“Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.”
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
“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.”
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 32 of my favorite tips and habits for doing just that.
Bonus: Download a free step-by-step checklist that will show you how to improve your motivation and keep it stable (it's easy to save as a PDF or print out for whenever you need it during your day or week).
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 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 small steps – like just setting up your blog or cleaning for 5 minutes – and then take just one of them to start moving forward.
3. Start tiny if a small step still leads you to procrastination.
If breaking it down and taking a small step – a method supported by studies like this one – still leads you to procrastinating then go even smaller. Take just a tiny 1-2 minute step forward. That’s it.
Because the most important thing is to just get going and to build momentum forward.
4. Reduce the daily distractions.
When you have easily accessible distractions all around you then it becomes hard to focus.
So shut the door to your office. Put your smart phone in silent mode at the other end of your work space or home. And use an extension for your browser like StayFocusd to keep yourself on track.
5. 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 and maybe a family member 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.
6. Get motivation from the people in your life.
The people you spend your time with will have a big effect on your life (as seen in, for example, this study).
So 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.
7. 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 quotes, books, podcasts, blogs and success stories out there that you can tap into to up or renew your motivation and make your personal development easier overall.
8. 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.
9. Find the optimism.
Pessimism can drain both your motivation and energy.
But the positive and constructive way of looking at things can on the other hand energize and recharge your motivation.
So when you're in what looks like a negative situation ask yourself questions like:
What’s one thing that’s good about this? And what’s one hidden opportunity here?
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 you lose motivation to take action.
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.
This combination of positive self-talk and self-compassion, plus an easy to manage action-step, is a much better way to reload your self motivation and stay motivated more consistently even through a valley in life.
11. 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 one thing I can learn from this setback?
Then keep that lesson in mind and take action on it to improve what you do.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. Remind yourself of why you are working toward this.
When you’re feeling unmotivated and low in energy it's easy to lose sight of why you’re doing something.
So take 2 minutes and write down your top 3 reasons for why you want to do this work, get an education, work out, lose weight, save 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 (or just a reminder of why what you are doing is important to you to make it a fulfilling life).
15. 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.
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.
16. 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.
17. 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).
18. 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).
19. Reduce your to do list to just one item.
An over-stuffed to do list can be a real motivation killer.
So try reducing your current to do list to just one item. The one that’s most important to you right now or perhaps the one you've been procrastinating on for way too long.
Then get started by taking a big, small or tiny step.
And have another list tucked away somewhere where you can’t see it with other tasks to do later on.
20. 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 a snack, get 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.
21. 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.
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 once again. The mental benefits of exercise is something I think most people experience in one way or another and is also supported by studies like this one.
23. 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.
24. Reward yourself and celebrate your successes.
If you’re looking forward to a nice reward that you’re getting yourself after you’re done with a task or a project then your motivation tends to go up.
If you celebrate a success in some other way by for example by taking 1 minute to appreciate what you did or by telling someone about your success then that also usually recharges motivation and positivity.
So dangle those carrots and celebrate to keep your motivation up.
25. 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.
26. Take a 2 minute meditation break.
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.
27. 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.
28. Use a gratitude journal.
You can expand on tip # 16 and create a gratitude journal. This will help you to focus on the positive things in your life. And in everyday life it simply makes it easier to set a positive tone for your morning and your day.
That tends to make life simpler, more joyful and in my experience more successful most of the time.
Here's what you do:
Take 3-5 minutes in the morning and answers questions like these:
- What are 3 things I can be grateful for in my life today?
- Who are 3 people that I can be grateful to have in my life and why?
- What are 3 things I can be grateful for about myself?
Use a notepad app on your phone (I use the Simplenote app), an actual notebook made out of paper or whatever works best for you.
29. Find intrinsic motivation.
External motivation comes from rewards you'll get from finishing a task such as kind words or extra money. It can also come from the fear of punishments like being yelled at by your boss.
Intrinsic motivation comes from doing a task or activity for the challenge, the fun you have while doing it or from the satisfaction you get from growing and improving your skills.
Focusing on the intrinsic motivation is, in my experience, more sustainable than the allure of a reward or the fear of punishment.
So look at what you are doing today as a way to sharpen your skills, a challenge that will make you stronger or more of a fun adventure you are going on – perhaps with a friend or two – to explore new things.
If you can’t find that for some tasks, then a more helpful approach may be starting small or tiny. At other times you may want to delegate tasks that you find no intrinsic motivation in or find a new path to where you want to go that is more fun and/or challenging.
30. Set a target date.
If you have a target date for when a project has to be done, for when you have your next race or your next exam then that makes things easier.
It makes it easier to gain clarity and plan for how you will use your time until then. It helps you track how far along you are on your journey.
And it gives you a finishing line to move towards, which can be a relief if the work you are doing is tough or not so much fun at times.
All of this makes it easier to keep up the motivation and to keep moving forward.
31. Reduce inner resistance and fear.
Oftentimes we can overcome the inner resistance towards taking action by starting small as mentioned earlier in this article.
But sometimes a deeper and often hazy fear within can stand in the way of motivation and you talking action. Here’s what I do then:
I ask myself this question: what is the worst that could realistically happen?
And then I write that out in a document on my computer or smartphone.
This helps me to:
Find clarity in what the actual worst case scenario is.
And to not get lost in disaster scenarios or other extremely unlikely things to happen, except in my mind.
Make a plan for how to prevent that scenario.
Or at least make it less impactful or painful if it happens. If you only have fuzzy nightmares bouncing around in your mind then planning becomes very hard. But if you know the worst likely scenario then you can ask yourself questions like:
How can prevent that from even happening?
And if it does happen, how can I minimize that impact and quickly bounce back again?
32. Know what works best for you to quickly lift or stabilize your mood.
If you get stuck in the wrong head space for an afternoon or a day then that can derail your motivation and progress.
So I’ve found that knowing how I can quickly change my headspace, lift my mood or stabilize it if needed is very helpful to get a new and fresh start and not get dragged down into negativity and inaction.
Here’s what works for me, hopefully at least one or a couple of them can help you too.
- Spend a bit of time in the sunshine early in the day. This boosts my energy and helps me to sleep better as night time comes.
- Talk to a loved one (usually my wife). This helps me find clarity, ground myself in reality instead of getting lost in worries and can often help me get some new energy and motivation.
- Watch something that makes me laugh. Like 10 minutes of the Simpsons. Having a laugh break lightens my mood and makes me feel more positive again. And so getting going with my work becomes easier.
- Spend 10 minutes on high intensity cardio. This is my current favorite way to up my energy, reduce worries and negative thoughts greatly and feel more motivated and optimistic. And it keeps helping me in those ways for days after the training session.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I motivate myself everyday?
Focus on just taking one small step forward at a time, get motivation from people in your life and other sources like books, be kind to yourself after a setback, exercise for more energy and ask questions that help you rather than make you feel worse.
What causes a lack of motivation?
Fear, feeling overwhelmed, too much stress and lack of clarity often results in a lack of motivation. Taking it one small step at a time, finding motivation from friends and books, reducing negative sources and learning to manage your own procrastination helps.
How do I stop losing motivation?
Surround yourself with people and sources like books, podcasts and videos that give you motivation. Be kind to yourself after a setback. Restart your progress if you have a bad day by taking a small or tiny step forward.
Here’s the next step…
Now, you may think to yourself:
“This is really helpful information. But what’s the easiest way to put this into practice and actually make a real change with my motivation?”.
Well, I’ve got something special for you…
A free step-by-step checklist that includes the top steps in this article… save it or print it out so you have it for your daily life and for the next time when your motivation starts to sink.
Download it now by entering your email below.