Where’s My Motivation? 4 Things To Do When You Don’t Wanna Do Anything

Where's My Motivation?

Photo: Flickr/morgacasey

I knew this post was coming. I knew when the Word Carnival would be, and I could have calculated the exact date that this article was due many months ago if I’d needed to for some reason. (We’re that organized, y’all.) So, I prepared for it in the usual way: I buried myself in new design and website work for which I’m very grateful; in bouncing around to my kids’ schools, basketball games, gymnastics, and play rehearsals; in practicing to play guitar. I puttered in the yard, read a psychology book, grappled with the really pressing issues that concern only the imaginary people in my forthcoming fiction novel. I taught both traditional and computer art to kids of all ages. I even did an illustration for someone ELSE’S blog post. Finally, however, I could prepare no further, and with a little whip-cracking cleverly disguised as light hearted encouragement, it was time to watch a few online videos and THEN write this article.

Ok, I’m back from playing Words With Friends. 34 Points for “ZED”, ha!

What were we doing? Oh, right.
See, I don’t really want to write this article…which is strange, because I actually enjoy writing and think I’m decent at it, and I like having articles finished. It’s not this topic necessarily, either, which leads me to think that I’m just not motivated in general right now. Life marches on, though, and what I do for money literally puts food on the table…so how to get out of a funk, fast? How to remind myself that the benefits to my family – and to myself, both professionally and personally – of me working from home far outweigh the drawbacks?

On the one hand, clearly I don’t have this all figured out, or don’t yet have the iron discipline to apply it consistently. I get into unmotivated funks, and so do you. On the other hand, I think I have some ideas for getting better.

1. Maintain certain tasks – be they daily, weekly, whatever – that “must” be done.
I’m not talking about “brush my teeth” or “pick the kids up from school”…I’m talking about things that don’t actually HAVE to be done. Huh? What I find is that the things that actually, truly MUST be done are plentiful enough that they crowd out the tasks we’d ordinarily like – even love? – to do, if only we had the time or energy or could justify the value of our own sanity or intellectual pursuits or spiritual growth or whatever to actually make and maintain space for them. So pick a small handful of things – maybe they directly pertain to your business, maybe they don’t – and decide that you’re committed. They have to get done. For some people, this creates a push on its own…a regimen that frankly at first relies in some measure on the let-down you may feel if you DON’T accomplish them, but pretty quickly evolves to run on the thrill of doing them.

The paradox of this is that for some people, the concept of “HAVE TO” is a mega-turn-off all by itself. We’re the captains of our own destinies, dammit!…we don’t bend to “have to”! Fine. Play with the semantics until you find something you won’t bristle at, like “My day is not complete until/unless I…” or “Ah, 1 pm! Time for my opportunity to…”

2. Use the activities you enjoy most as rewards for completing the tasks you don’t.
Piles of psychology about the effects of rewards aside, I did this today: I saved some of the tasks that I most looked forward to until AFTER I’d done some less savory ones. This is of course tempered by what resources are required for the tasks and which of those are available when, and which job is “hotter” than the others and all that…but when all is basically equal, holding a carrot out for yourself can move you right along.

3. Change Something.
Well, duh. We’re trying to get out of an unmotivated funk here, right? If you’re sitting while you work, stand up. Walk around. Go outside. (I stand while I work, so actually sitting down for a few minutes is a great treat!) Play with the dog. Move some furniture around. Do some jumping jacks, seriously.

Not only is this about shaking up your so-familiar-they’re-boring surroundings, but any activity at all gets your blood flowing. This is generally considered in many disciplines to be a good thing.

4. Tap into a support group that’ll hold your feet to the fire in a loving way.
Maybe that just means asking your kids to keep you on deadline by reminding you an hour before dinner, or scheduling a call with a friend at 5pm, knowing that your work day’d better be done by then. Maybe it means having awesome business bloggers with whom you’re interdependent for great wisdom and humor, who want to hear from you as much as you do from them. The point is to find or activate those people in your life who can say “You’re doing great!” as easily as “You need to get this done. I know you can!”.

<deep breath>
I feel better already, because I’ve just finished this article in time to leave for a men’s group that I know I’ll feel supported at. Taking my own advice makes me look so smart.

I’m eager to hear yours! What do you do to get your motivation back?

This post is part of the January 2013 Word Carnival. Every month, the members of our group write about some democratically agreed-upon topic. This month’s topic is about beating the motivation blues and learning to love your business again. Check out all of the excellent articles on this topic HERE.

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8 Responses to Where’s My Motivation? 4 Things To Do When You Don’t Wanna Do Anything

  1. Oh, Evan, you’re a man after my own heart!

    After devouring your scrumptious post, I realized these are the exact approaches to staying motivated I’ve been taking for a long time. I especially love to save tasks I enjoy most for AFTER the drudgery ends. Kinda reminds me of how I used to eat meals when I was a kid. Did you do this, too? I always saved whatever I liked best on my dinner plate for LAST. Usually it was potatoes (I really, really love potatoes!)

    “Changing” something ( I also call that “taking your mind off your mind” LOL!) is a great motivator for me, as well. Taking a break to sit outside on my patio and read a few chapters of a book, take one of my dogs for a walk, run a quick errand, write a note in an upcoming birthday card, watch a music video, write some lyrics, or maybe even color my hair. Changing things up definitely works to re-energize me.

    Super post!
    Melanie Kissell recently posted..Motivation and My Gas TankMy Profile

  2. Tea Silvestre says:

    Save the best for last! That’s exactly what I do, too. (I can’t believe I didn’t use that one for my own post, Evan). Oh the wisdom. So glad you’re back in the blogging saddle. We missed you!
    Tea Silvestre recently posted..This Week’s Marketing Dish: Spaghetti & MeatballsMy Profile

  3. Love this approach, Evan, especially rewarding myself, but it’s something I should do more consistently so I get to read books and have WWF fests along with getting work done. Oh, and Melanie, I still save the best bits for last on my plate – I’m never growing up (not all the way, anyway!)
    Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted..Dun & Bradstreet and my Business ArticleMy Profile

  4. Carol Lynn is really quite skilled at that whip-cracking “ha ha ha yeah but DO IT” thing, isn’t she? 😀 I’m a HUGE believer in #1 – what I call “the minimum daily requirements” approach. That really revolutionized my whole productivity plan, once I got clear on what those non-negotiables were.
    Annie Sisk (Pajama Productivity) recently posted..How to Find and Finesse Your Biz Mojo When It’s Been Wrangled and Wrestled Into a Sobbing Pile of Mush By RealityMy Profile

  5. I used to have a small group of friends that would meet at my house (all but one has moved away! I guess you could say that says something about my company, haha) called the “Accountabillibuddies”.

    We’d talk about what we were doing that week, how we were meeting specific challenges, what was standing in our way, and our plan to defeat any roadblocks. We also talked about what we needed from each other to keep going – what deadlines we’d set, what projects we had in the pipeline, and that way, we’d know the other buddies would ask us about that deadline next time.

    It worked like a charm! Gotta build up another group like that. Thanks evan!
    Nick Armstrong recently posted..How’d Those New Years Resolutions Go For You?My Profile

  6. Carol Lynn says:

    Whoohoo for peer pressure! I’m glad you got your writing on again, glad you did me an awesome drawing and glad glad glad.

    Motivation is a fickle beast, isn’t it? And we find it again not by looking or cajoling or trying… we find it by playing mind games with ourselves. We distract, we test semantics, we bribe ourselves with shiny objects. People are weird. We are SO weird :)

    I do all of what you said here. Rewards, changes of scenery, doing “other stuff”. Isn’t it amazing how guilty you can feel just for doing something you enjoy as opposed to something you “have to”?

    Usually a change of scenery works best for me, or, not to be repetitive, a large box of cookies. And one thing I can’t control but that works wonders – spring! When it gets warmer and I can actually open windows again, motivation is all over the place. makes a good case for a long winter vacation :)

    So glad you shared your thoughts on this one (and feel better). Now keep going!
    Carol Lynn recently posted..If You Don’t Hate Your Business, You’re Doing It WrongMy Profile

  7. Nicole Fende says:

    Admit it Evan, you were channeling Annie with that y’all.
    As I was reading this I wondered if I had fallen asleep and was somehow reading about myself. You’ve captured some of my challenges perfectly! Whenever SHOULD or HAVE TO crop up my reaction is, well, not positive. I do use the reward afterward strategy, and may consider the furniture thing. Thanks :)
    Nicole Fende recently posted..Turning 40 – How I Embraced This Scary NumberMy Profile

  8. Reality…truth…honest…I absolutely love it. Maybe it’s a new year, January thing, we put too much pressure on subconsciously that it’s a new year and we should be happy, happy, joy, joy, new year -new opportunities, and yet we aren’t there because we worked so hard the past few months, struggled to get Christmas stuff done, spent a lot of money and now we have to make up for it…oops my reality! Love your post as it is exactly what I was going through and proud I actually wrote something, and published it. That was pure motivation in support of your 1st suggestion…get things done that “must” be done…Participating in this carnival was a must for the 1st month of the year and it feels good to have accomplished that. I also did not realize you are in Southern Cali….we will have to meet up one day very soon!
    Michelle Church recently posted..Running on Fumes…Re-fill the Tank!My Profile

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