whew, it's been a hot minute since i've written anything for this website, hasn't it? myyyy bad~ it's been a very busy time, and the spark to actually sit down and write something just wasn't hitting me, but this morning it was like a fucking inferno in my head somehow after waking up from saying the stupidest thing in my dream: "you look at that fact and keep thinking that it's a fact because it is one." said in a cocky, sure-of-myself voice.
but to get back on point, or rather, to the point, i struggle real bad with the confusing and mysterious thing known as "motivation," and i figured a lot of people probably do too. to be honest, this kinda doubles as something i'm writing for myself, to reinforce tactics that worked for me in the past in trying times.
now i need to include the classic disclaimer that these are things that worked for me to help lift me outta pretty shitty times, and i'm hoping they work again. i'm of course in no way suggesting that you're gonna read this and all of a sudden raise your hands and go "Shit!! I get it now!!!" and become a hyper-efficient robot or some shit.
this article is probably not ideal for people already working very hard and trying to stack even more on their overcrowded plate, either, that's a different problem (overworking to be specific,) and it definitely isn't intended for people who are, well, able to accomplish normal day-to-day things that will roll their eyes and go "well duh." this is more intended for people who struggle to do basic tasks, maybe in a shitty situation they wanna get out of, whatever. look, it either works for you or doesn't. let's just get to it
"Motivation" Tip 1: Notebook the shit out of everything
if you're like how i used to be, just reading the title of this tip is gonna make you go "ughhhhh. HEARD it before." i know. i get it. look, how much is a fuckin' notebook at a discount store? the cost of entry for just trying this is very low.
now, i guess i should start with the fact that this did not work for me digitally. i cannot for the life of me figure out why, but whether it's on a PC (where i'm in my element) or a smartphone (where i'm heavily out of my element) i cannot comply with schedules. if you've ever felt like this too, i highly recommend to use a physical journal.
you can, of course, buy a dated journal, but i just bought a simple A5 notebook with a nice lil' strap to mark the page you're on and wrote the dates in. i reccomend using a multi-color pen (the classic BIC one has been my good friend on this journey) because it lets you demarkate different things in different colours, mine goes as such: blue - journal entries, red - time, black - practical notes, green - emotional notes. highlighters can also be useful for making things stand out, basically, it can be very useful to make things pop out, so it's very easy to read quickly.
example from a simple page earlier in my journal. it's in welsh 'cause i'm learning welsh but you get the point (not that you probably care, but this was written before i knew how to properly write dates, they should be 20fed o Hydref and 21ain o Hydref, i've improved much since then too!)
so what should you include in the journal? well, anything and everything. even things that should feel stupidly simple like going to the supermarket, pen it in. don't concern yourself on picking a "good" time, just pick one. having trouble getting motivated to say, do art? pen in a time. sometimes, i even like to write down things i got done in a day, even if they weren't penned in, because looking back on it i can clearly see that i got things done.
if you need to, you can break up tasks into simple sections that are too small to fuck up, or if you're better with broad sweeping tasks, you can write them that way. just whatever you do, make sure tasks are SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely. tasks that are too vague or difficult both feel more dificult to accomplish, and are easier to procrastinate on.
"Motivation" Tip 2: Don't relegate tasks to a nebulous "later"
this is something i used to do, just relegate a task to "any time" in a day, but i've kinda gotten away from doing this. the reason i've found that this is bad is because it gives you excuses to keep pushing the task back and back, as long as you get it done "today."
this is about as effectual as deciding to do something "tomorrow," because even if you get the task done it weighs on you all day, effectively dragging out the emotional impact of something that honestly, is probably very simple.
i've had success relegating tasks to sections of the day, like "morning/afternoon/evening," but the best successes i've found come when i'm specific. "I will go to the supermarket at 11AM" > "I will go to the supermarket late morning" > "I will go to the supermarket this morning" > "I will go to the supermarket today."
it doesn't really matter if you're a lil' late to these tasks, unless they're an appointment or something, but i've found having the specific time marked to get something done makes it feel like more of an obligation than a nebulous "oh, i can do that later today." effectively, put up a blunt wall for your procrastination to crash into.
"Motivation" Tip 3: When the time comes to do the task, be disciplined
okay, so 11AM comes, and you really don't fuckin' feel like going to the supermarket. you're tired, you're feeling like shit today, and you're in a bad mood. basically, you're not motivated. here's the hard part, that no amount of writing things in your journal will help with: fuckin' do it anyway.
how you feel in the moment doesn't necessarily have to impact how you act. if you're like me and you struggle with emotional regulation, this is a very important skill to learn. this doesn't mean things like emotional/mental burnout aren't real, of course, but unless you're completely and utterly falling apart there's a good chance you can put in some sorta effort.
remember, if tasks feel too "heavy" it is totally possible to break them apart! if it helps, you can specify how long you're going to commit to a task, or you can shatter it into multiple different tasks. if doing so is impossible, you can take breaks, and finally if you're unable to complete the task, you can write it back into your journal for a later, specific time to be completed.
"Motivation" Tip 4: Find ways to reward yourself for following through
this of course doesn't have to be a monetary thing, it includes things even as simple as being nice to yourself and praising yourself for getting tasks done. it might sound and feel stupid to be self-congratulatory about things you "were supposed to do anyway" but it's actually super important! for one, nobody is going to know but yourself anyway, so you might as well try it, and second, you should feel good that you accomplished getting the vaccuming done or whatever small thing it was.
the reason it is important is because you very easily could have just decided not to do whatever task it was, and at probably little concequence for the moment (if the vaccuming doesn't get done, who cares? it's not that bad yet, and you can do it "later") but you made the decision (this is important!) to do it anyway.
as you've likely experienced if you're "motivation starved," these little negative decisions can add up to terrifying levels - messy living spaces, basic things undone, and tasks feeling and even being very heavy because they've piled up to catastrophic levels. you absolutely should be nice to yourself for acknowledging this cycle, and making the decision to avoid it.
other things you can do to reward yourself are ensuring you get enough breaks, going and doing something you enjoy doing, maybe watch some youtube videos or twitch streams, whatever you're into - relax for a while. becoming a productive person does not entail being productive 24/7. eat properly, get proper sleep, take care of yourself. don't get stuck in the trap of becoming HYPER-EFFICIENT, burning out, and going back to being unmotivated.
"Motivation" Tip 5: Do not be harsh on yourself for "failures"
this one can feel very counter-intuitive on a very deep level, but it's super important. nothing is going to improve by making yourself feel like shit for something that probably isn't that big of a deal. definitely don't let yourself slip into regularly missing goalposts, but counter-intuitively, beating yourself up for "failures" will make that more likely as adhereing to your scheduled journal will feel like an exercise in self-flaggelation.
remember, you likely had reasons that you couldn't complete or start the task. maybe pen them in next to the task, or not it's up to you, and then simply allocate the task to another day. if you find yourself doing this multiple times for the same task, it's time for some self-reflection so that you can find ways to avoid the reasons for "failure." don't let reasons become excuses.
positive reinforcement is a much more effective tool than negative beratement. see tip 4 again if needed. the reason this is so important is because turning your schedule into an exercise of walking a tightrope means that you're gonna fall eventually. missing a task or having a shitty, lazy day happens to everyone, and you might not believe it, but it only effects you as much as you let it. metaphorically, you could be walking on a wide board a meter of the ground, or a thin tightrope 100m off the ground. which sounds like a nicer experience? which will make you more likely to take that walk in the first place?
"Motivation" Tip 6: Relegate non-vital tasks to a free day
"shit, i really should clean this countertop" - noticing a new task that maybe got overlooked, overshadowed, or forgotten is pretty common, and again you should not self-flaggelate for it. shit happens, even to well organized people. but once you're in the cycle of having scheduled tasks to do, having another on-top can feel like a real drain.
you've probably had a situation like this before, and said "i'll do it later." well, when you're scheduling things properly, you can do this but have it materialize into reality instead of being basically "the tomorrow that never comes." open up your notebook/journal, flip it to a page where you don't have much goin' on, and write it in.
BOOM, you've lifted undue pressure off your schedule, you've made the task "go away" like you would've before, but you've still penned it in to be done at a specific time and can avoid the stress and guilt that comes with normal procrastination. in fact, i would go to say that new tasks that are non-vital should always be penned in on a non-busy or free day.
it's hard to explain to a "normal" person (as if that exists, so let's just say a "naturally motivated" person) how useful of a tool this is, but i've found that having the ability to "procrastinate without procrastinating" so to speak is extremely powerful. making a task "go away" but still getting it done feels like some sort of wizardry. i'm still trying to not feel dumb for taking so long to discover this tactic.
"Motivation" Tip 7: When the spark hits to do something now, get to it
all that said, some things in life require some sort of "spark," like doing artwork or other creative projects, like writing this article for example! i just thought of this after waking up this morning, and got that feeling that i need to do this now, while it's fresh.
if you've got that natural, inspiration-driven motivation, take advantage of it while you've got it. obviously you can only do that if you're free to do so, but if you think you've really got somethin' going you can quite easily manipulate non-vital tasks around it, just cross out the time and write in a new one, or whatever.
fun fact, i kinda lifted myself out of a shitty life situation completely on a whim, multiple times in my life. five years ago discovering a random subreddit gave me the spark to just start doing things differently, which lead to me losing 53kg/117lbs, of which i've maintained since.
don't downplay the power of feeling like doing something productive, it's a blessing that is both rare, and needs to be grabbed and embraced quickly before it floats off into the aether.
"Motivation" Tip 8: "Motivation" dosen't even exist
whoops! i wrote an article on something that doesn't exist. silly me.
you might notice while doing these routines that you're still not motivated, you're just getting shit done. especially at first, you might not feel any better about things, hell you might feel worse. it's only through reflection that you can really see how far you've come.
the fact of the matter is, discipline is far, far more powerful than motivation ever can be. but that doesn't have to be something as extreme as it sounds! it doesn't have to involve feeling terrible about yourself for "fucking up," or berating yourself for "failure" as i said before, all it has to entail is knowing that you earnestly tried.
remember that even small accomplishments, even a slight betterment of your self or your life, is still better than it was before. don't miss the forest for the trees - if you start doing this and you fail at 25% of your goals, that's still a 75% improvement from procrastinating and leaving things until a nebulous "later" or "tomorrow."
you can't magically become a more motivated, accomplished, better person. it's only through working your way up that you can better your situation, whatever it may be, and it will involve a lot of hardships and "failures." it is important to recognize when things are improving, even when imperfect, because perfect is the enemy of "good," as the saying goes. congratulate yourself for doing well, rather than beating up yourself for the things you've missed.
it's hard to not make that sound stupid to someone who's really used to self-hatred, but it plays into the exact reason that things like MMORPGs catch the attention of people like this - the feeling of gratification for simple, linear actions. unfortunately, life doesn't have a little experience bar and stat numbers that go up when you do enough things, judging your life situation is a lot more subjective and personal, but progress is there, you just have to look for it.
positive self-reinforcement really is very important, because it makes you far more likely to adhere to something like a schedule/journal than beating yourself up. it's a hard cycle to break, and i'm not saying you can do it at a flick of a switch, it is something that only can be achieved through through consistent, cognitive reinforcement.
basically, to finish this off because it's getting quite long: be kind but strict to yourself. it is only through a balance of the two that you can better your situation. much of the specifics is up to personal preference, but as long as through reflection you see things improving, then your failures don't really matter too much.
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