It’s easy to get stuff done when you’re feeling motivated. Things just seem to flow and you move through the day making progress and generally feeling pretty good about it. But what do you do when you’re feeling unmotivated? When you really can’t be bothered? When you’re resisting the things that you need to do, procrastinating like it’s an olympic sport and feeling pretty ‘meh’ and ‘blah’ about everything on your plate. What do you do when even the things that you actually WANT to do don’t seem that enticing?
To be honest, that’s how I was feeling last month. Usually I can get pretty motivated and excited in January (of all months), but lately I’ve been struck with a lack of motivation and inspiration to move forward. So I thought I’d write about it, and I’m happy to say that in the last few days since coming up with this list that I’m about to share, I’ve really felt things begin to shift and I’m feeling more motivated again.
So here are my 8 tips for moving out of procrastination and into action:
Reconnect to your why
First things first, you need to check in. It’s important to look at what you’re resisting and ask yourself WHY this particular thing is important to you in the first place. Is it still something that you want/need to do? Does it still align with your values? Does it still excite you? If YES, then reconnecting to your why might be enough to give you the motivation you need to go forth. And if it’s a NO, then perhaps this particular goal/task can come off your list if it’s really not important or meaningful to you anymore. If it can’t come off the list, then use some of the strategies below.
What’s the cost?
Humans are generally motivated by one of two things – pleasure or pain. That is, we either make decisions and take actions that move us towards pleasure, or we do things to avoid pain. So if reconnecting to your why isn’t enough to get you going, then it’s time ask yourself – what’s the cost of not taking action on this? What are you losing out on? What are you sacrificing or compromising by not taking action? Sometimes acknowledging the pain that you’re in by not taking action will be the thing that triggers you into motion.
What’s the secondary gain?
What is it that you’re gaining from your current behaviour? Whether you want to admit it or not, humans don’t usually sit around playing games of self-sabotage for the sake of it. There’s generally an advantage, or maybe even several benefits of the current behaviour you’re choosing. These can be wide-ranging depending on what the action is that you’re resisting. Maybe you’re not getting up in the morning to exercise because you actually love your sleep-in. Or maybe you’re not trying that new thing you’ve been meaning to try because at the moment you’re free from the risk of failing and making mistakes. Whatever it is, taking the time to think about and acknowledge the benefit of your current behaviour can help you understand the reason behind your lack of motivation and you might also develop some self-compassion rather than beating yourself up for procrastinating.
You weren’t designed to be isolated and figure everything out alone. You are here to connect with, support and be supported by others. So have a think about who your supporters are and who might be able to help motivate you into action. It could be a partner, a friend, a sibling, an accountability buddy, an online community, a neighbour or a coach. It doesn’t really matter who you choose, but having someone in your corner to check in on your progress can do wonders for your motivation.
Take a break
Sometimes when motivation has gone out the window what you really need to do is take a break. Step back. Take a breather. Remove yourself from the task at hand and give yourself permission to refresh and restore. Go for a walk. Take a bath. Get out in nature. Go and do whatever it is that recharges your batteries and see if you feel more motivated after the break.
Fuel the fire
What have you done lately to feel inspired? Are you feeling as though you’re ready to step up and go after what you want? Chances are if you’re feeling unmotivated, you’re lacking a bit of inspiration. But here’s the good news – inspiration can be found everywhere! Whether it’s a TED talk, an inspiring podcast, a Youtube clip of an incredible act, getting outside in nature, going to the ocean, taking a day trip, travelling, listening to a favourite song, reading a chapter from an inspiring autobiography, finding some powerful quotes and affirmations, talking to a friend who inspires and encourages you, attending a seminar, workshop or event – the list is pretty much endless. And self-awareness never goes astray. The more you know who and what inspires you, the easier it will be to choose to do something to get you feeling inspired.
Break it down
Often when you’re feeling unmotivated to take action it’s because the task at hand feels too big and overwhelming, or you’re trying to do too much. The key here is to break down the larger activity into much smaller, manageable actions. It really is true that taking small, consistent action will lead to huge results over time.
What can you commit to?
When you’re feeling really unmotivated and resisting something, don’t set the bar too high. Work out for yourself what the smallest thing is that you feel happy committing to and commit to that. So if you’re trying to start a meditation practice, don’t try and begin with an hour a day – commit to 2 minutes in the morning and you can always build on that as you go. If you want to start exercising more, don’t try and run 5km a day – commit to a 20 minute walk and anything else will be a bonus. When you work out what YOUR non-negotiable amount is and just commit to that, ironically by taking the pressure off, you often accomplish so much more than you initially intended.
Remember that small daily practices can lead to big, transformative changes. The more you focus on the process rather than the result, the more momentum will build and you’ll be back on track before you know it.