We often hear people say “I’m not motivated”, or “I’m not a motivated person”, or “I don’t have motivation”. Almost ascribing it to their identity, even when it isn’t really a personality trait. And this view leads to people finding it hard to complete the things that they set out to do or give up even before they start, just because of the belief that “I’m not motivated”. This is a common phenomenon and I’m pretty sure most of us have been in that place more often than we would like.
To beat this loop of trying to find motivation, not finding it, then not getting your work done, we need to beat the core belief that motivation is something that we are. No. It’s something that we acquire. It’s not a personality trait but a state, and a skill. It’s not about someone being a less motivated person or a more motivated person, it’s more about how one can reach that state of motivation (just that for some people it may come a little easier than others). Or pull out that intrinsic motivational capacity. And it is also a skill. Which means that you get better with practice.
One of the best advice that I had ever heard about motivation is to not depend on it. Don’t depend on your motivation. If each time you have something to do you depend on your motivation to get it done, that’s a sure-fire way to not get it done any time soon. Probably the best thing to do is to make a time for your work and sit down to get it done even when you “don’t feel like it”. More often than not, you won’t feel like it anytime soon. Merely depending on your motivation usually lead you to procrastinate till the last moment, and then work on your stuff under a stress-induced motivation rather than the actual motivation that you probably were looking for.
Often people try to look for ways to get motivation, they try all sorts of different things from environmental changes to mindset changes. If you fall into that trap of trying to find the motivation to get your work done instead of trying to just get your work done, you might often find yourself more unmotivated than you were when you began. But does that golden occasions of magical motivated moments where you feel like you can do anything happen? Yes. Of course. The problem is, how often does that happen? For most of us, not enough to meet the demands of the actual amount of things we have to do.
Therefore, the key is to not depend on motivation. And make yourself get used to sitting down to work without it, by creating a specific space or time period that is set up just for specific work. And when you do get that golden magical motivated moments, it becomes a bonus! But motivation is also a skill, that gets better with practice.
What does that mean then, if we were to not depend on motivation? It means that, usually, when we somehow just get started on the work and continue on for a few minutes in, that’s sometimes all it takes for us to get into “the zone” and then keep on working. ‘Starting’ usually is half the task. Everything seems so much more daunting and difficult and impossible right before you start it. If you can just get past that initial resistance and somehow just get yourself to start the work, it goes much smoother than you would have thought. And the ‘motivation’ that you kept looking for to start the project or work, just automatically starts coming in. It may not last long initially. And that’s where the practice comes. The more you practice getting yourself to work without motivation, the more the motivation comes easy.
Easy said than done? Maybe initially, but definitely not impossible. After all, what change comes easy? Nevertheless here are a few things you can keep in mind to make this process of getting your work done when you “don’t feel like it” a bit easier than it can get.
Listen to your body clock
We all have that one part of the day where we work the best. Where we feel most energetic than the other times. For some people it’s the early mornings, for some it’s late at night, and for some others, it may be during that dusk time. If you don’t know what is yours, experiment! Try working during different hours of the day and see when you have the most energy. And then schedule the things you have to do depending on your energy levels, such that you do the things that require most energy when you have the most energy and vice-versa. Our biological clock works in a manner that is beneficial to us in ways that we probably never knew. So listen to it, and work in accordance with it rather than trying to fight against it. Listening to our body like that would do wonders for various aspects of our lives.
Take note of your golden magical motivated moments
When you do have those rare occasions of bouts of motivations, take note of it. What were you doing right before that moment? How was your mental state or how were you feeling right before and at that moment? How did your body feel? What time of the day was it? What kind of environment were you in? Reflect on the different aspects of yourself and your surrounding when that happened. So that you can try to recreate it to feel a similar way the next time. It might work, it might not a lot of the times, but the key here is ‘trying’. Because, as we’ve established earlier, the more you try the easier it becomes.
Use the Pomodoro technique to beat the resistance to start
As mentioned earlier, the hardest part of trying to get your work done when you don’t feel like it is getting started. Find different ways that you can beat your resistance to starting. One effective way is using the Pomodoro technique. This is a productivity technique where you set a timer for 25 minutes and do absolute focused work for that 25 minutes without any distractions and then take a 5 minutes break. And you repeat this phases till your work is done. To beat that starting trouble, tell yourself that you will only work for this one 25 minutes session, it doesn’t matter how bad the work turns out to be, you’ll just work for this time and then do whatever you want. 25 minutes is not that long of a time nor too short, so it’s quite easy to persuade yourself to work for that time. More often than not, what ends up happening is that you start working and you slowly get into the zone and continue your work for longer. But even if that doesn’t happen, you still got that 25 minutes of work done rather than nothing. You can always do another 25 minutes later on.
Find or create your sweet space
Just like I said to find the time of day where you work best, also find or create a space you work best. It may be in the library, a cafe, a quiet space in your bedroom, or even the kitchen. Wherever it is, find what works for you. Find what kind of environmental stimulus helps you work; some people need utmost silence, some need some background noise like music or nature sounds or even plain chatter like the ones in cafes. Find out what situation helps you work better and choose that place to do your work. This again helps a lot in getting started when you don’t feel like it, as the moment you go to your ‘sweet’ space, your brain knows it’s work time.
And these days, you don’t even have to go to a cafe to feel like you’re in one. There are apps that give you timers with background sounds that range from white noise and nature sounds to calming music and cafe or library sounds and even animal sounds like cat purr. So explore, experiment, and find what works best for you.