It’s easy to stay motivated when you have others cheering you on. Your friends and co-workers can be supportive and encouraging and even pitch in to help when you have projects or tasks to finish. And when you are losing your enthusiasm, theirs can be contagious. It’s good to have friends around to keep you going. But how are you on the motivation scale when you’re alone? How motivated could you keep yourself if you were to be alone for a week? If you don’t know, or if you know already that you lose your motivation, then you have some work to do.
What Lack of Motivation Looks Like
We all have occasional days of being fully and wonderfully lazy. After all, we work hard, we play hard, and it’s time to simply veg out when we have some alone time. This can be wonderfully renewing, so long as it is occasional. But, if it becomes habitual when no one else is “looking,” then you are missing out on getting a lot accomplished that could actually result in a better you.
Here’s a bit of a checklist test. Ask yourself if you do these things every time you are alone
- Spend the day and evening watching TV and/or playing video games
- Stay on Facebook for several hours, commenting on everyone’s posts
- Have long, pointless phone conversations with friends because you are not with them
- Look at projects, think about how you should get to them, but then opt for “some other time”
- Ruminate about things – either from your past or about your future
Admit it. If you are doing this a lot when you are alone, then you are unmotivated and a procrastinator unless others are around. This is a dangerous habit to form because you lose the ability to motivate yourself. And there will be times when others won’t be around, important tasks will loom before you, and you will not be able to get started, much less complete them.
So, how do you develop the habits of motivating yourself? Try these for starters.
1. Think the “end” rather than the “beginning.”
Your house/apartment is a mess and pretty dirty too. If you can’t get yourself going, walk into each room and get a visual of what it will look like when it’s clean and orderly. Sometimes that visual is all you need. And here’s a related “trick.” When you first wake up in the morning, visualize your day from start to finish. See yourself getting things done.
2. Set up a competition with yourself.
This works if you are naturally competitive. Say to yourself, “I bet you can’t get that one wall painted in 45 minutes. Set a timer and go for it.Turning tasks into a competitive game is both fun and motivating.
3. And what’s a competition without a reward?
You’ve brought some work home and you just can’t get started. It’s boring and tedious, and there’s no one there to pitch in. And you have to meet a deadline. Plan what you “get” when you get it done – something good, and don’t cheat. When you finish it, you get to go for your favorite burger and a beer or order pizza.
4. Tell others what you are going to do.
Your yard is looking like the forest primeval, and you have told everyone at happy hour last night that you are going to spend the entire day getting it cleaned up. Once you have told others, you pretty much “own” it, and you should be able to muster up the motivation so you won’t have to admit that you failed.
5. Break a task down into smaller chunks.
And write each chunk down in order. Attack just the first chunk. Then go check your email or get on Facebook, but just for 15 minutes. Set a timer. Go back and pick up chunk #2 and so on.
6. If the task is physical, get that music on
Upbeat music tends to energize people. So, while you get to that project that has been half-finished for the past 3 months, attack it to the music. Get the last of those Christmas decorations down and put away; clean out that fridge; go through your closet and drawers and throw stuff away; go into that horrible place, the garage, and clean it.
7. Turn off your phone
You can’t turn it back on until you have put in two hours on the tasks you know you have to get finished. Negative reinforcement sometimes goes a long way to motivate people.
8. Post-it notes with inspirational quotes
Put them in places where you usually go to veg – like on the TV screen or your game console, or that stuffed chair you sit in and fall asleep.
9. Make a list in advance
Here are a couple of things about lists. It’s psychologically very rewarding to cross things off as they get done. And crossing things off tends to motivate us to move on. The other thing is this: you have to start at #1 and you are not allowed to move to any other item on the list until #1 is finished. If you put the least favorite task as #1, and stick to this “rule,” chances are you will get the rest done.
10. Take a cold shower
This will definitely wake you up and will actually get your blood flow going.
11. Do not multi-task
This clutters your mind. There’s a great old saying – “Only one potato at a time”. You can only plant one potato at a time and you can only harvest one potato at a time. The same goes for tasks that require your focus.
12. Let in the light
There is something stimulating about having all of the blinds and curtains open, letting in all of the light you can. And if weather permits, open up windows. Fresh air keeps you alert.
13. Do something aerobic
When you feel yourself drifting off and you’re ready to go veg, do some jumping jacks or running in place. This will restore energy.
14. Do the visible things first
There is something motivating about physically seeing the results of our work that motivates us. De-cluttering your workspace just makes you more emotionally ready to get going; printing out that report or post you just finished, rather than only emailing it off, gives you a physical reminder of what you have accomplished.
15. Talk to yourself as you are working
If you can give yourself little pep talks while you are attacking those tasks, you can motivate yourself to continue. And do it out loud. Say things like “C’mon. You can get this done – just a little more to go.” Be your own cheerleader.
No question about it. It’s tough to motivate yourself when there are no others around you that you need or want to perform for. External praise and encouragement is a huge motivator. But if you can get into the habit of motivating yourself from within, you will have developed a skill that will serve you for a lifetime, under any circumstances. It gives you an independence of action that will serve you well.