Updated: September 17, 2021
17 Things to Do When You’ve Lost Your Motivation
“I was thinking one day and I realized that if I just had somebody behind me all the way to motivate me I could make a big difference. Nobody came along like that so I just became that person for myself.” Unknown
Staying motivated until you reach your goals and dreams isn’t always easy.
There are often roadblocks, plateaus and valleys along the way where you can get into a slump. Or a rut.
And feel like you’ve simply lost your motivation somewhere along the way.
So today I would like to share 17 tips, strategies and habits that I have used to find that motivation again.
I hope you’ll find something helpful here.
1. Refocus on doing what YOU really, really like to do.
When you really like doing something then the motivation to do it comes automatically (most of the time). And when you really want something then it simply becomes easier to push through any inner resistance you feel.
So if you lose your motivation, ask yourself:
Am I doing what I really want to do?
If not and if possible, refocus and start working on that very important thing instead.
2. Make a list of upsides.
Write down all the benefits you will get from achieving something, like for example getting into better shape or making more money.
Save it and then pull that list out of the drawer whenever your motivation is lacking again and review it. Or put it somewhere where you will see it every day until you reach your dream.
This is a powerful way to reconnect with your motivation and reasons for taking action.
3. Make a list of downsides.
You can combine this with the list of upsides to give yourself even more motivation to start moving and get things done.
How will my life look in 5 years if I continue to stay on the same path as now? How will life likely become worse for me and maybe even for the people around me?
Try to see the negative consequences as vividly as you can in your mind to kick-start your motivation to start going for that positive change again.
4. Spend 3 minutes on remembering your successes.
If you lose your motivation then it is easy to get stuck in looking at your failures and so you get stuck in that slump.
So instead, sit down for three minutes and just remember your successes. Let them wash over you and refuel your inspiration and motivation.
5. Go for a bigger goal.
Set a big goal that inspires you even if it may seem a tad unrealistic at the moment.
If you have too easily achievable goals then you may find that they don’t give you that motivational spark and drive. When you start to think a bit bigger then you get motivated and your mind starts looking for the solutions that will help you achieve that goal.
Thinking too small can leave you with a “meh…” feeling or make you feel like you can do it later.
6. Or go for a small or tiny goal.
If having a medium-sized goal don’t feel too inspiring and a bigger goal feels overwhelming then try to set a smaller one instead. Or even just a tiny one.
A smaller goal could be to just workout for 15 minutes today, to spend 10 minutes on setting up the website for your business or 7 minutes on getting going with your essay for school.
And a tiny one – if the smaller one leads to procrastination – could for example be to just work out for 1-2 minutes.
The most important thing if you’re standing still is to start moving and to build some momentum forward. So do that with one or a few small or tiny steps at first if that’s what will work for you at this time.
7. Remember how far you have come and compare yourself with yourself.
Comparing what you have and your results to what other people have and have accomplished can really kill your motivation.
There are always people ahead of you.
So focus on you. On your results. And how you can and have improved your life and results.
This is important because it’s a great motivator to see how much you have improved and how far you have come. Often you can be pleasantly surprised when you do such a review.
8. Reconnect with optimism.
How you perceive what you are doing or are about to do makes a huge difference.
The positive and constructive way of looking at things energizes and inspires you. It makes it easier to keep going even when you hit roadblocks.
So ask yourself questions like:
What is one thing that awesome about this situation? What can I learn from this and what is one opportunity in this situation? How can I or we solve this and what is the next small step that I or we can take to start doing that?
9. Work out.
I like this one because even if you feel too frustrated and down to ask yourself the right questions you can still drag yourself to the gym or wherever you go to exercise.
And if you just do your pretty mindless repetitions then your body will do the rest.
Endorphins and other chemicals will be released. Inner tensions will loosen up and leave your body.
Your negative emotional pattern will be broken. And new energy will be added to your body.
10. Talk about it.
Sometimes you just need to let it out and to talk to someone about your motivational low point. Letting it all out can release a lot of pent up emotion and let you get a new, more positive and healthy perspective on things.
Often we build our own small or medium-sized problems into big scary monsters in our minds.
Letting the monsters out into the light and letting others see them can make us realize that we were making a too big of a deal out of it all.
It allows us to lighten up a bit, to not take things too seriously and to start moving forward and find that lost motivation again.
So talk to a friend or family member. Or try an anonymous internet forum with like-minded people.
11. Remember to have fun.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the seriousness of a task and the stress and tension of completing it.
So remember that you are allowed to have fun when you are working on it.
There is no rule that says you have to be all serious about it all the time.
When you can, create fun in a task. Compete with yourself to finish it even faster than you did the last time, whistle a nice tune while working or have fun and joke around with your co-workers and class mates.
12. Start moving and let the motivation catch up with you.
Many times I have found it better to just do it and start working instead of trying to motivate myself to get going.
At first what you do may suck quite a bit and it’s hard going. But after a while inspiration and motivation seems to catch up with you.
Things start to flow easier and your work is of a higher quality.
13. Get accountability from one or a few people in your life.
Getting your goal, dream or new habit that you’re working on out into the world can make a big difference for your motivation levels.
So tell a few friends on social media what you will do. Or talk to one of them on the phone or in person and ask her to check up on you and your progress regularly.
By putting a bit of social pressure on yourself and getting some follow up once a week or twice a month you’ll be less likely to give up at the first obstacle or try to weasel out of your commitment.
14. Let the motivation from others (close by and far away in the world) flow over to you.
Spend more of your week with the people in your life that are enthusiastic, motivated or optimistic.
And let motivation from all over the world into your daily life and mind by:
Listening to positive podcasts. Visiting uplifting websites. Watching inspiring online videos or movies. Exploring motivating books and biographies about the most successful people in history.
15. Have a bit of friendly competition.
Engage in a bit of friendly competition with a co-worker or school friend about, for example, who can finish a boring or routine task first.
The winner can get a free ice-cream, beer or something else that’s small but a motivating reward from the other person.
16. Take a break.
Yeah, sometimes you just need to take a break.
Perhaps your time-plan for your goal or new habit is just too optimistic?
Maybe you have worked harder than you can manage right now. Then take a break.
A few hours or days of rest and recuperation can change how you feel in a remarkable way and recharge your batteries.
17. Step out in nature for a bit.
Very few things in life give me so much new motivation and energy as being out in nature.
So I often go out for a walk in the nearby woods and focus on just taking all the sights and smells in and on breathing the fresh air without thinking about anything special.
How to stop procrastinating (now).
Is waiting until the last minute an innocuous habit? Or does failure to act on your intentions have more serious health consequences? Here I take a look at procrastination and provide five evidence-based tips to help you stop putting things off until tomorrow.
We’ve all been there. The deadline is looming and you know it’s finally time to sit down and complete your annual tax return. Instead, it dawns on you that you haven’t walked the dog since yesterday, you haven’t had your morning coffee, and it’s been at least two hours since you last scrolled through the latest family news on Facebook. The prospect of abiding by tax regulations just doesn’t have the same immediate appeal as social media or caffeine.
Putting off until tomorrow what you could do today is commonplace.
Up to 46% of college students report they procrastinate on specific academic tasks, and about 10% to 20% of adults in the general population are chronic procrastinators.
Scientists who study procrastination define it as “a voluntary delay of an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay”.
They find that people who procrastinate have a tendency to choose short-term gratification over long-term more-worthwhile goals. And they may do so even when the delay has serious health, academic or financial implications.
Chronic procrastination is not a mental health diagnosis, but is associated with:
increased stress and anxiety poor grades in school poor performance at work and reduced wellbeing. Is procrastination just poor time management?
Procrastination is often attributed to poor time management.
However, Professor Joe Ferrari author of the book Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done, disagrees. Ferrari explains chronic procrastination is due to poor self-regulation, not poor time-management. This might explain why learning time-management skills doesn’t typically help those afflicted.
Ferrari also notes that telling the chronic procrastinator to ‘just do it’ would be like saying to a clinically depressed person to ‘just cheer up.
Instead of trying to manage time, Ferrari suggests procrastinators learn to manage their mindset.
“If I have a dozen things to do, obviously #10, #11, and #12 have to wait. The real procrastinator has those 12 things, maybe does one or two of them, then rewrites the list, then shuffles it around, then makes an extra copy of it. That’s procrastinating. That’s different.”
A unique form of 21st-century procrastination.
Recently, Dutch scientists from Utrecht University described a new type of procrastination, one that has given insights into the psychology of the phenomenon.
Dr Floor Kroese, an assistant professor of health psychology and his team found that going to bed later than intended is a form of procrastination. Kroese explains,
“Bedtime procrastination is defined as failing to go to bed at the intended time, while no external circumstances prevent a person from doing so.”
The study supported the notion that procrastination and self-control are closely related. Again, Kroese explains
“Bedtime procrastination occurs when people have little mental energy, or self-control strength, because the decision to go to bed is inherently made at the end of the day when self-control is typically weaker,”
Another interesting finding from the study is that while procrastination typically involves putting off unpleasant tasks, going to bed is generally not considered unpleasant.
Instead, the researchers speculated it is not so much a matter of not wanting to go to sleep, rather not wanting to quit other enjoyable activities especially TV watching or social media. They point out,
“With the development of electrical devices and the 24/7 entertainment industry, people may be facing many more distractions now compared to several decades ago,”
The tug of war between your present and future selves
Research points towards procrastinators engaging in a constant tug of war between their emotionally-driven pleasure-seeking ‘current self’ (who would rather watch TV than go to bed), and the rational, reasoning ‘future self’ (who is tired the next day). Carleton University professor Timothy Pychyl explains,
“In a sense, we’re passing the buck to our future self … Difficulty in bridging the gap between the present and future self is one factor that may contribute to the mood and behaviour regulation failure that are the precursors and products of procrastination.”
Here are five tips to help chronic procrastinators get started (today). 1. Bridge the gap between your current and future self.
Developing empathy for your future self is similar to developing empathy for others. Make a conscious effort to step into your future self’s shoes.
2. Turn a long-term goal into a project complete with micro-goals.
Treat yourself to a cup of coffee or scroll through social media after accomplishing your micro-goal, rather than wait until finishing the overall goal.
3. Put obstacles in your way.
For example, bedtime procrastinators are encouraged to turn off the TV and social media after eating dinner as a way to adhere to their planned bedtime.
4. Don’t use tough love.
The best personal remedy for procrastination might actually be self-forgiveness. One study of procrastinating students found those who forgave themselves after procrastinating on the first exam were less likely to delay studying for the second one.
5. Learn to feel discomfort.
Procrastinators tend to focus on how to make themselves feel happier at the expense of drawing insight from what makes them feel bad.
This piece was first published on the now-retired ABC Active Memory site.