Motivation Makeover: How to Maintain Your Daily Grind

Picture this: It’s October 2020, COVID-19 is still prevalent (yet it feels like a distant memory), you have your mask in one hand, and your pumpkin spice is in the other. You’re ready for daily zoom calls, but not only is your laptop battery on 10%, so are your mind and body.

I know I’m not alone in saying that my motivation these days has reached an all-time low. While I know it only goes up from here, I have been struggling to understand how to change it. As a try-hard college student, workaholic, and semi-perfectionist, I’ve learned that motivation isn’t static, nor is it reliable. Some days you feel like you can take on the world, and other days there’s nothing you want more than to get into a blanket burrito and hide. If motivation is something that we can’t fall back on, then how do we get it to serve us in this rough political and emotional climate we are in? 

I mean despite all the craziness going on in the world, we all still have work or go to school in the morning. Here’s how I’ve been handling my inconsistent moods, monotonous routine, and wavering motivation levels:

Setting Myself Up for Success

A huge part of setting yourself up for success is understanding the mind and human behavior. Not to get too psychological, as I am NOT a licensed professional, but there are behaviors and biases that we all have that can keep us away from our goals. We have evolved to crave comfort, safety, and convenience to avoid what our concern was back in the day, “danger”.

James Clear lays it out perfectly in his book Atomic Habits as he states, the first law of behavior change is to “make it obvious”. This means, you need to identify and eliminate distractions, so you can make room for your true goals and motivations. Your environment has a huge impact on how you feel and your daily outputs, so I took some time to analyze and optimize mine.

On any given day, I am always in the mood for a nice episode of Gossip Girl, my hourly scroll through Instagram, and an order of Chipotle. However, none of these activities increase my motivation to get work done or complete my personal tasks. To minimize my natural tendencies of being lazy and procrastinating, I do things like:

  • Go to sleep on time, because crankiness is just one more issue for the next day

  • Plan my days out in advance so I eliminate decision making

  • Hide my phone during the workday

  • Avoid turning on my tv and listen to music instead

  • Give myself small rewards during the day to keep myself going (yes, almost like a dog)

Starting Small

Baby steps are not just for babies. Adults need them too! I am the type of person who wants to take on the whole world in one day and I genuinely expect that it will happen by 9 pm (hence, the semi-perfectionism). However, that perfectionist mindset only sets you up for failure. We all know that high hopes and unmet expectations are huge triggers for decreased motivation levels, so avoid this altogether!

To combat unrealistic expectations, I started to take the smallest steps toward improvement in my work. James Clear said “...people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity”. I can’t tell you how true this is. If you have a big work project, big assignment due, or just even a personal goal, break it down into the smallest step you feel comfortable or motivated to do. Want to learn to paint? Day one can be just signing up for the class. It can be that simple.

Incorporating Breaks into my Day

It’s sort of counterintuitive to rest when we feel we need to work more, but breaks are SO overlooked. As humans, we need to rest just as much as we work, and American society has completely disregarded that. The “hustle” culture can leave you burned out and worse off than if you took small breaks to preserve your sanity. Even when you aren’t working on a task, your brain is, and this can be exhaustive if you don’t allow it to not focus for some time. 

Breaks inspire creativity and relaxation, which is much better for your overall mood and motivation. In my experience, one snack break or 10 minutes of meditation has gotten me through a day I would have given up on, had I not taken some time to slow down. It is just as important and necessary as working. If you keep taking from your motivation jar and don’t replenish it, you’ll eventually run out.

Tracking My Progress & Rewarding Myself

A big part of adulting and keeping your motivation up is reaching milestones and rewarding yourself, because sometimes, no one else will! Tracking your progress and creating your own milestones can help in what seems like a big stretch of adulthood. 

In high school and college, it was very easy for me to see how far I’ve come with my work. There were midterms, end of semester celebrations, graduation, special honors, and recognition. Now, it is up to me to make sure the tasks I complete at work and at home are acknowledged.

Getting a simple wall or desk calendar, marking your baby steps towards a habit or goal, and giving yourself rewards keeps your motivation levels up. Think of it as a self-imposed finish line. For me, this can look like an extra hour of TV, a self-care day, or even a boba run if I complete my tasks. 

It’s also nice to visually see how far you’ve come in your work, whatever that may be, and celebrate it! If your goal is to exercise and you’ve exercised for even 3 days straight, that’s 3 more workouts you didn’t do before. 

Motivate yourself by being your own cheerleader!

Being Patient & Accepting Failure

As an impatient person, this may have been the hardest step for me, but one of the most important. Setting yourself up for success comes with being patient and giving yourself grace. You will “fail” at times and there will be days where you “did everything right”, but the motivation and set up just isn’t working. That’s okay! There will be days where you took baby steps, and you’re on track, but you’re just not impressed with your progress. That’s also okay! Listen to your body and be patient with yourself. 

This isn’t a one size fits all, nor will this solve all of your motivation loss, but it’s a start. You will learn more about yourself and what motivates you for longer periods of time, and when it doesn’t, you can switch it up. 

Unfortunately, but fortunately, staying motivated is a lifelong process and it is completely normal to have periods where you’re trying to figure it all out. That’s what makes it fun and exciting every time you do figure it out!

Feeling motivated yet? If you are, perfect. If not, that’s fine too! Just know that this feeling doesn’t last forever, and you will get on track sooner than you think. If you have any tips on staying motivated, comment below. We’re in this together!

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