Everyone has those days. You have a to-do list that seems a mile long, but all you want to do is curl up in bed and take a nap. I certainly struggle to stay motivated sometimes, especially when I’m working on one task for an extended period of time. However, I’ve developed some tricks to help maintain and recharge my motivation. These are the five things I try to remember when I’m having trouble motivating:
1. It’s okay to not always stay motivated
Often when I’m losing motivation, my first reaction is frustration. I know that the task I’m working on is important, or it wouldn’t be on my to-do list in the first place. So when I can’t seem to focus I get annoyed with myself.
The first thing I focus on is that a lack of motivation doesn’t need to be a major problem. This really does happen to everyone. Struggling to stay motivated doesn’t mean you can’t still be successful in the end; it’s just a bit of a detour on your way. Getting frustrated about the way you feel won’t help increase your motivation, in my case it often exacerbates the problem.
It doesn’t have to be that way. When you start losing motivation, don’t get angry with yourself. Recognize that you have a problem to deal with and use the rest of these tips to fix the issue.
2. Make a list of reasons
If you’ve decided to complete a task, you probably had a reason for doing so. So write them down! Seeing a list of reasons on paper is enormously helpful for me, all my reasons seem much more valid and impressive when they’re on paper. And I always manage to forget at least one when I’m just listing in my head.
List everything you can think of—from needing to finish this reading before you can go out for margaritas with your friends, to wanting to do well on your project in hopes of earning a promotion in the future.
Chances are looking at all the reasons you’ve decided to take on the task will help you push through a mental block.
3. You should try to set both large and small goals
Staring at an enormous project can be incredibly intimidating. Writing the first sentence of any paper/memo/report is always the hardest, in my opinion. Sure you need to complete the entire task, but that can be overwhelming. Where do you start?
Set both large and small goals. If finishing a legal memo is my overall goal, I decide when I want to complete my research, my outline, and a draft of each section. That way each time I sit down to work, I have a small-scale goal I can actually achieve.
No one likes working all day just to feel like you’ve gotten nothing done. With this system I manage to avoid that problem. When I’m done for the day, I may not have finished the whole memo, but I know that I accomplished an important goal. It makes me feel better when I leave work, and makes it much easier to come back and finish tomorrow.
4. This task is teaching you something
Your summer job, your hobby, and even the job you hate can all teach you valuable lessons. Try to remember the value in what you’re doing now. Even if this isn’t what you want to do forever, or even for very long (making copies, anyone?) there are things you can learn.
From more practical skills like learning how to do legal research or operate industry-specific software; to more esoteric skills like communication or networking, I am a firm believer that anything has a lesson to teach. Even making copies.
5. You can get help if you need it
If you still can’t seem to shake yourself out of your funk, ask for help! No woman is an island!
My first phone call in this situation is to one of my parents. They both somehow manage to commiserate with me, and yet still give me a nice “kick-in-the-pants” to get going. Whoever that person is in your life—be it a best friend, a boyfriend, a sibling, or whoever—give them a call. Chances are you’ll feel much better afterwards.
This can also be a way to build relationships in your field. If you’ve been lucky enough to find a mentor in your field, ask them if they’ve ever suffered from a lack of motivation and how they dealt with it. Contact professors if you’re still in school, and discuss what your current project can teach you about your field. Ask a boss how your current assignment fits in to the larger structure of the company. Discussing these topics will hopefully help motivate you and foster a dialogue you can continue even when you’ve completed your task.
Do you already use any of these tricks when you’re having trouble motivating? Or do you have any to add? Let me know in the comments!
Ask Farnoosh Torabi how she stays motivated!