How often do you wish you had the motivation to get things done?
Maybe you keep putting off that work report, the test you need to study for, and even the goals on your bucket list that are supposed to be fun.
You tell yourself, “I just need to find the motivation to get stuff done.”
So you search on Pinterest for motivational quotes…and somehow find yourself even more unmotivated.
Something I’ve learned over the years is that motivation is like an unreliable friend. You know, that friend who’s there with you when things are fun and exciting but ghosts you as soon as life gets tough?
When we rely too much on motivation, procrastination shows up to join the party.
Procrastination sometimes feels like the easy way out, but it’s also the most stressful way to live your life.
Instead of trying to simply find motivation (it’s not hiding somewhere, unfortunately), we have to first ask ourselves WHY we’re feeling unmotivated.
When we get to the root of the problem, it’s much easier to figure out how to move forward.
In this post, I’m sharing some sneaky reasons why you might be lacking motivation, as well as tangible action steps to take when you find yourself procrastinating.
5 Reasons You’re Lacking Motivation
Instead of blaming a lack of doing on a lack of motivation, try asking yourself why you’re feeling this way. When I’m at my lowest motivation, it’s often for one of these reasons:
1. You’re unsure where to start
You’re unclear on the instructions for a task, or you can’t decide which direction to go with a project.
2. You’re overwhelmed or tired
You already have a million things to do, and this is one more thing you need to work on. You’re exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally.
3. You’re afraid of a negative outcome
You’re worried that something will go wrong, you’ll embarrass yourself, or the results won’t live up to your standards.
4. You’re dealing with something emotionally
You’ve had a crappy day or you’ve received bad news. You want to crawl into a ball and avoid responsibility.
5. It doesn’t feel important
You can’t find a clear reason for WHY you should do this thing, so it doesn’t feel important to get started.
How To Get Things Done
Step 1: Address The Problem
Here’s what to try when you find yourself dealing with a specific lack of motivation:
1. When you’re unsure where to start
Start by figuring out the first, tiny little step you need to take. A brain dump is a great way to get all of the potential steps out of your head.
If you need guidance before you can get started, don’t be afraid to ask others for help or clarification.
2. When you’re tired or overwhelmed
When you’re tired, take a break to get your energy back (take a walk, sleep, eat, etc). Without proper rest, you run the risk of burning out. Remember that productivity is not a badge of honor, and you don’t need to be productive all the time.
If there’s no avoiding your to-do list, focus on the tasks that will take up the least amount of your energy and ask for help when you need it.
3. When you’re feeling afraid
Check-in with yourself and ask where your fears are coming from. If it’s perfectionism that’s holding you back, remind yourself: “It’s better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing at all.”
4. When you’ve been knocked down
Give yourself time to process your emotions. You don’t have to feel guilty for taking time away if you need it. Focus on things that will bring you back to a centered place.
Note: If you’ve been lacking the motivation to take care of yourself for a prolonged period of time, consider talking to a professional who can help.
5. When it doesn’t feel important
Ask yourself why this doesn’t feel important or worth prioritizing. Revisit your vision list to see if the thing you’re avoiding serves a purpose for your bigger vision.
If it doesn’t, let the task or project go. If you simply can’t get out of it, try making it a challenge or partnering up with a friend to make the task a little more enjoyable.
Step 2: Think of 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 one week from now. 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 more stress later down the road.
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?
Absolutely love this post! Can definitely relate to escaping to the world of Friends to take my mind off of everything I have to do. Thank you for sharing such great insight!
Friends has been my reward lately for getting things done ;)
Definitely needed this! I have been lacking motivation lately and feeling a little lost, perfectionism is a huge part of this for me. I love the idea to think of future self and a vision list to help reprioritize! thanks for sharing!
So glad this was helpful for you, Kristen!
Love everything about this!!! Today I was Struggling… like almost in tears because I’m overwhelmed and didn’t have a game plan for working on my Thesis.
This post was a lifesaver ! ???
I’m so glad to hear that, Anne-Marie! Good luck on your thesis!
This was helpful to me too. I will keep the list of 5 reasons close by because it will really help me choose the next right action.
I tend to handle my overwhelm with a particularly destructive form of procrastination – checking Facebook or my emails (thinking it’s getting me up to date) and signing up for more summits and webinars etc to get the ‘answers I need’. But then it adds to my to do list and often in a time-sensitive urgency way.
I’ve put a ban on signing up for new things now but it’s soooo tempting! That quick dopamine hit is responsible for the stress that follows and it snowballs! But I have big plans for my life, and my near-future Catherine is not somebody I want to let down ❤️
Ooh signing up for things is a weakness of mine too! I’m trying to stop doing that as well. I always remind myself that I have the answers I need if I really listen to myself. Glad this post was helpful for you, fellow Catherine!
Procrastination is one of my favorite hobbies too. But I agree with you that it brings a whole lot of stress.
I’m taking one of the courses of Leo Babauta now. H teaches how to try to discover why you procrastinate by actually doing what you would normally procrastinate over. Surprising that I did not find this myself ;-)
Leo Babauta is so knowledgeable! I’m sure his course is super helpful.
I needed this today! Thank you.
This is an excellent article! It gave me a new perspective on how to manage my procrastination. Thanks Catherine!
You’re so welcome, Crystal!
I love this post, thanks for writing it down so well.
I like your website! Thank you. Keep up the good work.
Thank you so much, Jo!
I needed to ‘hear’ this. I’ve been procrastinating on my thesis because I’m overwhelmed and struggle a lot with perfectionism. This post made me think and is a good reality check. Thank you for the practical and useful tips!
I’m glad the post helped, Rulien! Good luck with the thesis :)
OMG lovin this post! Procrastination and I can be best buddies sometimes. Fear of a negative outcome is my worst and perfection can get in the way most of the time too. I too am a magnet to signing up for stuff ‘looking for answers’ but not now, I’m going to use what I have and keep looking forward to getting your posts Catherine … it’s always a lovely surprise wondering what we’re going to get 🤗 THANK YOU x
Your 5 tips to get yourself motivated email and this post found me at just the right time, January of course, when I’ve been stuck in a winter rut like I find myself in every year at this time. I copied all these tips down in my notebook so I can reference back to these notes when I’m feeling this way again. Thank you for being so helpful and for sending this email when I needed it the most!