Too often, my relationship with motivation has had a ‘the one that got away’ vibe. External structures, deadlines and the occasional mad dash to the finish line are my jam. But when it comes to more flexible projects or self-imposed deadlines, locating that ever-elusive motivation can be… tricky. Over the last few years, I have grown in achieving those self-set goals and flexible deadlines. Here are some tips and tricks that I have cultivated along the way to help you get motivated.
Remove the Roadblocks
The first step as we track down motivation is to discover if there are any reasons we are feeling lazy or apathetic. Instead of calling ourselves lazy, are we just tired and need a 30-minute nap to help us reboot? Do we need to hydrate? Some days, I need to hit the reset button. Life gives us plenty of reasons to need a reset button — people, technology not working, people, red tape, and people, to name a few. My reset button involves a specialty coffee or a carbonated beverage while blasting a favorite song. There also may be some manic dancing or power walking up stairs.
So if we need to rest, we should rest, but we have to be sure that our rest is fueling us and not a rabbit hole of apathy (I am looking at you, “Just five minutes on TikTok and then I’ll be motivated”), then reset and make some moves.
And speaking of movement, my next rule is very memorable — an object in motion stays in motion, and an object at rest stays at rest. This is why the manic dancing or power stairs can be so valuable. They can act as a springboard for the productive movement that we desire. On the other hand, if we need to type a proposal, email, etc, but are blinded by the blank white page, we can use a tool like ChatGPT to help us brainstorm. Whatever the task may be, find a way to get our body/mind moving in the right direction. The longer we hold still and hide from it, the harder it is to face it.
Turn Accomplishments into Endorphins
I might get some raised eyebrows on my next motivation trick, but I actively use my self-talk to fuel progress. Talking to ourselves out loud or even in our heads may feel weird and make us self-conscious. Still, it is common, so why not use it to our advantage? After I accomplish a task that isn’t my favorite, I will thank myself every time I reap the benefits of it. Here is a simple example. Every week my coworkers email me a few data points. I then take those data points to create one document that we all reference the following week. It’s monotonous, and sometimes I must send reminder emails to get all the data points. It’s never been my favorite, but every time that document makes my work easier, I say (sometimes out loud, sometimes in my head), “Thank you for this document. It helped me out today.” I get a hit of endorphins from the gratitude, which has improved my relationship with that document. And as my coworker says, if it’s crazy and it works, it’s not crazy.
Accept the Truth
Finally, it is so easy to put off a task thinking that we will feel more motivated later. Ha! The ridiculous lies we tell ourselves. I will never want to review the budget, clean the toilet, or provide feedback on those slides or a million other things. I would rather go on a hike or eat something delicious. So I have forced myself to accept the truth that ‘later’ is never a magically better time. I will never want to do a task I hate. Instead, every moment I delay means the task will loom over me that much longer. It is better to do it as quickly as possible and free myself from the existential dread of procrastinating.
Rewiring our relationship with motivation takes time and effort. It takes time, and there will be barriers. That being said, each moment is an opportunity to choose to be better. We can rest, reset and reach toward a more ordered and motivated life.