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Apr 21

Five Things to Do when You Lack Motivation

Five Things to Do when You Lack Motivation

Motivation is a person’s internal state or willingness to do a task. When we are lacking in motivation, we often feel like we are failing or morally a miss. Often lacking motivation speaks to underlying anxieties and fears. The following list contains a few ideas for getting unstuck.

1. Get a to do list and then break it way down

Getting all the items you need to do out on paper is a great way to get them to stop bouncing around in your head. The space they take up and can be distracting and starting on one task when you know you have so many more to keep track of can feel defeating. Even if you are making progress on that first task, your brain might keep interrupting you with reminders that the dishes still need to be washed etc.

The problem with a long to do list is that just looking at it can be inherently overwhelming and defeating. Try looking for only the items that need to be done today. Find one to three tasks that need to be done, in this way you have set yourself up for a successful day.

2. Set a time limit or deadline

For the tasks that aren’t urgent add them to your calendar or give yourself a deadline. Even if you end up pushing off the tasks or changing the deadline, you have given the task a time and space to get done and that can relieve some of the anxiety and overwhelm of not knowing when or how a tasks will be completed.

If you find you are consistently not getting to the task that actually great news! That is data you can use to learn how long a task take and where it might fit best in your schedule. For example, grocery shopping takes me about 1 hour round trip, if I only budget 30 minutes for the tasks and I am consistently late to other appointment or not going to the store at all I know I need to find a new time to go to the store when I have a full hour to shop the way I like.

3. Have a reward

Setting limits on the time and having a deadline are also helpful because they mean the task will eventually end. So much of experiencing overwhelm is the feeling of monotony or a sense that the work ahead of you is unending. And that is why this tip is so important. Many studies show that humans as adults and children are much more motivated by positive reinforcement than negative. If you hate going to the grocery store, pick your favorite drink on your way home to recognize that you did something uncomfortable and to concretely celebrate the victory of your accomplishment.

4. Get a friend involved as an accountability partner

Humans are inherently social we all benefit from spending time with friends. Being in a library, coffee shop or shared working space can create motivation to sit and keep working simply by virtue of having other people around. Even better is having a friend sit with you. Seeing that someone else is focused keeps you on track. And seeing that someone else gets restless and bored and needs a break is also inherently validating. There is nothing morally wrong with a lack of motivation. We all get tired and bored and overworked at times. In these moments we are helped by the encouragement of others.

5. Get with a therapist to understand the underlying emotions that are keeping you from doing the work.

We are often influenced by fear and low self-esteem without realizing. We put off tasks that we’ve never done because we don’t know where to start. Or perhaps you’ve experienced the pain of failure. Your brain wants to protect you, so it created a feeling od depression and tiredness. Your brain may believe that it is safer to go take a nap instead of trying out that new thing or starting on that work project. Therapy is a place to learn about the ways your brain is trying to protect you and to start practicing new habits to try new things.

About Emily Gumm

Emily is a psychotherapist based in Chicago Illinois.  Her therapeutic approach is collaborative and relaxed.  We live in a complex, contradictory and sometimes painful world. Sometimes in trying to give to everyone, you cannot give as much to the relationships that are the most important – much less to yourself! You are not broken and you are doing your best to navigate your connections and personal value.  By partnering with you, you find yourself supported in making the changes you want.  You can live a fulfilling life, with strong connections, all while taking care of you.

…. Find out more about Emily here.