How to Get Going When You Lack Motivation

This morning, I’ve found endless amusement in the fact that I set out to write a blog post about motivation… three hours ago. Of course, it is Monday after a long weekend, a difficult time to get moving anyway. I’m still feeling a little tired from a combination of eating turkey, socializing, and laying on the couch watching Netflix for four days. But these are all excuses I’ve latched onto to justify the fact that I simply can’t get started.

So as a demonstration of this work in action, I am shifting my approach from an extensive treatise on motivation (it was going to be so good), to a smaller, more manageable task. 

You aren’t alone

This is an approach that I often use with my clients because, as it turns out, I am not the only one who struggles in this area from time to time.  We all have trouble starting even the most meaningful endeavors for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, our hearts just aren’t in a task, or we would prefer to be doing something else (that’s me today – I really want to finish my show!). Other times, an undertaking is so important to us, that the weight of the feat feels too heavy to bear. Our perfectionism and self-doubt try to keep us safe by avoiding the pursuit altogether. 

Examine your expectations

When this happens, as it inevitably does, I encourage my clients to look at what they are expecting of themselves and see if they can narrow the task to only that which is immediately necessary. An example of this for me today is that there is a whole list of things I would like to do: meditate, exercise, write a blog post, and then work with clients for a few hours. 

Some of these things are optional, others are not. Because today feels like a challenge already, I am going to focus on the components that are not optional. Maybe I won’t meditate for the full amount of time today, maybe I’ll modify my workout. Perhaps I won’t even get to those things at all.

Instead, I am going to focus on the most important and least negotiable actions – writing a blog post and working with clients. Already, the day feels lighter and more manageable. 

Break down task into smaller steps

Then, I turn my attention to the task at hand, which is writing this post. Instead of demanding a 2,000 word, well researched work from myself, I am choosing to share my own struggle. And rather than assuming that it will be perfect when I was done, I promised myself that I would simply sit down and write for 20 minutes. I set a timer, and I started writing. Of course, when the timer goes off, I am already so immersed in the activity that I will probably stay until completion, but if not, I got 20 more minutes completed than I would have if I had avoided the activity altogether. 

Self-incentivize

Finally, I promised myself a treat if I did the darn thing. I usually stop after one cup of coffee, but today, I allowed myself a second cup as a little carrot to get me going. And here we are- I am doing it! 

When it comes to motivation, remember that you aren’t alone in struggling to find it sometimes, but just because it’s hard to get there doesn’t mean that you can’t do it.

Strategies to help you get going today

Here are a couple of easy strategies to help you get that ball moving: 

  1. Cut away anything that is unnecessary at this moment and just focus on one small task
  2. Set a timer for a manageable amount of time and get going
  3. Allow yourself a small treat that entices you to start working (a cup of coffee or cocoa, enjoyable music, maybe even a trip to a coffee shop or workspace that you enjoy)
  4. Celebrate that you did what you set out to do, even if it didn’t look the way you may have expected it to. Success is a matter of habit, and Rome wasn’t built in a day. 

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