Thursday, November 01, 2007

How To Get Motivated, When You've Got No Motivation At All

I had one of those mornings earlier this week. You know the kind - when the list of tasks you made the night before looks as appetizing as grey oatmeal, and a trip to the beach is really all you want. Instead of wallowing in unproductive anxiety, I packed my gym bag and went off to exercise.

On the way to the weights, I came up with these 10 motivation hacks that work for me when I'm horrendously unmotivated:

1. Get Moving!
The gym's a great place to work off that nervous energy that's keeping you from concentrating. I go even when part of me yells "I don't want to go to the gym" like a spoiled toddler. Not that I've ever heard a spoiled toddler yell that particular line.

2. Walk to Nowhere!
This works best when time isn't on your side, and it's disarmingly simple: Go outside, and take a walk. Your destination? Someplace a few blocks away where you turn around and head back. The key is to NOT combine this with anything else, like an errand or a trip to the store - there's no multitasking allowed. I allow my mind to wander while I walk, and I usually come up with a firm plan for tackling work by the time I get back.
different from exercise

3. Send a Gutsy Email/Make a Gutsy Phone Call!
Sometimes fear is what makes us want to run off on holiday. If it's fear about making a (self-perceived) difficult phone call, I find that the best thing to do is Just Make It. Email works fine too. Jot a few (2-3) lines for how you'd like to open the conversation. After the call, I always feel like I've really accomplished something, which gets the flywheel going.

4. Declutter and Clean!
I grew up in a small house with a somewhat large family, so I'm used to turning off outside stimuli. I can deal with a ton of clutter, but I know it can be distracting. Organizing my desk, getting a bunch of papers filed, and putting stuff away can achieve the equivalent of a Zen garden. My secret to getting it done in record time: if I pick something up, I have to do something with it - like put it away.

5. Play Some Awesome Tunes!
I listen to DC's only classical music station, but it's background noise. They don't play much other than the usual Bach, Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven. They aren't my guys, so when I need to get my brain working, I put on Ravel or Debussy. Something about those two fires synapses in my brain. Look for the kind of of music that does the same for you.

6. Go to Another Room and Accomplish Something Physical!
The main objective here is to get away from the computer for a short time, but not so long that you lose all sense of industry. Since I work at home, I'll go to the kitchen and do some cleaning there. Or take out the garbage.

7. Write Down What Would Motivate You!
If I'm not motivated, that means my brain's lacking. So I ask it "what the heck WOULD motivate you?" I find I'll come up with very expensive options, ones that not only demand a high outlay of money but take some time to plan and achieve. This is a great way to develop a long-term goal list.

8. Plan for Tomorrow!
A "To-Do" list works great for me. It works even better if I've developed it the day before. Timothy Ferris advocates for lists in The Four Hour Work Week. I just have to get motivated to develop the list.

9. Take a Break Every Hour!
This works best as a preventive measure. No matter what I'm doing, if I've slogged at it for an hour, I take a break. Even if I've worked up a bunch of steam on whatever I'm doing.

10. Give Up and Give In!
Take a nap. Watch tv. Feign and headache and go home. Sometimes what works is playing hooky. Especially if, at some point after I've thrown in the towel, I come up with a To-Do list for tomorrow.

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