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5 Ways to Motivate Yourself When You’re Feeling Unmotivated

I am convinced that dirty dishes and socks multiply when we’re not looking. If only it worked that way with the word count on your next research paper! There are some tasks that get put off until the last minute because we just can’t motivate ourselves to do them: folding laundry, doing the dishes, writing a paper or whatever it might be in your own life. While it would be nice if these things would do themselves, we’ve got to work up the motivation to do them—but how?

Here are five tips for motivating yourself to do the work when you are totally not in the mood to do it:

  • Set a timer. A well-known productivity trick, try setting a timer for 25 to 30 minutes for the tasks you don’t like. Focus completely on your objective until the timer runs out, then take a break. By breaking up your project into smaller, manageable pieces with the “reward” of a break in between, it will seem much less daunting. You will also have more motivation to complete the task in a timely manner.
  • Give yourself a treat. Really don’t want to write that paper? Offer yourself a reward for writing half of it: something small like making a cup of coffee or watching a YouTube video you’ve been wanting to see. You could also set up a bigger reward for when the task is completely finished. Some of my favorite rewards are eating dark chocolate, reading a magazine I’ve set aside or going out for coffee. While I could do these things anytime, I save them for the completion of tasks I don’t like, in order to motivate myself when I’m tired.
  • Do the biggest task first. We like to put off the most unsavory responsibilities because—well, who wants to clean the bathroom? Instead, do the hardest task first. This will build momentum and give you satisfaction in your progress. It also lifts the mental burden that often inhibits productivity in other areas. You can knock out the rest of list much faster if you have the most time-consuming task already done!
  • Rehearse the benefits. Sometimes all we need is a reminder of why we’re doing the hard things. You might drive into the gym parking lot and really, really want to drive right back out. Instead, think of the benefits of doing your workout: Exercise burns calories, helps you sleep better, tones your muscles and boosts endorphins, making you happier in other areas of your life. These are all fantastic reasons to do your workout!
  • Act how you want to feel. This is counterintuitive, but it works. Instead of waiting to feel “in the mood” to check things off your list, take action. Step out and do the thing that’s nagging at the back of your mind. While the initial few minutes will be tough, as you keep going you’ll gain momentum and your feelings will catch up to the action you’ve taken. If you want to feel accomplished—act that way! If you want to feel motivated—act motivated! It’s kind of like Nike says: Just do it.

There is nothing like the satisfaction that comes when you complete something big and difficult!

Have you tried any of these steps before? If so, share how they worked for you!

Image: Lightstock | fotoman


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  1. loveyou

    Posted by loveyou on March 10, 2016 at 16:58

    This helped a ton! Thanks!

  2. miss_anita

    Posted by miss_anita on March 8, 2016 at 12:59

    Thank you for his article read this while contemplating whether I should even do any work for my dissertation today as I had no motivation. But the first point about breaking your time into short 25-30 minutes sessions was so encouraging about to start on that now . ?

  3. marianamoe@yahoo.com

    Posted by marianamoe@yahoo.com on March 8, 2016 at 10:02

    As I am sitting here putting off studying for a midterm, I came across this. Thank you, and I am about to put some of these tips to use as soon as I finish this post!

  4. verymuchagirl

    Posted by verymuchagirl on March 7, 2016 at 10:33

    Thanks, Phylicia!

  5. Rebekah@MoreRadiance

    Posted by Rebekah@MoreRadiance on March 7, 2016 at 08:00

    These are some really great (and helpful!) tips. I know I often have things on my to-do list that I am really lacking the motivation I need to just get it done! Setting a timer helps me work faster I think… and doing the big tasks first definitely works great! I need to work on rehearsing the benefits, I know it would help if I remind myself why I need to do certain things!
    Thank you again for the tips!
    Rebekah Joy