“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 27 of my favorite tips and habits for doing just that.
- 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.
- 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 and then take just one of them to start moving forward.
- Start tiny if a small step still leads you to procrastination. If breaking it down and taking a small step 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 once again.
- 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.
- Reward yourself and celebrate your successes (no matter how big or small they are). 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.