental releases. It doesn’t really matter what you call them, but they must exist.


But in order for a milestone to be effective, it must have the same five qualities that are necessary in proper goal setting 5 Critical Mistakes To Avoid When Setting Goals Goal setting is a great way to cut down on procrastination and boost productivity. If you don’t have goals, you don’t have direction. Without direction, it’s easy for you to feel lost and confused. Fortunately,... Read More . We’ve elaborated on these qualities before, but here they are in abridged form: your milestones must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely.


Milestones serve two important purposes. First, they allow you to work toward shorter-term goals, which can help stave off feelings of stagnation. Second, they provide evidence of your progress. Nothing is more satisfying than looking back and seeing how far you’ve come.

Practically speaking, these milestones can be organized however you want. You could use actual project management tools like Freedcamp or Trello, but I prefer the simplicity of a dynamic task-tracking app like Todoist or WorkFlowy.

No matter which tool you use, the key is to plan the project milestones ahead of time so you can build an extended to-do list. Break the project into milestones, then break those milestones into individual tasks, and break those tasks into individual steps. This makes it easy to take things one literal step at a time.

Remember that general project management tips 6 Project Management Tips You Can Use to Organize Your Life Project Management is the profession of getting things done. Our tips will help you apply a project manager's perspective, skills, and tools to organize your own life. Read More still apply, such as making sure each step has a reasonable but timely deadline 5 Habits Farmers Have That Can Boost Your Own Productivity Learning how to grow your level of efficiency from generations of men and women who grow things will teach you how to stick to your deadlines no matter what. Read More . And if you’re the kind of person who easily succumbs to negative emotions, try keeping a digital journal Start A Digital Journaling Habit With A 30-Day Challenge One useful path to personal self-improvement is through keeping a journal. But this approach requires journal writing to become a habit. A journaling challenge could be the push you need to just begin. Read More throughout the entire project. You’d be surprised at how beneficial this can be.

Allow Yourself Room for Breaks

One thing that many people tend to forget is that long-term projects are marathons. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve trained — nobody can sprint the distance of an entire marathon. You have to pace yourself according to your own endurance.

If that means taking a rest here and there, then by all means, take a rest! If you’ve never successfully weathered a long-term project before, then don’t expect to flawlessly get through your next attempt. Instead, expect that you’ll stumble along the way and prepare for it ahead of time.


You might miss deadlines. You might even want to quit altogether. You aren’t alone! The key is to remember that mistakes and breaks don’t mean you’ve failed. The only time you’ve failed is when you’ve decided to give up 6 Lessons From Pixar That Will Set You Up For Success The secrets of storytelling tend to reflect the secrets of success in real life. You owe it to yourself to take one minute and consider how Pixar might make you more successful. Read More .

So go ahead and take a break. Recharge. You can even walk away for a week or two and scratch your other hobby itches 5 Creative Hobbies for Adults That'll Make You a Happier Person Proper creative outlets can improve your mental health and happiness. Here are some creative hobbies that are proven to help. Read More . Every so often, do whatever it takes to get yourself reenergized and to get those distractions out of your system, but make sure you return to the project when the break period is over.


And while we’re on the topic of recharging, don’t underestimate the power of fellowship and community. Find like-minded people and build relationships. Not sure where to go? Try starting with online forums, open Slack teams, Skype groups, or even real-life meetups and gatherings Turn Your Internet Relationships Into Real World Friendships With A Meetup There is one thing you must know when organizing a virtual meetup with an online compadre: don't be creepy. The prime consideration you must have is that your friend -- regardless of how close you... Read More .

Another great way to recharge is to watch TED Talks 10 Motivational TED Talks To Help You Chip Away At Your Mental Blocks The valuable lesson from the lives of achievers is that they chip away at their mental blocks more consistently than others. Ten TED Talks underscore one simple thing – it’s all in the mind. Read More and motivational YouTube videos 8 Inspirational Videos That Will Instantly Pump Up Your Motivation How do you feel about motivational videos? You may think that they’re nothing more than glorified, digital pep rallies where overly optimistic people preach empty words of success, victory, and ultimately happiness. And to some... Read More of successful people who have gone through the same struggles that you’re facing now. Whether you’re a writer, programmer, or photographer, there’s something out there for you to relate to.

How Do You Keep It Up Long-Term?

Ultimately, chasing after motivation is the truest recipe for disaster. Motivation is fickle (repeat that to yourself every morning and every night) so if you’re always waiting on motivation, you’ll never get anything done. As Jim Rohn famously said:

Motivation is what gets you started. Discipline is what keeps you going.

If you really want to succeed in the long-term, you’ll have to view motivation as nothing more than a spark. The tinder itself is quickly consumed, but logs can keep a fire going indefinitely. Just remember that tinder is easy to collect while logs require real effort.

When you run out of steam on a long-term project, what works for you? What doesn’t work? Got any tips for the rest of us? Share them in the comments below!

Image Credits: bored man by Syda Productions via Shutterstock, Pointing to Screen by welcomia via Shutterstock, Frustrated Programmer by Dean Drobot via Shutterstock, Man Leaping Hurdles by Dooder via Shutterstock, Break Button by Tashatuvango via Shutterstock, Team Coffee Break by via Shutterstock

Related topics: Motivation, Time Management, To-Do List.

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  1. Margaret Terwilliger
    February 25, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks for the reminders. This was a insightful group of basic but essential things. Great go-to list when things are frustrating.

  2. Jaxon Parker
    August 12, 2017 at 1:07 am

    Thank you. I hope this helps, I am programming my first game. Thank you, Mister Lee!