One of the main mistakes I see people who feel stuck make is waiting to feel motivated to take action. They think they’ll stay stuck as long as they’ll feel unmotivated. Sounds like you?
For them, motivation comes first and action second.
In reality, more than half of the time, it’ll be the other way around: action first, motivation second.
Not waiting to feel motivated to do the things you need to do ultimately separates people who are stuck forever from those who actually get out of the rut.
Motivation’s great; it’s awesome to feel inspired. But taking action only when you feel motivated is a recipe for failure.
Motivation’s a feeling; it comes and goes like happiness, sadness, and anger.
Just like you can’t expect to feel the happiest all of the time, you can’t expect to feel motivated all the time.
Also, keep in mind that motivation feeds off itself.
Most of the time, if you do what you need to do without feeling motivated to do it, the results will motivate you.
I know this for a fact because it happens to me too.
To be honest, I’d say 70% of the time I start doing things while feeling unmotivated; I do them because they’re part of a plan I love and because I know that if I don’t do them, I’ll get nowhere.
In most cases, I end up building momentum and enjoying what I do.
In this post, I’ll walk you through the strategies and tricks I use to get myself to do things, no matter how unmotivated I feel.
Why Are You Feeling Unmotivated?
Before we begin, you need to understand yourself better.
If you find yourself dreading doing a specific activity time and time again, understand the real reasons why you don’t want to do them.
From now on, build the habit of telling yourself: “I don’t want to do this because…” and being honest about it.
1. YOU don’t want to do it
It sounds obvious. You already said you don’t want to do it.
What’s new here?
Well, many of the things people say they want or need to do are, in fact, imposed by somebody else.
Maybe you don’t understand why you don’t want to go to the gym even though you said you want to lose weight, but… do YOU want to lose weight?
Or are you doing it because you’re supposed to?
Do you care about losing weight? Do you truly believe your life will be better if you do?
2. You’re scared
It happens to the best of us.
Fear can hide behind many masks.
If you find yourself postponing an action over and over, ask yourself: “Am I scared, for some reason, of doing the action or the results that can arise from that action?“
In an article about how to stop feeling unmotivated, I explain the most common fears hidden behind “laziness.” I highly recommend you go check that one out after you finish this one.
3. It’s unpleasant, boring, or difficult
This one’s a no-brainer, right?
I’d say it’s the most common one, but it’s important to differentiate this reason from the other two and to know this: Not all the steps that’ll take you where you want to go are going to be fun.
Some of them are going to be boring and difficult.
That’s not a bad sign; that doesn’t mean you don’t want the results or that they’re not for you.
How to Get Things Done Even When You Feel Unmotivated
1. Remember why you want to do it
Remember your goal, the final product.
Keep your eyes on the prize, leap, and just do it.
It’ll be ready before you know it.
2. Think about the alternative
The only alternative to doing it is not doing it.
What’s the price you’ll pay if you don’t do the action?
Where will you be in 6 months if you keep postponing it? Where will you be in 5 years?
Where will you be TOMORROW? Will you be torturing yourself again with just the thought of it?
3. Understand the reasons why you don’t want to do it
Check the list above and understand which one of those reasons explains your discouragement.
You’ll have to be brutally honest here.
In short, and I’m not saying this is easy to do, this is what you need to do:
a. If it’s reason #1: weigh your priorities, focus on the benefits the action or goal will have FOR YOU, practice being honest with yourself, understand the reasons behind your reasons.
b. If it’s reason #2: it’s ok! We’re all scared, and if you see someone doing amazing things with confidence, don’t think they’re never scared. They probably are. Feel your fear and do the thing scared.
c. If it’s reason #3: focus on the big picture, see the action in front of you as a means to an end. Don’t think about how boring or difficult it is; concentrate all your energies on the result.
4. Notice your energy peaks
Some of us are morning people. Some of us are night owls.
Notice at which times of the day you’re the most awake and clearheaded, and use that to your advantage.
Yes, most of the time, you’ll need to do things when you’re feeling unmotivated, but if we’re talking about an important action you’ve dreaded for a long time, then leveraging your energy peaks is a great idea.
5. Cut off distractions
Get away from distractions.
If you know you’re easily distracted by Instagram, put your phone away for a while, log out of your account or delete the app on your phone.
In my case, I know I get easily distracted by songs with lyrics (especially if I know the lyrics); I end up singing, and there goes my focus.
When I need to write or read or do something, I play background music with no lyrics or no music.
6. Don’t let non-urgent tasks distract you
We’ve all been there: You say you’re going to do something, and one minute after you sit down to do it, you receive an email,
You decide to check it out and then realize you have hundreds of unread emails, so you decide to clean your inbox…
If you know you’re doing something important you don’t feel like doing, ask yourself every time you face a distraction: Is this really urgent? Do I really need to check that email right now?
Stopping what you’re doing every five minutes to do unimportant tasks will only slow down your progress and prolong your suffering.
7. Use the Pomodoro technique
Set a timer for 25 minutes and commit to doing the task for 25 minutes straight.
Once you’re done, take a 5-minute break and repeat.
25 minutes isn’t a long time, but it can be enough to make progress and build momentum to keep going.
8. Plan for it
Don’t let important tasks depend on your willingness to do them.
Schedule them and get them done without thinking too much about it.
9. Make a 3-item to-do list
Three items aren’t that many.
Break down the task into smaller chunks, select the only three, write them down and cross them out as you go.
Crossing things out will motivate you and give you a sense of accomplishment.
10. Reward yourself
Make sure the reward matches the action.
Don’t go overboard with this, and know that the satisfaction of completing the task will feel like a reward as well.
11. Tackle the easiest (or most difficult) step first
Break the task into the smallest steps possible and sort them by the level of difficulty.
Depending on how you feel and how urgent the task is, tackle the three at the top or the bottom first.
Tackling the easiest one first helps get you acclimated and build momentum.
On the other hand, if you complete the most difficult (or boring, or unpleasant) step first, you’ll be left with easier and easier tasks, and the process will feel like a breeze.
With time, you’ll understand which one works best for you in each situation.
12. Get an accountability partner
Some people perform better when they have someone to hold them accountable.
Find a friend who has the same goal as you or who can cheer you on and ask them to be your accountability partner.
13. Be vocal about it
If you feel comfortable doing so, post your goal on social media or tell a group of friends and/or family.
For some people, doing this represents a commitment or promise they can’t break.
14. Take calculated breaks
If the task at hand is long or too complicated, plan your breaks.
Before sitting down to do it, be strategic about how long you’ll work on it, how many breaks you’ll take, and how long those breaks will be.
Don’t get up before your break time; it’s scheduled, it’s going to happen anyway.
The Bottom Line
Done is better than perfect; if you let yourself be guided by perfection, you’ll probably never do the thing.
Perfection doesn’t exist, and I can guarantee that you’ll always find flaws if you want to.
Don’t forget that motivation can’t be your fuel and inspiration source 100% of the time.
If you wait until you feel motivated to take action, I promise you won’t make the progress you want.
One of the best strategies for me is keeping in mind why I do the things I do: the big picture. If that works for you, write your goal on a post-it and keep it on your desk.
You’ll get better at this with time, and you’ll be proud of yourself.
“An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied.” ― Arnold Glasow.