It’s easy to feel like motivation is beyond our control. Some days, if we’re lucky, we have an unlimited stock. Other days, it seems like it’s nowhere to be found. And so we procrastinate and get increasingly frustrated, thinking of all the things we need to do but just can’t bring ourselves to.
However, the fact that we are at the mercy of motivation is not entirely true and can be a trap. The reality is that our mood and feelings greatly affect our productivity, which means that we are actually in control of motivation.
Have you noticed that you are more likely to lose motivation and procrastinate when you’re feeling low or stressed? Or when you feel like you’re not doing a good job or don’t know where to start?
Lack of motivation can simply be due to absence of pressure or deadlines or having too much to do. However, it can also come from deeper feelings, such as fear of failure or fear of judgement.
Whatever the reason, lack of motivation feeds more procrastination which then makes us feel stressed and overwhelmed and – you guessed it – further harms our motivation. It’s an exhausting cycle which can feel impossible to break..
What can you do about it?
The great news about motivation is that you are actually in control! By taking steps to improve your mood and make tasks feel more manageable, you can improve your motivation and, as a result, productivity. Try our tips!
Understand how motivation works
- In moments of lack of motivation, it’s easy to feel helpless and frustrated, and like we can’t control it
- However, motivation comes from within, and beating yourself up for feeling unproductive is only going to make it worse
- So, show some compassion for yourself and try doing practical tips that will help to make you feel motivated without punishing yourself for having an off day
Take a break from your thoughts
- Negative feelings can greatly affect your motivation, and it’s important to clear your head in order to boost motivation
- Take a break to do five minutes of mindful breathing (observing your breath while you inhale and exhale) or a grounding exercise (hold an object in your hands and really feel it, the texture, the temperature)
- This will really help to take the focus away from negative thoughts and into the present, which will not only make you feel better but will also boost your motivation
Take a break from your work
- Over-working and not allowing yourself to take a break is a key contributor to loss of motivation
- Make sure that you are not forcing yourself to work all the time, but that you instead build some time into your day for some relaxation, or something you love doing
- Doing this will avoid you feeling overwhelmed and will also help you to break negative thinking cycles, therefore increasing motivation
Make a to-do list and start small
- Sometimes a feeling of overwhelm and not knowing where to start can make our motivation plummet
- A to-do list can really reassure you that everything is in one place and you won’t forget about it, and can also sometimes help to show you that what you thought was unachievable is in fact not that bad
- Starting with even the smallest, easiest item on your to-do list can really help to make you feel more productive and therefore fuel motivation – fake it till you make it!
- Rewarding yourself for doing tasks will really help to make you look forward to completion and, as a result, make you more productive
- Try to not make the rewards food or alcohol related, but instead make them something that will genuinely make you feel better, like calling a friend, taking a walk or doing something else you love
- This will not only improve your experience of doing the task, but will also provide a welcome break from negative thoughts and train your mind to focus more on the present
Ask a friend to hold you accountable
- Sometimes it’s hard to feel motivated when there is no impending deadline or pressure to get things done
- Work with a friend to create a small accountability group, where you each agree on tasks that you need to complete by a given deadline
- This will make you feel like you’re working towards a specific goal and will motivate you to be more productive
- We sometimes procrastinate because we think small rewards will outweigh the pain of getting a task done (e.g. checking Facebook now is much more fun than writing a paper)
- However, this is a short-term view, and we forget to think about the benefits of getting the task done in the long run
- When you are struggling to complete a task, take five minutes to visualise how it will feel to have the task completed: What will it feel like? How has this felt in the past?
- This will help you to realise why it’s important to get the task done and will increase your motivation
Create good habits
Always do this
- Procrastination is a habit that is easy to fall into but can also be broken
- Try to get into the habit of doing small tasks without procrastinating (e.g. wash the dishes straight after dinner, pay a bill when it comes in)
- The more you do this, the more you will get used to doing tasks when they need to be done, which will cause you to procrastinate less and be more motivated
Dig a little deeper
Do this when you are struggling with these feelings
- Have you noticed that you are more likely to lose motivation if you are feeling low or stressed?
- This demonstrates that motivation comes from within, and is highly connected to your emotional state
- Ask yourself the question: “Why don’t I want to do this?”
- Do you feel like you’re not up to the task or are you worried about what someone else will think?
- The moment you understand what the issue is, you can start doing something about it