Motivation and Procrastination
The word motivation stems from the latin word “movere,” which means “to move.” Motivation exists when there is a stimulus ” to move” or take action. If you find yourself lacking this stimulus, review the 8 tips in this article that will help you increase motivation and overcome procrastination.
1.) Remember that “doing” creates motivation
Many people believe that having a “feeling” of motivation is required in order to be productive and accomplish things. When you naturally feel motivated, it’s easy to jump in and start doing things. However, what most people don’t realize is that doing — taking action — actually creates motivation. So, next time you’re feeling unmotivated, push yourself a bit to take action, rather than listening to your feelings that may be telling you to continue hanging out on the couch. You’re likely to experience a surge in motivation once you start engaging in the project.
2.) Start small
If you’re having difficulty starting a big or undesirable project, start with a small goal. For example, instead of saying I’m going to do all the yard work today, which could take 5 hours, commit to only 30 minutes (or even 15). It’s easier to commit to 30 minutes rather than 5 hours. Once you start and you get into a flow, it’s often easier to continue. It’s amazing how starting a project – taking the first step – is often the hardest.
3.) Be flexible, don’t force things
When things are flowing smoothly, when you’re in “the zone,” productivity and efficiency are often at their greatest. However, we all experience creative blocks, overwhelming procrastination and fatigue from time to time. If you’re trying to complete a task and feel stuck or have lost motivation, take a break. Sounds simple? It is. But, we often forget to do this, perhaps out of fear that we won’t complete the project or task on time or sufficiently. Switching gears to relax or engage in another task that feels more appealing, can be refreshing and revitalizing. You’re then able to continue using your energy productively in the new task at hand. By the time you return to the former task, you’ll likely feel more rested or energized and will approach things from a fresher perspective.
4.) Find the most pleasurable way to complete the task
I believe that Thich Nhat Han, the Buddhist monk and prolific author, once noted the importance of finding the most pleasurable way to do the job. A simple example of this is when people listen to music when they’re working out at the gym. While the exercise itself may not be that pleasurable for some, listening to good music is; this can make the activity more enjoyable and may even feel less taxing.
5.) Keep your eyes on the prize
We have more control over our thoughts than some might think. When feeling unmotivated, examine your thoughts and ask yourself – “are these thoughts that I’m thinking supporting what I want or hindering me?” You can choose to ignore unsupportive thoughts, such as those related to self-doubt and criticism, and replace them with motivational thoughts. Remind yourself of the big picture, of why taking action is beneficial. Reminders can be made via self-talk or by using more external strategies, such as creating a slogan and taping it to your computer monitor, bedroom mirror, etc. For example, if you’re trying to get into better physical shape, post a slogan, such as “exercise daily – you can do it!” or “I will achieve my ideal weight” on your bathroom mirror as a reminder of your long-term goals.
6.) Ask yourself: is this what I really want?
Lack of motivation and low energy for a project can be your body and mind’s way of alerting you to something undesirable. The challenge is to determine whether you’re avoiding something that is good for you or not. For example, lack of motivation for exercise could be related to not wanting to feel physical discomfort (for example, feeling fatigue, muscles burning, labored breathing, etc. while you’re on the stationary bike). However, most people recognize that the exercise is ultimately good for them and choose to do it despite the discomfort.
On other hand, if you’re not feeling motivated to spend time with somebody you know, it may be because deep down you don’t find your interactions with that person satisfying. If you stop to check in with yourself about how you feel about this person, you may realize that they’re not a great listener, that they primarily talk about themselves and that they don’t appear that interested in you. Upon this realization, you then have more choice in what you do. For example, you can choose to not spend time with them anymore or you could choose to continue seeing them, but share your concerns about your interactions in an effort to improve the relationship.
7.) Don’t do it alone
It’s amazing how the presence of others can serve as a catalyst for different behavior. Isolation really weighs down on people in many ways, including emotionally, behaviorally and cognitively. Having someone around while you’re doing a task, whether you’re doing it together or they’re simply nearby, can shift perspective and energy. Take doing yoga as an example. Doing the yoga tape at home versus going to a yoga class will likely be a very different experience over the long run. At the class, you’ll likely feel more motivated and less apt to skip exercises or stop early. If you’re not able to be in somebody’s physical presence, give somebody a call. Sometimes a quick phone call – where you can share your challenges with someone – can get you going when you’re feeling unmotivated.
8.) Chop the wood that’s in front of you
This relates to #2 to some extent, recognizing the age old truism that any great accomplishment starts with taking the first step. During orientation, a law professor liked to tell the incoming class that in the demanding environment of law school, with the voluminous workload, that it would be easy to get overwhelmed with the prospects of trying to finish it all. So, rather than thinking about completing the 1500 pages of reading required by the end of the week for example, he stressed the importance of doing what needed to be done the first day, first hour, etc. and then going from there. He referred to this as “chopping the wood that’s in front of you.” Breaking things down into smaller steps and prioritizing what needs to get done can help decrease feelings of being overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed doesn’t seem to help people accomplish more, plus it simply doesn’t feel good to be in that highly stressed state! Remember, some stress is OK, but an excessive amount is counterproductive.