Have you ever wanted to start a project and couldn’t? Have you ever waited in vain for inspiration to strike and it didn’t? Have you ever looked at the clock to check the time and realized you wasted yet another day (or week or month) and wondered how that happened (again)?
If you’ve wondered about any of those things, you’re not alone. I’ve done all of them and more. Isn’t it depressing? Darn right it is.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve discovered a few ways to motivate myself that actually work. Maybe they’ll work for you too.
There are certain things I wish I had understood much earlier in life and if I were to make a list, how to motivate myself would be at the top of it (just below how to get rich by 10 years old).
The most important lesson I ever learned about motivation is that it isn’t an automatic feeling you get about just anything at any time. No one is motivated all of the time, much less motivated to do anything and everything. If you visit my kitchen right now you’ll see how true that is.
(I’ll be honest with you I will get plenty motivated to clean the dishes once Joan is on the way home! I do hope she texts me when she’s on the way, otherwise…)
The myth that you should be motivated to do something merely because you should be motivated is exactly that, a myth. In grade school they teach us to be ready for anything, they teach us the basics of everything that’s supposed to be “important” so you’ll graduate as a jack of all trades, and darn it, you should be able to jump buildings in a single bound.
We beat ourselves up day in and day out because we believe we aren’t motivated enough and but we should be. We feel guilty because we aren’t doing all the things friends, neighbors and a million anonymous people online say we should be doing and that we should be accomplishing more than we are.
We can’t jump every time someone says jump and we can’t sit down and write 100,000 words before lunch simply because we are supposed to (we are writers, you know), especially when those dirty dishes and the rest of the real world are beckoning.
It’s so exhausting feeling like a failure all of the time that when we finally do get around to doing something that we really want to do we find ourselves drained of any motivation to do it.
You don’t have to be everything to everybody. (Dare you to tweet that.)
Nine times out of ten I bet you’re unmotivated because you’re mentally and physically exhausted trying to do (or just thinking about doing) what everyone else says you should do. You might not even realize it (well, okay, now that I pointed it out…).
Our expectations to accomplish all the things we “need” to accomplish can be downright discouraging.
It’s time for a reality check about motivation.
We are not all energizer bunnies ready to do-do-do at any given moment. We are not machines. And sometimes merely the idea that we need to wake up every morning and be ready to go-go-go is more exhausting than actually doing anything.
It’s no wonder that energy drinks have become so popular. In a 4 year study by U.S. Health and Human Services administration it was estimated that 20,000 ER visits were due to energy drink consumption. Don’t get me started about ADHD medication abuse because we’ll be here all day.
It’s ridiculous that we have succumbed to believing we need to be so energized and focused all of the time. And it’s sad because you’re probably getting very little done (or none) of what you want to do.
11 Tips on How to Get Motivated
Okay, enough ranting about society and expectations, let’s talk about what you can do starting right now to get motivated:
1) Drink fewer energy drinks.
Instead consume plenty of aqua. H2o is the best energy drink ever created and unlike manufactured energy drinks, you can’t live without it! The body is made up of 50 to 70% water and when we become dehydrated we naturally lose mental and physical energy.
Some people hardly ever drink water and only drink soda or other types of drinks and can’t understand why they feel so lethargic. The answer is not in (de)energy drinks because the initial boost they provide is deceiving.
Water’s boring, right? Well, according to Dr. Corinne Allen, founder of the Advanced Learning and Development Institute, “Brain cells need two times more energy than other cells in the body. Water [yes, friends and neighbors, water] provides this energy more effectively than any other substance.”
Oh, and keep in mind the brain doesn’t store water so if you feel like you’re a lazy bum and you’re not hydrating properly that could help explain it. Imagine how you would feel if you stopped eating for days, and since we are talking about eating…
2) Limit the junk food and find nutritious alternatives.
“Nutritious alternatives” I just had to write that because it’s so funny in a crazy sort of way, but it totally fits in with our modern, fast food society.
When you’re body is deficient in needed nutrients that it can’t produce on its own, such as vitamins C and B-12 (very important for the brain), and DHA (Omega-3 fatty acids – critical for brain development) and others, you may have symptoms such as poor memory, fatigue and even, depression, which all can cause feelings of being unmotivated and a lack of general will-power.
3) Make sure you get enough of sleep.
Over 70 million people in the U.S. alone are sleep deprived. The odds are you might be one of them. Lack of sleep deprives you of mental clarity, physical energy and good looks (I need more sleep!).
I was talking to a friend the other day about napping and he said he thinks it’s a form of laziness. Do you agree?
I decided to check out what the National Sleep Foundation said about it and it turns out they have a different story.
According to the N.S.F., “Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%.”
I mean, really, who needs to be more motivated and focused than astronauts? I always figured they were lazy.
You don’t really need me to explain this one, but if exercising sounds too exhausting, well, then instead of exercising go have fun. Go outside and play, run around in the woods, go for a long walk, skip around for a while. Heck, if you want, go ahead and dance for 30 minutes a day in your room.
5) Choose to make time.
If you’re like me and have special projects you want to do such as writing daily, then set aside specific time each day for doing exactly that. I wake up 2 hours early every morning so I can write.
Too many of us rely on hoping for time to somehow become available. With all the things we have to do every day spaces of time rarely become available, so you have to purposefully plan and make time.
Of course, getting up early means I have to go to sleep on time (I want to improve my looks).
6) Try not to wait with pressing issues.
Take care of them first. Nothing nags on the mind as much as something you absolutely must do, but haven’t done. Do it, get it out of the way and you’ll feel better (darn those dishes!).
For me it’s important to choose a few things I really want to focus on or accomplish each day, and prioritize what can’t wait another day.
7) Try not to be at the beck and call for everyone and anyone.
The biggest time drainer ever is other people. Be deliberate with the time you give to others, especially if it is being used to do something for them every time you have a spare moment. You first isn’t selfish, it’s survival! Find a balance of taking care of yourself and being generous.
Don’t let yourself become overwhelmed by trying to meet everyone’s needs and expectations only to end up giving up on everything. I have to purposely decide what I can do and what I am willing to do for others, and then prioritize them.
8) Have fun and reward yourself!
Sometimes we take things way too seriously and over time this robs us of our enthusiasm.
Find a way to make your next project fun and give yourself little rewards whenever you accomplish steps in the process. Did you write 200 words today? Awesome, you rock! I did, too, so now it’s time for a piece of chocolate.
Remember those dishes I have in the sink waiting? It will make Joan happy if I have them done before she gets home and she won’t have to see them or clean them. A happy Joan equals a happy Bryan. Now that’s rewarding!
9) Clean up.
You read that right. De-clutter your surroundings. Clutter is distracting, messy and can make you feel helpless and unmotivated.
Our surroundings can influence the way we feel about ourselves and if our environment is messy then it stands to reason we’ll feel messy, too.
10) Don’t worry about what other people think.
Stop it right now! It’s demotivating to want to start a project and incessantly agonize over whether other people will like it or even, understand it.
Maybe they will hate it. You don’t know. You can’t see into the future, so don’t stop yourself by predicting the worst. The best way to create work that matters is to make sure it matters to you first.
11) Take action.
I think we are all guilty of over thinking things from time to time and some of us are so preoccupied with the end result and how much work it will take, that we can’t start.
Take action in the form of doing something, anything even if it is just going into the kitchen to wash one dish – one lousy dish!
Taking action is the best motivation; because once you get started you’re on your way. It’s the starting that is the hardest, so keep it simple and do just one thing and before you know it you’ll be doing the next thing and the next.
If you’re a writer, try not to think of writing your entire book in one sitting, simply make a goal of writing 200 words, good, bad, or ugly, a day. That’s how I started this post and I am quite a few words beyond 200 (more chocolate for me).
12) *Bonus* Read some good books!
The science says reading – ah, forget the science and statistics, good books always get me motivated. How about you?
If you’re a writer, I’ve got a great list of the best books on writing ever (ever, according to me), they’re located here.
All The Answers
Sorry, I don’t have all of the answers as to how to get you motivated because every person is different and in a different situation.
And, of course, there’s the fear and consequences side of motivation, which I’m sure you’ve read about (and experienced) enough before, so I didn’t touch on those for this post.
The reality is that most of us already know how to motivate ourselves, but our society is in such a rush that people are taking short cuts and driving themselves into exhaustion by eating fast food, drinking energy boosting drinks and/or trying to make up for lost time by cutting back on sleep (yep, I’m in the 70 million).
Being hyper motivated all of the time at any given moment isn’t realistic and judging from sleep deprivation statistics, it’s not healthy either.
My advice is to do the stuff that counts and be intentional about your time.
Now go outside and play, then relax and finally, come back and create something that matters (to you).
Or, you know what? I’ve got the best tip ever…
Do what you want and need to do the way that works best for you.
And me? I’ve got dishes to wash.
How do you motivate yourself? Share in the comments.