I’ve had low mood funks that have lasted weeks or even months.
Despite the best intentions, finding the incentive to knuckle down can be really challenging.
But there are some key things we can do to get that motivation flowing again.
1) Have a morning routine that sets you up for action
In an ideal world, we would wake up raring to go. But a lot of the time that’s unrealistic.
The good news is that some simple and humble actions can get us into the zone.
Starting the day with a basic routine can help to set the tone and get us off to a good start.
It’s about consciously choosing to do the things that feel nourishing and supportive. It can then become a little ritual that turns into a positive habit.
Here are some suggestions of what you might want to include:
- Setting some intentions for the day
- Using positive affirmations as a mini pep talk
- Listening to a motivational track or podcast as you get ready
It doesn’t have to be a long and indulgent practice.
Plus, it can be made up of entirely practical tasks. It’s more about doing things mindfully.
- Preparing a healthy breakfast
- Making your bed as soon as you wake up
- Enjoying a cup of tea or coffee without other distractions
- Getting dressed, even if you don’t have anywhere to be
Importantly, it’s also about avoiding the things we know are just going to sidetrack us.
- Hitting the snooze button
- Lying in bed too long
- Reaching for your phone when you just wake up
But when it’s time to get started on something, the key is to not overwhelm ourselves…
2) Create realistic schedules and goals
Overwhelm can quickly rob us of our motivation and tempt us to procrastinate.
That’s why filling your to-do list with 1001 things is a bad idea.
Focus on the most important thing you need to do right now.
Make sure whatever you want to get done is achievable in the time you’re giving yourself.
If it’s a big thing, be sure to break it down.
What small actions can you do right now?
Let’s say finding a job is the most important task you need motivation for.
Perhaps you decide to refresh your CV. Maybe you fill out an online job application. Or you go to five stores to chat with the manager and give them your resume.
The point is:
Don’t bombard yourself with what feels like a mammoth task.
Turn bigger goals into bite-sized doable tasks. You can’t do everything, so cherry-pick the most significant things that need your attention.
3) Use rewards to give yourself more incentive
Sadly, we humans aren’t so great with the whole delayed gratification thing.
Saving up for that vacation next year seems less important when you want to buy those new sneakers right now.
Research has shown that when a reward feels too far away, we tend to lose our enthusiasm.
But we can try to introduce more immediate rewards along the way to help motivate.
Schedule these immediate rewards into your day or week.
You might say to yourself that you’ll go out for a coffee once you finish off that report. Or you promise yourself that you’ll go to the movies if you manage to get up an hour early tomorrow morning to work out.
Of course, rewards don’t always need to come in the form of little bribes.
As we’ll see next, you can also connect to a deeper reward that comes from within.
4) Reconnect with why something is important to you
This one is all about understanding what motivates you the most.
That’s probably going to depend on your deeper values and what is important to you in life.
Motivation essentially comes from connecting to your deeper intrinsic “why” for doing something.
Sure, you can’t be bothered to hit the gym tonight. But maybe reminding yourself that you love the endorphin kick afterward might help.
Combine that with the fact you really want to feel better in your skin and take care of your body and it might be enough to spur you on.
It’s easy to forget our “why” — particularly when we’re feeling flat.
Generally speaking, we’re either motivated by the carrot or the stick.
- A desire for gaining something
- Wanting to avoid something
To find your lost motivation, write down why doing something is important to you.
- What will you gain from doing it?
- What do you lose by not doing it?
Getting really clear on your reason for doing something can bring back those sparks of motivation.
5) Hit the reset button to get back in the zone
Motivation can be pretty elusive.
It’s here one minute and gone the next.
Having a few tricks up your sleeve to hit the reset button throughout your day is a good idea.
You want to strike a balance between allowing yourself to de-stress but without getting distracted.
- Put on your favorite dance track
- Go for a 15-minute run
- Do some stretches or a quick yoga routine
- Go for a stroll (ideally in nature)
- Do a meditation/breathing session
- Do 20 minutes of gardening
Do something that makes you feel good and gets endorphins flowing.
- Watch TV
- Scroll on social media
- Allow yourself to do a task that you know will end up sucking you in
Otherwise, it’ll most likely leave you feeling even less motivated.
6) Get an accountability buddy
Sometimes when we’re struggling to rely on our own motivation, we can enlist help to borrow someone else’s.
When there’s something you want to achieve, telling people about it can create an extra incentive to follow through.
When we feel like we’re answering to someone else, we’re less likely to let ourselves off the hook.
An accountability partner can:
- Check-in with you so you feel supported
- Make sure you’re meeting goals and doing what you say you will
- Offer motivation when you are low on it
- Provide some tough love when necessary
7) When you really can’t be bothered don’t force yourself, just commit to 15 minutes
Let’s face it, sometimes we just seem to have zero drive. Even just the thought of tackling tasks fills us with dread.
Personally, I have found that forcing myself does not work for me. It only creates a mental block and resistance that is insurmountable.
But I have found this little hack that can work wonders:
To get rid of procrastination just try and do something for a really small amount of time.
Can I do the thing I really don’t want to do for just 10 or 15 minutes?
Barter with yourself to find a compromise that feels super easy.
Because here’s what I’ve noticed:
Once you get started it usually doesn’t feel so bad.
Once you’ve removed the pressure, you find your flow again. In fact, when your time is up it feels ok to keep on going.
But even if you do stop, at least you can feel proud that you really did try.
Because one thing is for sure, beating yourself up is far from motivating.
8) Use positive self-talk, recognize your efforts, and celebrate your wins
When we’re feeling unmotivated we so often end up doing the worst thing possible:
- We feel guilty or ashamed
- We say mean things to ourselves
This only steals even more of our motivation. Ditch the negative self-talk, it is doing you no favors.
If you’re stuck in a negative headspace, try to reframe it to find a positive one again.
Gratitude can be really good for that.
- Remind yourself of what’s going well in life
- What can you be proud of?
- What are you feeling good about?
Losing your motivation usually comes from your current state of mind.
When we feel in a funk, we lack energy.
That’s why changing how you’re feeling can be a shortcut to reconnecting with your motivation.
It’s also why it’s important to congratulate yourself and notice when you’ve tried.
Look back at the end of the day and list everything little thing you can be proud of today.
9) Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to someone else’s version of productivity
My version of what a busy and productive day looks like is going to be very different from yours.
There isn’t a pre-prescribed percentage of productivity for us to hit. Work-life balance has not been mathematically calculated.
Your needs are unique, as is your situation. Also, every day is different.
The point is that we don’t have to live up to someone else’s standards, we need to find what works best for us.
- What would feel like a win for you right now?
- What is actually achievable for you taking into account your personal circumstances?
I’ve had days when I’ve been battling depression when simply taking a shower is a victory.
I’m certainly no Gary Vee and I’m ok with that.
The hustle culture may work well for some people, but certainly not everyone.
We’ll quickly hit burnout or mess up our mental health if we force ourselves to live up to everyone else’s idea of what we “should” be doing.
We have to work with our energy not fight against it. That means taking breaks when we need them.
10) Make time for rest
We live in 24-7 societies these days. No wonder we can start to feel worn out.
Sometimes “pushing through” isn’t what you need. Sometimes you need to rest and that’s ok.
It can feel really hard to give ourselves that permission. There always seems to be a demand that needs our attention.
In the wise words of Miley Cyrus:
“There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move”
But the truth is that self-care is an important part of success as well as well-being.