Feeling unmotivated can be attributed to things such as lack of sleep, worry, or just plain laziness. Regardless of why you feel unmotivated, its interference with your productivity can lead to stress and feeling overwhelmed, not to mention an untouched to-do list.
Luckily, you can implement strategies to help elicit motivation, even when all you feel like doing is watching Netflix in your pajamas. Try these ideas.
1. Go for a Walk (Preferably in Nature)
Going for a walk benefits both the body and the mind, and requires minimal effort compared to other forms of exercise. Nature walks, in particular, improve mental health, according to a 2015 study. When you’re feeling unmotivated, a good starting point is physical movement combined with added mental benefits found in nature.
2. Reflect on How You’ll Feel Afterward
Few things are more satisfying than completing a time-consuming or stressful task. Crossing a daunting item off of your list (either mentally or physically) can be a relief. Instead of focusing on the difficulty of a task or the effort it requires, shift your focus to the deeply satisfying feeling that emerges after completing it. Allow that to drive you versus being paralyzed by the dread of needing to complete a task.
3. Think About What’s Worked Best for You in the Past
Some people work best in the morning while others churn out their best work at night. Some prefer music to be on in the background while others are only distracted by it. Think of a time when you were your most productive. What time of day was it? Were there certain conditions that contributed to your productivity? What did the scene look like? Replicate past conditions that allowed you to be at your most productive. Set yourself up for successful productivity from the start, making it easier to maintain motivation.
4. Work in Increments
Breaking tasks down into manageable chunks can make them feel much more doable versus continually thinking of the big picture. Set a timer for getting things done in increments. If you are feeling extremely unmotivated, start small. Work for 10 minutes at a time and gradually work your way to 15 or 20 if you can. Even working in increments of 10 minutes will prove much more productive in the long run compared to doing nothing at all.
5. Reward Yourself for Your Efforts
While the reward itself might look different for everyone, having something to look forward to can be a great way to ignite action. Whether it’s a trip to your local coffee shop for a shot of caffeine or reading your favorite magazine, a reward is a great driver of motivation. Think of rewards that genuinely excite you and inspire you to stay on track. It’s important to be selective. Binge watching three hours of your favorite show or indulging in a 2,000-calorie meal as rewards will have a counter-effect, leaving you less likely to stay motivated and more likely to take a nap. Try rewards such as meeting a friend for dinner, taking a yoga class, getting a massage, or going for a walk.
6. Eliminate Distractions
Distractions can feel heightened when you’re unmotivated. Scrolling through Facebook, watching TV, and even doing the laundry suddenly become appealing when compared to the task at hand. But by eliminating the things that vie for your attention the most, you’re inching that much closer toward your goal. If your phone is a distraction (which for many it is), hide itat least until you’ve reached a benchmark. If noise throws your focus, find a quiet setting. Everyone has different preferences. It’s important to identify what works best for you.
7. Approximate How Long Each Item Will Take to Accomplish
When you procrastinate, you tend to overestimate how much time and energy will go into performing a task or accomplishing a goal. By estimating and being realistic about how much time it should take to get something done, you’re unwittingly providing yourself with a goal. If you estimate, for example, that catching up on work emails will take 30 minutes or less, you will instinctively want to prove yourself right and take the necessary actions to reach that goal.
8. Examine Root Causes of Lacking Motivation
As previously mentioned, you can feel unmotivated for a variety of reasons. These root causes can provide you with solutions for combatting your immobility. If you notice exhaustion is fueling your lack of motivation, then you may start going to bed earlier. Or if disdain for your job is draining your motivation, it may be time to start searching for a new job. Understanding the why behind your crippling motivation can provide important insight and inspire you to take action.
9. Listen to Your Body and Mind
Sometimes you can do everything right and still feel entirely unmotivated. Taking a step back and allowing yourself some room to breathe is often necessary in order to regain motivation. Think of what you need the most to recharge (e.g., sleep, coffee run, etc.) and then give yourself an allotted amount of time before trying again. You often feel guilty for giving yourself a break, but sometimes a break is precisely what you need.
Each of these nine steps is a piece of the puzzle toward breaking you free from feeling unmotivated. Test a few out to see what works best for you. A burst of motivation might be just around the corner.