Motivation is such a buzzword by now that it’s almost impossible to talk about it without at least a little bit of eye-rolling. There are countless books, blogs, and seminars on how to “be more motivated!” or “stop slacking and start succeeding!”
I’m not a self-help guru or life coach, and I’m not trying to branch out into a career as a motivational speaker. Instead of adding to the pile of platitudes and “just try harder!” sentiments, I wanted to try to add something new and (hopefully) helpful to the conversation.
So, let’s talk motivation.
Instead of adding to the pile of platitudes and “just try harder!” sentiments, I wanted to try to add something new and (hopefully) helpful to the conversation.
Mind Over Matter (or Is It?)
The definition of motivation is pretty simple: “A general desire or drive to do something.”
If you believe every inspirational quote you read, then motivation is a state of mind that you can attain and maintain if you “just want it” bad enough. Businesses, MLMs, and workout videos all subscribe to this view of motivation.
But as a real person living in the real world, you can probably attest to the fact that it’s not actually that simple.
Motivation isn’t about the “mind over matter” mantra, and it’s not something you can just wish into existence through sheer force of will. I have a lot of patience and a will to work hard, but there are plenty of days when that doesn’t get me off the couch!
Motivation Is a Resource
Nobody has a bottomless well of motivation. If they tell you that they do, they’re either lying or mistaken.
Rather than thinking of motivation as a state of mind or a lifestyle, try viewing it as a resource that you have to manage, like time or money. Think about it like this: If you only have one cup of water and three tasks that require water, you have to plan out the best way to distribute that one cup so that everything gets as much water as possible.
Rather than thinking of motivation as a state of mind or a lifestyle, try viewing it as a resource that you have to manage, like time or money.
Motivation is the same. We each have a single cup, and we have to make it through the day on that one cup. Our cups might be different sizes, and some days our cups might not be completely full, but we have to distribute what’s in the cup as best we can.
Now that I’ve given you a different way to think about motivation, let’s talk about ways to get the most out of yours regardless of whether your cup is overflowing or only half full for the day.
1. Practice prioritizing
I make a to-do list for the next day every evening before I go to bed, and I keep a separate running list of things that need to be done soon but aren’t urgent. I know lists aren’t everyone’s thing, but this tip still works with or without the “making a list” part.
Instead of trying to get as much done as possible every day, try to develop a habit of prioritizing the things you want to do. Put the most important or urgent things first, and the less pressing things last. If you DO like lists, you can use different colors, stickers, or symbols to visually break up the list.
Each day, I pour my motivation into getting the urgent things done first. If I still feel good, I keep going with the less urgent tasks. If I’m tapped out, then those things get moved to a different day.
It’s okay to not be busy all the time, and it’s fine to not have a mile-long list of things to do! Motivation doesn’t mean you’re always moving and doing. It means you’re putting your whole self into what you’re doing!
2. Be honest about how you feel
“Fake it till you make it” can only get you so far, and trust me when I say that lying to yourself isn’t going to make things better. (I’m sure you can relate.)
I’ve always found that it’s much easier to get through the day when I’m honest about how I’m feeling. I’m not a high-energy person by nature, but some days (especially in These Trying Times of Corona), I don’t even feel like getting out of bed, much less actually doing things.
Acknowledging to myself that I’m not feeling great mentally or physically helps me to prioritize my motivation so that the important things get done, and I don’t feel burnt out halfway through the day.
3. Learn how (and when) to push yourself
Yes, motivation is like a cup of water. But you can learn little tricks to get more longevity out of your cup over time. Different things work best for different people, but there are small tweaks that you can make to your day that will help to push you further than you thought you could go!
Pay attention to when you feel the best during the day. Start doing your least favorite or most energy-sapping tasks around that time.
For example, pay attention to when you feel the best during the day. Morning? Evening? 3:17 in the afternoon? Keep track of this for a week or so, and start doing your least favorite or most energy-sapping tasks around that time. You’ll use up less motivation than you would normally, so you’ll have more to put toward other tasks!
Another tip is to minimize distractions. Whatever you’re doing, set up your space so that it’s only conducive to that task. Hide your phone out of sight, close other browser windows on your computer, get all of the materials you need before you settle in to start. This helps you laser focus on your task, and you won’t have to use as much mental energy to get it done.
Once you start looking for ways to maximize your motivation, you’ll start seeing them everywhere! If you can, keep a log of how much you’re getting done so that you can look back over time and see how much your ability to Get Stuff Done has grown!
Motivation Is a Marathon
Remember that you’ll have good days and bad ones, and that’s fine. You’re a human, not a robot! Motivation is something that you can measure, cultivate, and manipulate to reach your goals, but it will take time and patience!
What are your best tips for staying motivated?