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How to Handle Lack of Motivation

Does my title surprise you, given this season of New Year resolutions? Think it’s too early to go here? I don’t think so. 80 percent of New Year resolutions are abandoned by the end of February. It takes motivation to accomplish our goals, but it inevitably fluctuates. Today we’re going to discuss what to do when motivation dips, to ensure we keep peddling towards our desired destination.

Luke Warm on the New Year Resolutions

I’ll be upfront. I’m not a fan of New Year resolutions. While all goals must begin somewhere, I’m not convinced that the first day of January is the best day to launch into new goal attainment. For one, many of us are still transitioning out of holiday mode and/or facing routine year-beginning tasks we must manage with the calendar transition. What’s more, the weather is often crummy. The New Year may be positioned as a time of hope and change, but many find January to be a month of endless Mondays.

But maybe you’re motivated by this collective swell of aspiration to do/be better that arrives at the start of each year. Or, perhaps, given your situation, it does make sense to make a change in line with the calendar. If so, that’s great. Capitalize on the circumstance.

Your Objectives Will Fuel Your Motivation

The real key to success with any new goal is independent of the time you set out to achieve it. The key is having clear reasons and specific objectives, for undertaking the change in behavior. It’s these objectives you’ll want to turn to when your commitment to the goal waivers, and it will, because we’re all human. Progress requires effort, and sometimes the effort appears to be, well, a lot of effort. So my first piece of advice is to clearly formulate, and document, your reason(s) for establishing your goal in the first place.

Hacks for Pushing Through Waning Motivation

Despite keeping your formidable objectives top of mind, there will be days when the effort required of you seems — and truly might be — beyond what you’re capable of doing. Revisiting your objectives will remind you why you set your goal in the first place, but you’ve still got to be proactive in the moment. The goal (to achieve your goal) is to keep peddling, not jump off the bicycle. You will get to the top of the hill if you keep moving. Below are four tangible ways you can ensure forward motion.

Even the Easiest Path Forward is Still Forward

I’ve found that, when I’m feeling unmotivated, I can find some success by choosing an easy step that will still move my project forward. I’ll pick something that requires less energy or brain power and see it through to completion. Then, I don’t arrive at the end of the day feeling like I did nothing. Most importantly, this small sense of accomplishment bolsters my resolve. I arrive the next morning with something to build upon.

Should vs. Can

Black-and-white thinking is a hazard to keeping motivated. Think: you said you’d do X, you didn’t do X, so you might as well throw in the towel, i.e. “F- it.” Not so fast. Perhaps you can do Y. Y aligns with your available resources. Y moves the needle. By way of illustration, let’s say your goal is to be more active on LinkedIn. You’ve proactively blocked off time on your calendar to draft and post an article. But then, let’s say, things happened, life happened, and now you’ve discovered you only have ten minutes left to draft your copy. “Not possible,” you say. And this is true. But you can, in fact, with these 10 minutes, like, share and comment on a colleague’s posts. That’s being active, and it’s moving you towards your goal. Instead of saying, “I should have written the article.” Say, “I can interact on the platform.”

Reward Yourself

To denote a job well done, we reward our employees, and our kids and even our pets. We should do the same for ourselves. When we reenforce positive behavior, we get more positive behavior. So when you wrap up a project or complete a task, honor the effort you’ve given it. Maybe it’s a long bath, a dinner out or an hour with a good read. Again, you’re creating forward momentum. What’s more, your safeguarding against future sags in motivation.

Honor Your Individual Energy Cycle

Finally, let’s go back to the LinkedIn example, only this time let’s say you’ve got adequate time. The problem is, instead, that you feel like doing anything but drafting an article. You’re not in the mindset to produce anything worth putting out. Instead of abandoning the article (black-and-white thinking), reschedule the task. This isn’t procrastination, it’s honoring your energy cycle. Thoughtfully schedule the task. Move the deadline, don’t erase it.

Commitment isn’t Motivation

Committing to a goal is the first step. The second, and often overlooked, step is to create a concise inventory of your reasons for setting your goal in the first place. Remember that, even with these two pieces in place, you’ll inevitably bump into lack of conviction somewhere along the line. When this happens, remember your goal is to keep moving forward, even it you’re only taking small steps. Don’t abandon ship when things don’t go as planned. Reschedule the work in tune with your individual energy cycle. Celebrate progress along your path, and keep pedaling!

Sara Genrich is a Productivity Consultant, an Evernote Certified Consultant and the creator of the Organizing@Work for Success Workshop.  She’s committed to providing real-life solutions so her clients have time to focus on the things that really matter.

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