Know Thyself

Last time I posted about willpower, and pushing yourself to get started. But what happens when you’re motivated to take action, but lack the energy to do so?

As a single mom, I find the times that I have the most “free time” to tackle my personal projects are early in the morning (before the kids are awake) and in the evening (after the kids go to bed). As a morning person, I’m definitely more likely to want to be active before the kids are awake. But my son gets up at 6 — leaving me limited time, unless I want to wake up before the sun. In the evening I have more time, as my kids go to bed early, but I also lack the energy and motivation to accomplish anything that requires a lot of activity.

Evaluate your own life. When do you have time to get things done? When are your energy levels highest? Lowest? When are you most motivated to tackle projects and really take action? This could be different times of day, or different days of the week — whatever your schedule and body rhythms look like.

Now what can you do with this information?

 

Back to the Drawing Board

By this I don’t mean to scrap your plan. I mean to literally head back to wherever you wrote down your goals and plans. What is it you’re hoping to accomplish and what do you have to do to get there?

If you haven’t already, make a note of every step you need to take to reach your goals and mini-goals. Get specific. Treat this list as a checklist of what you need to do to get where you want to be.

Once you have your checklist, take a good, hard look at it. You may notice that some tasks seem “easy” — that is, they don’t require a lot of energy or effort, just a moment of time to do them. Other tasks seem monumental, requiring a lot of effort to accomplish. If it’s helpful, sort the tasks by difficulty.

 

Schedule Your Time

Now that you know when you have the most time and energy to devote to your projects, and you know what you have to do to reach your goals, put the two pieces of the puzzle together. Determine when you’re going to tackle each of the tasks on your checklist, based on your time and energy levels. Schedule high-energy tasks when you’re at your most alert and motivated. Schedule easier tasks when you lack the energy to do much else.

In my personal example, I find it best to tackle active tasks — such as cleaning and organizing — in the morning, when I have the most energy, or on days when my kids are with someone else and I have more time. I save most computer-related tasks, such as responding to e-mails, updating websites, or posting on social media, for the evening, when I’m more inclined to want to lounge.

While it doesn’t always work out, fitting tasks in according to your moods could actually move you farther faster, and you may find yourself less likely to get lazy and unmotivated, as you’re not expecting yourself to take care of high-energy tasks at your low-energy times. And that can keep you on track and excited — and much more likely to reach your goals.

What do your moods look like? When are you most inclined to get things done?

 

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Willpower

Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been on this journey for a while, you’ve likely noticed that, no matter how much you want to achieve your goals, sometimes you just don’t feel like doing anything. What do you do then?

It’s easy to tell yourself “I deserve a break” (and then another, and then another…). It’s easy to say “I’ll take care of that tomorrow.” It’s easy to distract yourself with mundane tasks and say “This is more pressing. I need to take care of this first.” But be honest with yourself: you just don’t feel like “taking charge.” You feel like floating along, doing nothing. So what should you do?

If you’ve been working hard, making progress for a while before you reached this point, it’s okay to take a little break. Give yourself a night off, for example. But if you find that night turning into two, then three….or you haven’t been working hard, but rather you just need a push to start, I have some suggestions for you.

Plan a Little

Sometimes I find that the reason I’m not motivated to move forward is because I’m not sure what to do. Or I’ve lost sight of my path. It’s not that I don’t want to take action. It’s that I’m not sure what action to take.

In these instances, I find it best to break out my planner and a pad of paper and do some thinking. Sometimes I’ll go into it with the thought that while I don’t feel like doing anything right now, I can plan a bit and write in when I’m going to take action. Being specific helps. What am I going to do when? What needs to be done first, before I can take the next step? Making a list can be helpful.

Often, as I start writing things out, I start getting excited again. I start wanting to take action again. I start seeing the potential again, and wanting to make progress again. I’ll tell myself, as I’m writing things out: “Oh, I can do that right now. Let me just get that done.” And that can have a snowball effect.

Start Doing

Tiny steps forward are still steps forward. No matter how slowly you’re going, if you keep making progress, you’ll get there eventually. So when you get in “do nothing” mode, try doing something, no matter how small. Tackling a big cleaning project? Put away one or two things. Looking for a new career? Apply to one job or update your resume. Trying to get healthier? Have a healthy snack or do a few crunches.

As you’re doing that small thing, encourage yourself: “That wasn’t so tough. Keep going.” Often the hardest part is starting, and you’ve already done that. Build momentum and keep moving, keep doing.

Even if you’re still not interested in continuing, at least you’ve done something, and you can pat yourself on the back for not succumbing to laziness. Tomorrow perhaps it will be easier.

Motivate Yourself

To keep these moments at a minimum, put steps in place to keep yourself motivated and excited to take action:

  • Post pictures of your goals in prominent places.
  • Post a goal thermometer (you can find one at www.ALifeYouWant.com) with mini goals that you can strive for, and color in as you reach them.
  • Make a specific to do list, and make big check marks for each item as you accomplish it. Post it where you’ll see it often.
  • Keep a calendar, with marks for each day you’ve made progress on your goal. Make the marks prominent, so you can keep track of how many days in a row you’ve made progress. Go for the longest streak you can.
  • Since you’re keeping track, set a goal for the number of days you’re aiming for. Once you reach it, reward yourself. Write the reward on the calendar, too. Then keep going.
  • Set deadlines for yourself, for having certain tasks completed or reaching certain mini goals. Reward yourself once you’ve reached each deadline.

We all feel unmotivated sometimes. But if your goal(s) are important to you, don’t lose sight of that. Don’t let moments of uncertainty or laziness keep you from accomplishing them. Keep your eye on the prize.

Do you have any suggestions for motivating yourself? How do you keep yourself going?