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22 Smart and Simple Ways to Motivate Yourself

“Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.”
Wayne Dyer

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
Zig Ziglar

“I was thinking one day and I realized that if I just had somebody behind me all the way to motivate me I could make a big difference. Nobody came along like that so I just became that person for myself.”
Unknown

Some days you wake up motivated and ready to go. And some days things feel heavy as you arise and it is hard to get going and find that inner drive.

At least in my experience.

So over the past 10+ years I have found some simple and smart strategies that work for me to get back into the right groove and to get things done.

Here are 22 of my favorite tips and habits for doing just that.

  1. Just get started and let the motivation catch up with you. You don’t have to wait for motivation to get started. If you want to work in a consistent way every day then sometimes you just have to get going anyway. And the funny thing is that after I have worked for a while things feel easier and easier and more fun and the motivation catches up with me.
  2. Start very small if big leads you to procrastinating. If a project or task feels too big and daunting don’t let that lead you into procrastination. Instead, break it down into very small steps and then take just one of them to start moving forward. Because the most important thing is to just get going and to build momentum forward.
  3. Get accountability from the people in your life. Tell your friends what you will do on social media, via phone or in real life. Ask one or more of them to regularly check up on you and your progress. By doing this you’ll be a lot less likely to try to weasel out of things or give up at the first obstacle.
  4. Get motivation from the people in your life. Spend less time with negative people who always look at the dark or apathetic side of things. And spend more of the time you have now freed up with enthusiastic or motivated people and let their energy flow over to you.
  5. Get the motivation from people you don’t know. Don’t limit yourself to just the motivation you can get from the people closest you. There is a ton of motivating books, podcasts, blogs and success stories out there that you can tap into to up or renew your motivation.
  6. Play music that gives you energy. One of the simplest things I do when I feel low in energy or motivation is to play music that is upbeat and/or inspires me in some way. A break with a few songs or working while listening to them for a while usually works well.
  7. Be kind to yourself when you stumble. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of beating yourself when you stumble or fail. But that don’t work that well in my experience. You just feel worse and less motivated. So try this the next time: be kind to yourself, nudge yourself back on the path you were on and take one small step forward.
  8. Be constructive about the failures. To make your setbacks more valuable and less hurtful be constructive about them. When you stumble ask yourself: what is 1 thing I can learn from this setback? Then keep that lesson in mind and take action on it to improve what you do.
  9. Compare yourself to yourself and see how far you have come. Instead of deflating yourself and your motivation by comparing yourself to others who are so far ahead of you.
  10. Compete in a friendly way. When you’re in school or at work make it a friendly competition with a friend to for example finish a boring or routine task first. Just that element of competition tends to liven things up. And if you want to you can also add a small prize for extra motivation, like the winner getting a free ice cream or a beer from the other person.
  11. Remind yourself of why you are working toward this. When you’re feeling unmotivated and low in energy it is easy to lose sight of why you’re doing something. So take 2 minutes and write down your top 3 reasons for doing this work, getting an education, working out, saving that extra money or something else. Put that note where you can see it every day or keep it in your smartphone for easy access when you need a motivational boost.
  12. Remind yourself of what you’re moving away from. You can also motivate yourself to get going again by looking at the negative impact of staying on your current path. Ask yourself: What will the consequences be if I continue on this path for 1 more year? And if I do if for 5 more years? I have found that this exercise has given me the kick-start I needed many times in the past years.
  13. Be grateful for what you got. When motivation is running low then it’s easy to start seeing your life and the aspects of it through a negative lens. To put your focus on what you still have and who you are – and to recharge with positivity and motivation ­– ask yourself a question like: What are 3 things I sometimes take for granted but can be grateful for in my life? My answers would, for example, be a roof over my head, clean water and not having to go hungry.
  14. Mix things up. A rut will kill motivation. So mix things up. Make a competition out of a task with yourself or with someone else. When you work out vary what you do instead of going through the motions. Listen to music and podcasts that you usually don’t listen to. New input and variation tends to be a good way to keep the motivation up (or to recharge it).
  15. Declutter your workspace. Take a couple of minutes to clean it up. I find that having an uncluttered and minimalistic workspace helps me to think more clearly and I feel more focused and ready to tackle the next task (or small step).
  16. Don’t forget about the breaks. Few things can in my experience drain the daily motivation like just working non-stop. Instead, work for 45 minutes each hour and use the rest for a break where you eat snack, got out for some fresh air or do a bit of stretching. You’ll – perhaps somewhat counter-intuitively – get more done in a day and week and do work of higher quality because your energy, focus and motivation will simply last longer.
  17. Adjust your goal size. If a big goal in your life feels overwhelming set a smaller goal to find your motivation again. And if a smaller goal doesn’t seem inspiring try to aim higher and make it bigger goal and see how that affects your motivation.
  18. Exercise. Working out doesn’t just affect your body. I find that just 20-30 minutes of lifting free weights releases inner tensions and stress and makes me feel more focused and motivated once again.
  19. Take 2 minutes to look back at your successes. Close your eyes and let the memories of your biggest successes – no matter in what part of your life – wash over you. Let those most positive memories boost your motivation.
  20. Do a bit of research before you get started. Learning from people who have gone where you want to go and done what you want to do can help you to avoid pitfalls. And to give you a realistic time-table for success. This is important to not get demotivated when things aren’t happening as fast you had wished.
  21. Take a 2 minute meditation break. This is something I have only done for the past few months. When my mind is a bit tired or perhaps even overloaded my energy and motivation goes down. So in the afternoons – or when needed – I tend to sit down with closed eyes and just focus on my breathing for 2 minutes. This clears my mind and releases inner tensions.
  22. Go out in nature. Few things give me as much new energy and motivation to take on life as this does. So I often go out for a walk in the woods or by the sea and I’m just there in the moment with the nature, the fresh air and I don’t think about anything special.
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  • Edgar December 5, 2015, 9:09 am

    Good stuff Hendrik not that I would expect anything less from you. Every time I read your newsletter I feel more fresh I like that you always come up with new important content. Was a good read

  • Manish kumar December 5, 2015, 2:13 pm

    I think #19 is one of the best point among this list because when ever we feel unhappy or some difficulty in our work then we should remember our previous success and try to find the way in which we get success in those works or jobs.
    Thanks for this useful article because here I got some new points which I did not see before.

  • Theresa December 6, 2015, 5:26 pm

    Hi
    A great article
    I especially like to listen to music and your messages also motivate me
    Thank you
    Theresa

  • Shirley December 6, 2015, 9:40 pm

    I love all the ideas but I love number 9 best. This point is especially helpful for persons operating in a highly competitive work environment.

  • Jane M December 8, 2015, 3:25 am

    Exactly what I needed this week. Netflix has seemed far more enticing than real life and hence, I have been dragging my heels on the things I really want to accomplish.

    I love “Compare Yourself to Yourself”. Looking at people with more success than me is such a downer (instead of an inspiration) but when I look back at all I’ve learned and accomplished during the last year, it makes me want to keep going.

    J

  • Mercury December 9, 2015, 11:28 pm

    #6 works great for me – when I’m struggling to get myself to work, I just put on some music and put on my headphones, and I seem to just fall into the groove!

  • Norma December 11, 2015, 1:09 am

    I think this is a great list of ways to use to motivate yourself. I read through them and then went back and found that I have six of them that I want to apply for myself and also share with some of my staff. Numbers 6,8,15,19,20 and 22 seemed to catch my attention as not your everyday run of the mill ideas on the subject. Some of the others I have already advocated in training over the years. Thank you for some fresh, new ideas (at least for me) that I can share in my next tutor training on motivation! I’ll be sure to share you blog address as I know some will want to subscribe1

  • rosemary December 11, 2015, 1:12 pm

    Thanks very much about this info, i usually bit myself and say its my fault for not coping or when things go wrong. I am happy at times i motivate myself so i wont stop until something happens thanks for sharing with us

  • Bhumi Pednekar December 24, 2015, 11:29 am

    These are helpful tips, eespecially for me because I get demotivated very easily. this helps me to motivate myself.
    Thank you. 🙂

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