Post Updated on January 22, 2020
One of my personal pet peeves is when people say they can’t ‘find’ the motivation to get things done. You see, there is nothing to find. Motivation isn’t something that hides when you need it.
When you blame this lack of motivation for not taking action, you’re only using it as an excuse to procrastinate. Whether it’s something you need to do or something you want to do, it’s easy to put it off until the last minute.
Procrastinating may be the easy way out, but it’s also the most stressful way to live your life.
That’s because procrastination results in two types of stress:
- Stress from the constant nagging thought in the back of your mind that tells you to get something done
- Stress from trying to finish something at the last minute
What most people don’t realize is that the time you spend THINKING about doing something often takes longer and causes more stress than the actual doing of that thing.
You’re stressed out as it is, so why do you continue to make your life more miserable by procrastinating? In this post, I’m sharing the real reasons why you lack motivation, as well as tangible action steps you can take when you find yourself procrastinating.
5 Reasons You Lack Motivation
Instead of blaming our lack of doing on lack of motivation, it helps to really dig into the root of the problem. I’ve found that when I’m at my lowest motivation, it’s because of one of these things:
1. I’m unsure of what to do. I’m unclear on the instructions for a task, or I can’t decide which direction to go with a project.
2. I’m overwhelmed or tired. I already have 8,000 things to do, and this is one more thing I need to work on. I’m exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally.
3. I fear a negative outcome. I’m worried that something will go wrong, I’ll embarrass myself, or it won’t live up to my standards.
4. I’m dealing with something emotionally. I’ve had a crappy day or I’ve received bad news. I want to crawl into a ball and not work on this project.
5. It doesn’t feel important. I can’t find a clear reason WHY I should do this thing, so I distract myself and procrastinate instead.
When you’re dealing with a lack of motivation, it’s important to a) figure out why you’re unmotivated and b) know how to move forward anyway.
Your Future Self
One of the simplest ways I’ve learned how to deal with procrastination is to consider how my choices today will affect my future self.
Often when we hear the term ‘future self’, we imagine ourselves in five or ten years’ time. It’s hard to imagine what our lives will look like then, so it doesn’t serve as the best motivator.
Rather than thinking years ahead, think about yourself next Tuesday (or any day of the week). Asking what you can do today to make your life easier next Tuesday is a pretty practical form of motivation.
Lately, I’ve been visualizing my future self whenever I don’t want to do something. I ask myself: Will future Catherine suffer if I don’t take action today? Most often, future Catherine will be pretty stressed if I leave it until later. Don’t I owe it to myself to make life less stressful?
After all, one of my values is to make life as chill and stress-free as possible (because life can actually be fun, weirdly enough).
That means I HAVE to take responsibility for my actions. I have to push aside any temporary moment of satisfaction (aka watching Friends) to create less stress for myself in the future.
What about living in the moment? Isn’t that important?
I could argue with myself that watching Friends is a good way to relax at that moment in time. But I have to be honest with myself and realize that a moment (or five episodes) of temporary relaxation will cause me more stress later down the road.
Now when I realize that I’m procrastinating or avoiding something, I ask myself WHY I don’t want to do it. Rather than complaining about it and avoiding all responsibility, I put on my adulting hat and try to get to the root of the problem.
How To Get Things Done
If my future self isn’t motivating me, here’s what I do when I find myself dealing with a specific lack of motivation:
1. When I’m unsure
I figure out the first, tiny little step I need to take. If I need guidance, I’ll push aside my pride and ask for help or clarification.
2. When I’m tired or overwhelmed
When I’m tired, I’ll take a break to get my energy back (take a walk, a nap, or a bath). If I can, I’ll do the tasks that take up the least amount of my energy. I just know I have to be disciplined with myself and not use ‘tiredness’ as an excuse for too long. When I’m overwhelmed, I organize my to-do list and add task dates into my calendar to make things manageable.
3. When I’m afraid
I check myself and dig into where my fears are coming from. Often it’s perfectionism holding me back, so I remind myself: “It’s better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing at all.”
4. When I’ve been knocked down
I give myself some time to process my emotions. I avoid making myself feel guilty for not working and do things I know will bring me back to a centered place.
Note: If you’ve been lacking the motivation to take care of your basic needs for a prolonged period of time, consider talking to a professional who can help.
5. When I don’t see the point
I ask myself why this doesn’t feel important or worth prioritizing. I revisit my vision list to see if what I’m avoiding serves a purpose for my bigger vision. If it doesn’t, I find a way to let the task or project go. If I can’t get out of it, I try to switch up my environment to make working on it at least a little more enjoyable.
How do you get yourself motivated?
No matter the reason for your lack of motivation, always come back to your future self. That person IS you. You can’t escape the future, so why not make it less stressful for yourself?