Have you ever looked at a celebrity mom and wondered how she somehow manages to get so much done? We all have the same amount of time in a day. So why is Angelina Jolie somehow able to balance raising six kids with working for the United Nations AND directing and starring in multiple award-winning films, all while looking fabulous and being married to Brad Pitt?

In other words, why do some people seem to achieve so much more than others?

Part of it’s the fact that celebrities have a great deal of control over how they spend their time. If you’re a working single mom of three who’s barely making ends meet, chances are you don’t have the luxury of an entourage (don’t we wish!) or the finances to jet off to the south of France whenever you need a reboot.

Despite the doldrums of normalcy, there are many people who manage to achieve quite a bit in their day, while for others 24 hours can seem like barely enough time to get one or two things checked off the list. Part of it’s prioritizing, part of it’s attitude, and part of it’s perception. Just as it was outlined the famous 1989 Stephen Covey game-changing book, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, there are certain commonalities motivated people have. By learning and applying these ideas, we can all become the type of person who can “Get ‘er done.”

Motivated people love to use personal calendars to plan out their time.  

1. They LOVE Their Calendars

Prioritizing, scheduling, setting a timer and blocking out time to achieve tasks are at the absolute basic foundation of getting anything done. Whenever you’re faced with a task, assess it (before it even gets a coveted spot on your calendar). Is this something in line with your values and worth your time? Own your calendar and schedule and don’t allow anything to eat it up that’s not worth it.

Once a task is deemed worthy, get it on your calendar. Whether you use Google Calendar or a paper planner like our Living Well Planner™, block out time and even consider setting a timer. Being cognizant of the way your time is spent (and avoiding distractions and time wasters) is key in managing those 24 hours and packing in as many worthwhile activities as possible.

Motivated people get up early in the morning to get important tasks done.

 2. They Get Up Early and They Eat That Frog For Breakfast

Eating the frog means tackling the most difficult task first. We’re only given so much time in a day and if you tackle the big jobs and the hard stuff first, then the little stuff and easy stuff can fill in the cracks.

“But, Ruth…I am NOT a morning person,” you’re saying. I get it. Not everyone is. However, universally, getting up a little bit early does help you get things done. Try pushing yourself to get up 10 minutes earlier each day until you gradually hit the desired wakeup time. (Adjust your bedtime accordingly.)

Maybe you’re not functional at 5 am or maybe you do your best work late at night, but there’s something to be said for being out and about during “normal” business hours. Getting to the store, making appointments, or even getting to the gym in the morning can mean you beat the crowds and get things done in a more efficient way. Create a morning routine that works for you.

Even if your “morning” starts at 10 am, make it a routine and tackle your difficult tasks first. Don’t start down the rabbit hole of email checking and social media updates first thing. Instead, do some concrete activities to get your day started—exercise, move to get your blood flowing, drink a big glass of water (and a big coffee if you need it) and wake up ready to tackle the world.

Motivated people set SMART goals that are reachable and helpful.

3. They Set Concrete, Achievable SMART Goals

Goals are funny things. Sometimes a goal can be too lofty, too nebulous, or too hard and it just fizzles out and dies. Motivated people know achieving goals keeps motivation flowing. Every time you accomplish something, it’s little “rush” as you check it off your list. Harness momentum by making your goals achievable and concrete.

SMART stands for “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.” Things like “get skinny” are too non-specific. (How much weight do you want to lose? By when? How will you do it? How will you know when you are at “skinny”?) Instead try things setting goals like this: “I will walk five days a week and track my food to lose 1-2 pounds per week for the next six weeks, to meet my overall goal of losing 10 pounds.”

The difference in setting concrete, achievable SMART goals is you’ll taste the thrill of victory each time you take a step in the right direction. You’ll be able to measure your success clearly and redirect yourself should you get off-track or sidelined.

4. They Invest in Themselves

Motivated people know they can be their own worst enemy or their own biggest cheerleader. To be motivated, you have to make your goals and dreams a priority. It can seem selfish or counterintuitive, but think of it like training for a marathon or learning to play piano. You have to invest time in practicing every single day. You must schedule out time, and if it’s really your dream, keep your eye on the long-term outcomes.

Chances are, whatever your dream, it will probably benefit your spouse and family in the long run. If you keep that fact in mind, investing the time, effort and resources in yourself doesn’t seem as selfish. Your happiness and achievement will reflect positively on those around you so investing in yourself is worth every penny. If you have a goal of going back to school, then look at the time and tuition as an investment in your long-term desire to get a better career and accomplish your life goals. See? Everybody wins.

Motivated people are goal driven.

 5. They Break Off Bite-Sized Pieces

Goals are a series of small steps. Getting things done and harnessing your motivation means not getting overwhelmed by the big picture (which can quickly derail and frustrate the best of intentions). Any time a task seems too daunting or unattainable break it down into smaller steps.

A few years ago, there was a big trend in “52 week savings” goals. (As in, put away $1 on week one, $2 week two and so on.) The reason this was so successful is people built on a little, manageable goal each week and ended up with $1,400 at the end of the year.

The same results go for the popular “Couch to 5K” program. Each week there are three workouts gradually building up to running an entire 5K. Motivated people understand making the first step is the hardest. After that, it’s about simply completing the small task in front of you, a little at a time.


Motivated people understand the value of turning electronics off to disconnect.

6. They Know When to Turn Off or Tune Out

There’s a growing trend of turning off your cellphone and going on a digital detox. Whether it’s an hour or two a day right before bed or taking a full-blown digital “Sabbath” once a week, people are understanding the power of disconnecting from the Internet, television and electronics—and reconnecting with their loved ones.

Motivated people understand while the Internet can be a great resource and a powerful tool for good, it can also become a huge distraction and time-waster. Unplugging yourself or managing your social media time, email hours and other distracting habits can help you achieve more in a shorter amount of time.

If you have a very difficult time keeping yourself off Pinterest or the FB, try a website blocking app like Freedom or Anti-Social. You might be surprised at how much time you suddenly have when you let go of these distracters. At the very least, learn to put your cellphone down during conversation and keep it off at the dinner table. That’s just called having good manners!

7. They Take Personal Responsibility

We’ve all heard the mantra YOU are responsible for your own happiness. One thing motivated people understand is that the power to change, to achieve what we want, and to conquer whatever goals we have set, is within us. Many of us have overcome great personal hardships and circumstances beyond our control that may have been painful or held us back, but the power to overcome is always there.

Sharing my own story of being delivered by Grace and overcoming challenges has been a source of motivation for me. Knowing I’m no more important or special than anyone else, and yet, I’ve been able to come so far (and I’m still working on it) has made me realize my purpose to be an example for others who might be facing similar struggles. We have to take responsibility for ourselves and know we’re in control of our own lives. Through the Grace of God, we can find the power within ourselves to tackle anything that comes our way. The power is within.

Motivated people enjoy the journey of life and are always moving forward.

8. They Find Joy in the Journey

Motivated people are focused on the finish line, but they also find joy in the journey to the end goal. No one who wins a gold medal skiing hates to be on the slopes and there are no Grammy award winning musicians who just HATE singing. If you are passionate about what you’re doing and working towards your goals, there should be joy and accomplishment every step of the way.

Think of it like a vacation. If you’ve ever been on a road trip to visit some great destination, you know full well half the fun and most of the memories are built on the road and not at the destination.

Every step towards your goals should be a learning experience and an opportunity to try something new. Motivated people know it’s about reframing your perception to create a new lifestyle as opposed to a simple race to the finish.

9. They Don’t Give Up

This is one of the most difficult “secrets” to apply, but it’s the most important. Motivated people don’t give up. They know there are always setbacks to achieving anything. They know there will be some days when the house is a wreck, and you lose your temper and you question your existence and purpose and well, just about everything.

The difference is, when things fall apart, the motivated don’t quit. Not to say every goal is achieved, but motivated people understand sometimes it’s about reframing and rerouting, but never giving up. If you’re trying to pay off your debt, teach your children about responsibility, or do something else that seems almost impossible (and may make you think you’ve lost your mind), don’t give up.

10. They Rely on Others

Like the entourage of Oprah and Martha, your own entourage can help you stay motivated and keep you on your path. I find blogging to be a huge accountability check (let me tell you—people don’t hold back their opinions online) and it’s pretty motivating to know when I’ve stated a goal, I have readers I have to answer to.

Posting your goals to social media, asking for a weekly “accountability check” with a friend, or relying on your spouse to keep you in check can help you keep a handle on the big picture and head off any roadblocks you might not see coming.

Similarly, motivated people know when they need to delegate and ask for help. Maybe you need to set up a babysitting co-op, a meal swap or another activity to free up a little time for yourself. Look for ways to make your life easier, so you’ll have the time to achieve your goals. Don’t be afraid to raise the “Help Me” sign now and again, either. You’ll be amazed at how many people are looking for an opportunity to serve others, and want a chance to help.

Motivated people do not fear failure.

11. They Don’t Fear Failure

When I decided homeschooling wasn’t fitting our family there was a feeling like, “I’ve failed. I’ve done this all wrong.” And yes, it was very humbling. I had to reframe and think about the fact my goal was still on “providing the best education for my children.” So, with that outcome in mind, I wasn’t failing but rather choosing a different path. I wasn’t giving up on the goal of seeing my kids’ education through, but I realized I needed different resources and a new plan.

There will be failures along the way and that’s just part of achievement. So many of us hold ourselves back because we’re afraid we’ll fail, look “stupid,” or feel foolish. It’s about overcoming that self-doubt. So you might fail or you might have to go at something from a different angle. That’s okay! No one will remember most of the things we find embarrassing anyway.

Almost all of us have a mortifying childhood story—a time when we wet our pants or fell down in front of everyone…and you know what? Everyone has one of those stories and no one remembers anybody else’s. What does that tell us? We will be remembered for our achievements, not for the times we failed. So pick yourself up and keep going!

 12. They Understand Their Motivations

What drives you? Is it the desire for financial success? Is it the goal to be the best at something? To win? Understanding your motivations, harnessing them and using them to shape your focus is a powerful way to stay true to your goals.

Many of us have many motivations. We’re driven by our desire to protect and provide for our families. We’re driven by our faith and values. We’re propelled by our feelings for our spouse and our desire to make them happy. We can also be motivated by internal factors like our drive to prove ourselves, to grow and become more intelligent, to put a title of “Dr.” in front of our name, or to bring home a bigger paycheck and afford the things we want.

Sometimes we might feel guilty about motivators. It sounds selfish to think, “I want to be the best” or “I want to be well off.” But underneath those seemingly selfish goals there’s often the desire to provide for and help those around us. There’s a desire to be an example to others and to reflect our purpose.

For me, it’s knowing and believing with all my heart that I am living the life I was called to lead. Over the years I have realized that my own struggles in different areas of my life have led me to look for solutions, and I am passionate about sharing those solutions with others–ultimately it is that call that has me jumping out of bed each day!

If you haven’t quite found your motivation yet, I encourage you to keep looking. Start implementing some of these secrets into your own life, and you might just be surprised by how the motivation starts to flow!

Ever wonder how some people seem to have endless amounts of energy, while you are struggling just to keep up with the demands of your day? The reality is that the most productive people do things a little differently, and a few of their tricks might just help you too! Use these 12 secrets of motivated people to kick your own productivity into high gear!

Ruth Soukup
Ruth Soukup is dedicated to helping people everywhere create a life they love by follwing their dreams and achieving their biggest goals. She is the host of the wildly popular Do It Scared podcast, as well as the founder of Living Well Spending Less® and Elite Blog Academy®. She is also the New York Times bestselling author of six books, including Do It Scared®: Finding the Courage to Face Your Fears, Overcome Obstacles, and Create a Life You Love, which was the inspiration for this book. She lives in Florida with her husband Chuck, and 2 daughters Maggie & Annie.
Ruth Soukup


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