If you are anything like the rest of us, motivation ebbs and flows in your life like waves lapping the sand on a beach. At the start of a new venture, hobby, or project, most of us are excited, full of fresh ideas and ready to jump in, sink or swim. We are buoyed by the momentum brought on by passion and the promised reward at the end. We talk animatedly about it with our friends and family, buy books, do research, start thinking of marketing ideas, draw out website designs, and dream of the big profits that will roll in. There’s that new car you’ve been wanting, the vacation house in the mountains, and that time share at the beach. You’ll be an overnight success and you’ll start to work less and live more.
But once the shiny, newness of an idea wears off and the everyday work to keep it afloat begins, there are fears to lay aside, obstacles to overcome, and practicalities to work out. It’s often very hard to keep that momentum going when the honeymoon phase is over and it all feels very similar to hard work. That gorgeous new kitchen you planned is now giving you fits over cabinets that don’t fit the space, plumbing issues pop up that you didn’t know you had, you’re over budget and the contractors don’t show up on time.
Then you start to trade working on your project for watching Friends reruns on TBS, napping or organizing your sock drawer. This is the point when you really need to consciously apply some tactics to get your motivation back.
Here are 10 ways to give your motivation a boost and keep you moving towards your goal.
Write down your why and read it daily. Often in the middle of a project we forget the reasons why we started it in the first place. Maybe you made the switch to a healthier diet because you wanted to look good in a new dress for your daughter’s wedding. It might be hard to remember that “why” three months in when the dessert cart appears at the table with a slice of your favorite German chocolate cake just begging to be eaten. If you are a more visual person, find a picture of how you want to look when the big day arrives and post it on the fridge or bathroom mirror. A daily reminder can help keep you focused on the end result.
Set a deadline. Giving yourself a deadline forces you to work on your project instead of **insert favorite form of distraction for procrastination here** and will help you get started on the not-so-glamorous items on your to do list. Without a set deadline it’s WAY too easy to put it off in favor of something more fun, you know, like taking out the garbage or mopping your floors.
Do it for five minutes. Not feeling motivated today? Just tell yourself to work for five minutes. Often once you get started you’ll keep going. Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it!
Break it down. Big projects can seem overwhelming and those thoughts can sap your motivation. Focusing on the next small step seems manageable and achievable.
Find a mentor, accountability partner, or support group. Along with a deadline, this is one of the best ways to keep yourself on track. For example, Dawn and I are both working on writing projects right now. We have full time jobs, family and volunteer commitments, and write for The Pink Typewriter Project and our own personal blogs, along with the task of just keeping everyday life going. (Five dogs dictate that my floors need a lot of Swiffering!) We both are in the habit of pushing our writing projects to the bottom of our very lengthy to-do lists. By the time they float their way to the top, we are usually too worn out to focus on them and they get moved to the next day.
In order to break this cycle and put our writing projects first, we challenged each other to write 500 words a day (or at least 3,500 words a week because, hey, sometimes life DOES just get in the way). Since we have started this challenge, I’ve been getting up an hour early in the mornings to work on my writing and it’s pushed me to be present daily and keep the project moving forward. Knowing I have to tell Dawn I watched an entire season of Cheers on Amazon Prime instead of working on my book propels me to my studio for a writing session. Finding your own accountability partner who knows your deadlines will help push you to make progress even when you don’t feel like working.
Find a mantra. Pick a motivational quote that speaks to you and put it where you will see it every day. I have the quote, “I don’t look for reasons why I can’t. I look for reasons why I can.” in a frame on my desk. Whenever I run into an obstacle I read this quote and it reminds me to look for the opportunity in difficulty.
Energize your work space. Whether it’s as simple as decluttering or going full on feng shui, having a work space where you enjoy spending time and that is conducive to productivity is a must. I know I can’t work in an office that is disorganized. Take some time to create a haven that fits your personality and goals. My studio is one of my favorite rooms in the house. I like to make a cup of tea, turn on my typewriter candle warmer from Scentsy, and soak in some inspiration from the Jane Austen paperbacks sitting on my desk.
Get away from everyday distractions. Having a great work space at home is a plus, but sometimes the temptation to walk the dog, do a load of laundry, or wash dishes is just too strong to resist. When these distractions start to take over, it’s time to get out! If your project is mobile, take your laptop or supplies to your favorite local bookstore, coffee shop, library, or park. A change of venue can not only get you away from your everyday to do list, but also offer up inspiration you can’t get at home.
Reward yourself. A small reward for finishing a task that moves you closer to your goal is good motivation. Promise yourself a manicure or massage after each step and watch your motivation soar.
Don’t forget the self-care. Nobody can be at their best without exercise, good nutrition, plenty of sleep, and some time to relax. While you may feel motivated, if you are tired and worn out you’ll have trouble focusing and the work you do manage to put out will not be high quality.