There are a lot of times in our lives when we've got an external structure or impetus to stay motivated.width=398

When you're in college, you generally don't cut your compulsory classes just because you're feel like goofing off - you don't want to get penalized, and you don't want to miss valuable content.

When you've got a job, you don't decide to have a long lie-in on Monday mornings. You get yourself into the office - and whether you feel motivated or not doesn't come into play.

If you're used to having a lot of external direction, it can be really tough to motivate yourself when you're totally in charge of your own time.

We all have goals and dreams - whether or not we ever talk about them, or write them down. Perhaps you want to lose weight, or start your own business, or carry out a home improvement project. In each case, you need a ton of motivation to get going - and to stay on track.

If you haven't got a boss or parent or teacher looking over your shoulder, here's how to get (and stay) motivated.

Get Support In Place
Although it might feel like you're out on your own, the reality is that millions of other people have the same goals as you.

If you're trying to lose weight, join a slimming club.

If you're starting your own business, find a local group of would-be entrepreneurs - or hang out with some online.

If you want to build a deck for your home, get a bunch of friends together who can help (and return the favor for them at a later point).

Be Organized With Your Time
In school, you had a timetable telling you what to do when. At work, you have meetings and appointments scheduled, deadlines and targets. Even if you're not a naturally organized person, you'll pretty quickly find yourself adapting to what you need to do.

When you're going after personal goals, though, it's very easy to get disorganized. Maybe you've got a big dream but you never seem to find the time to take the first steps towards it. Perhaps you always intend to exercise, but somehow you never get round to it.

We all like to organize ourselves slightly differently. See which of these tips works best for you:

  • Put your personal goals into your diary. E.g. Thursday - 5pm - workout
  • Find a regular time slot to use for working on your goal. E.g. Your lunch hour; every Saturday morning from 9am - 11am
  • At the end of each day, write down what you did to make progress towards your goal
  • Set a rule like no TV until I've filled in my food diary to help you stay on track with new habits

Set Yourself Milestones
One of the challenges with staying motivated on our big goals is that we tend to get overwhelmed. If you're trying to lose 100lbs, or repaint your entire house, you'll pretty quickly find yourself questioning whether it's worth the effort, and whether you'll ever reach your goal.

Instead of focusing on the finish line in the distance, break your goal into smaller steps.

You might go for equally-weighted chunks like:

  • Aiming to lose 10lbs, then another 10lbs, and so on
  • Painting the bedroom, then the bathroom, then the kitchen

Or you might start with smaller, easier tasks and slowly work your way up:

  • Learn five chords on the guitar, then learn a simple song, then a more complex song
  • Write a basic business plan, then do some pro bono (free) work, then find your first client

The exact approach you take will depend on your exact goal - but the important thing is that you break that goal into manageable pieces.

Celebrate Small Victories
Every time you achieve a chunk of your goal, celebrate! Depending on how big the chunk is, you might:

  • Tell a friend about your achievement
  • Write down your progress in a log or journal
  • Give yourself a reward, like buying that DVD you want
  • Go out for a special meal or open a nice bottle of wine to celebrate

It doesn't matter exactly what you do - the point is that you acknowledge your progress and feel good about what you've accomplished. It's much easier to stay motivated when you're being positive, rather than when you're beating yourself up for not getting more done.

What are your big goals at the moment? How can you keep up your motivation on them?