You’re sitting on the couch staring across the room at the reports that need to be completed by the end of the week. You really want to get them done, in theory, but the practical aspect of getting off the couch, walking across the room and getting started is proving much harder than you thought.
Sound familiar? Struggling with motivation happens to all of us at some point, but when you can’t seem to find the drive to get things done, try these mental hacks to give your brain a boost into action.
Focus on the Finish Line
When there’s a task in front of us that we don’t feel like doing, like tedious household chores or a complex school project, our brains tend to focus on how uncomfortable, boring or overwhelming the task will be. The anticipated pain of the impending task sends us running in the other direction.
When your brain is stuck in loops, painting a mental picture of how dreadful the task will be, instead try focusing on how good you will feel after the task is completed. Picture how relaxed you’ll feel with a clean, clutter-free home, or the peace of mind and sense of pride and accomplishment you’ll experience once that project is near completion. Consciously make the effort to focus on the anticipation of the good feelings that come with completing a task, rather than focusing on the anticipated discomfort of doing it.
Remember the Rewards
What are the benefits of completing the task? How long will they last and what happens if you don’t complete it? Try listing the benefits of completing it and the consequences of not doing it, then decide if the task is worth it. For example, you might not feel like spending 4 hours in the kitchen to prepare your meals for the week, but a closer look would reveal that in exchange for those 4 hours of work, you’ll have a week of peace of mind, with no need to worry about finding food, and knowing that you’ll feel healthy and satisfied with your meals.
Without preparation, it means you’ll be facing a week with the daily struggle of trying to find or prepare healthy food, or overspending on takeout.
Ask yourself, what matters to me most? The short-term discomfort of this task or the long-term benefits of completing it?
Just Do It
I know, if it was as simple as just doing it, it would already be done. Saying “just do it” seems as helpful as telling someone in the midst of a panic attack to “just relax.” And we all know that doesn’t work.
When a lack of motivation comes from feeling overwhelmed, it can feel impossible to start or to keep going. At the end of the day, the only way to complete a task is to start doing it and keep doing it until it’s done, but how you do it is just as important as getting it done.
Figure out what the smallest possible step you feel comfortable with is and take it. Then take another small step.
If thinking about the daunting task of writing your first ebook sends you in a tail spin that ends in procrastinating on social media, then figure out what’s the smallest step you can take right now. It might be writing just the first sentence, or reading articles on formatting or marketing. You might be surprised to find that just taking that small step gives you a boost of confidence to take a few more.
Sometimes a lack of motivation isn’t the problem, but the symptom of another problem like burnout or exhaustion. Be aware of when you’ve reached your limit and take time to recharge. Get some sleep, eat, exercise, or spend time with the people or things you love. You might find that once you’ve mentally, emotionally and physical recharged, you feel much more motivated to take action.
Also note that certain mental and physical conditions can affect motivation. If you’re having other symptoms or just can’t seem to shake the lack of motivation, visit a trusted healthcare provider who can screen you for illness and provide necessary assistance.
Alexine Jackman is a Certified Stress Management Consultant, speaker and blogger. She loves sharing ideas for building resiliency and reducing stress on a busy schedule. Her ebook, 5 Minute Meditations For Entrepreneurs: How to stay calm, focused and productive on a busy schedule, is available now.