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Self-Improvement / Motivation, Productivity and Focus

How to Get Motivated to Do Anything – 14 Ways to Get and Stay Motivated

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably got something on your to-do list that you should be doing… But just can’t bring yourself to do. We’ve all been there. Trying to get motivated is no easy task, especially if the thing we’re lacking motivation for is something we don’t really want to do. However, one of the hardest parts about feeling motivated is actually just getting started. So, if you’re reading this, then you’re in the right place. 

Whether you’re searching for how to get motivated to exercise, do the housework or finish that work project, these tips and tricks will help. 

Why We Might Experience a Lack of Motivation

Before we dig into those tips and tricks to get motivated, let’s look at why we might have a lack of motivation in the first place. First of all, let me say, it’s completely natural to not feel motivated all of the time. Not even the world’s greatest athletes spring out of bed in the morning, ready to tie their laces and get on the track. Motivation comes and goes, and it’s perfectly okay to have an ‘off day.’ 

However, a lack of motivation may also come down to several other factors including:

  • Sleep – Are we getting enough?! Ensuring we have enough energy for the day is vital if we want to stay motivated.
  • Nutrition – Are we eating the right foods? Many of us feel a lack of motivation during the afternoon slump if we’ve had a carb-heavy lunch.
  • Hydration – Hand in hand with the right nutrition comes getting enough water. If we’re dehydrated, then it’s natural to feel sluggish and unmotivated.
  • Mood – When we’re feeling low or anxious, it can be much harder to feel motivated. If low mood is a recurring issue that’s causing you to lose motivation, then you may want to talk to a medical professional.

We may also feel a lack of motivation if what we’re working on doesn’t fit in with our goals and/or intentions. If you’re slogging away at something that you’re not really enjoying, then it’s normal to lose motivation. Make sure that you wake up each day with a purposeful intention that can propel you through even the toughest of tasks.

How to Get Motivation to Do Pretty Much Anything

Now that we’ve looked at the potential underlying causes of low motivation, it’s time to work out how we change that. Below I’ve listed some of my favourite motivation tricks for when that “I can’t be bothered” kicks in. If you’ve taken the Spring into Action course, you may recognise some of these too!

The Anti-Burnout Matrix

I’ve used a lot of different methods over the years to try and set a routine that gets me motivated. Combining my favourites, I recently came up with The Anti-Burnout Matrix which has been a game-changer for me and for those I’ve shown it to. The concept is simple: Plan your tasks based on your energy levels, both mentally and physically. Here’s what it looks like:

You use the section on the left to write out anything you have or want to do. You then decide where they fit on the matrix, depending on whether they need high or low physical or mental energy. Instead of scheduling your day based on the hours in it, you map out your day based on your energy levels. This is ideal for those who work different shift patterns, too! 

Once you’ve used this for a little while, you’ll begin to notice your natural motivation levels throughout the days and weeks. Instead of trying to motivate ourselves to do something we have very little energy for (whether physical or mental), we can work through our to-do list in a way that works for us.

The Pairing Trick

This is a really simple way to get motivated, but it’s also one of my favourites. All you need to do is write out everything you ‘have’ to do but don’t really enjoy doing (ahem, housework) and then write out all of the things you would rather be doing every day instead. Now, pair them together! For example:

I struggle to get motivated for housework, but I love listening to the Happy Place podcast.

So, I will only listen to the Happy Place podcast when I am doing the housework. This works for so many different things. I know people who only watch their favourite shows on Netflix when they’re on their exercise bike. Or they’ll listen to an audiobook while doing their tax returns. Not everything can be paired so neatly, however, and that’s where the next trick comes in.

The Pomodoro Technique

This was one of my first ever posts on The Anti-Burnout Club, because it’s one of my favourite ways to get motivated, stay motivated, and fit in self-care too. I’ve written about the Pomodoro Technique in detail here, but I’ll briefly cover it in this post too.

First, pick the one thing you want to concentrate on. 

  • Now, set a timer for 25 minutes. This is where you’re going to concentrate solely on that task, without any distractions! There are apps and ways to block out distractions covered in the full post.
  • When the timer goes off, you’ll want to set another timer for 5 minutes. This is your break, where you can get up, stretch, do something completely different, and fit in that self-care. You can also use this with the pairing technique by doing something you love during this time.
  • You’ll repeat this cycle four times (two hours) before taking a longer 30-60 minute break or until you’ve completed any tasks you wanted to get off your to-do list.

I love this technique because it’s so simple, yet so effective. I do pretty much anything I need to do using the Pomodoro Method (including writing this) and love racing against the clock. 

The Two Minute Timer

This is another one of my favourite motivation tricks and I’ve covered it in various forms during challenges on The Anti-Burnout Club. If you have something you really, really struggle to get started on then try this!

Set a timer for two minutes and promise yourself that you’ll take action on that task for the whole two minutes. That’s it!

At The ABC we also use this for exercise challenges, for those who don’t feel motivated to move. All you need to do is pick one song and move for the duration of that song. Really, that’s it!

The hardest thing about getting motivated is usually just getting started. However, two minutes isn’t a long time to work on something! So, we can generally convince ourselves that we’ll work on that thing for two minutes without any issues. What often happens is that we get the ball rolling and want to continue.

I have a full post on how the two-minute trick works here and I’d highly recommend trying this one straight away, for whatever it is you want to focus on!

The Visualisation Trick

What would you feel like if the thing you’re lacking motivation for was already done? This is something I ask myself both when I’m lacking to get motivated and stay motivated throughout a task. For this, you can try a little visualisation to kickstart that motivation.

  • Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths first.
  • Now, imagine that you have completed whatever task it is you’re struggling with.
  • Imagine that it’s ticked off your to-do list and exactly how you feel at that moment, knowing that it’s done.
  • Really think about the feelings and emotions that come with having completed that task. Do you feel relieved? Elated? A sense of accomplishment? What will the rest of your day be like knowing that you’ve got that thing done?

I do this with the housework often! I close my eyes and picture a clean, tidy house. I really visualise the sparkling kitchen counter and how happy I feel when everything smells fresh. Then, whenever I feel a lack of motivation kicking in, I come back to this. And remind myself why I wanted to complete this task in the first place.

You can use the visualisation trick with pretty much any task, including exercise or any habit that you want to introduce into your life.

The Brain Dump

Another firm favourite of mine and this was a big hit during 31 Days of Wellness! Often we can struggle to get motivated because we have so many other things taking up space in our minds. It can make us feel overwhelmed or even anxious, with nagging thoughts telling us that we need to be focused on something else.

So, when we feel like this, it’s time to take a Brain Dump! I’ve got a whole guide on how to brain dump here. Effectively, it’s getting everything out of your head and onto a piece of paper. You can then choose to spend some time categorising it and adding things to a to-do list. I find this works really well with The Anti-Burnout Matrix!

Tell Your Accountability Buddy

Do you know what really helps with motivation? A support network! It’s why we always pair up accountability buddies during our challenges and research has proven it can help you stay motivated, even when times are tough.

By telling someone else that you’re going to focus on a task, you’ve committed to that action. It’s a lot harder to back out if someone else is holding you accountable! You may want to use friends and family members for this or go big and post on social media. Either way, having someone to hold you accountable will kickstart your motivation and keep you motivated throughout.

Make it Brand New

Why is it that we can often feel so excited and naturally motivated when we start something new? You may have noticed how easy it is to get started on something like a new project, habit or even exercise routine. We’re swept away in the excitement of this new thing and that keeps us motivated to start.

However, as the novelty wears off, it’s very easy for us to lose motivation. When this happens, it’s time to make it brand new again. Let’s say, for example, that you start a new exercise habit and you really stick at it for the first week. However, by week two, life takes over and you stop feeling motivated enough to carry on.

When this happens, try switching things up. Listen to a new playlist when you exercise, take your mat outside or move it to another part of the house. You could even try a different type of movement to keep things fresh!

This works for pretty much anything. Housework? Buy some different smelling cleaning products to change things up. Working on a project? Move your desk around or add a fresh bunch of flowers to it. Keep things new and exciting to stay motivated!

Remove Obstacles

There more difficult it is to do something, the less likely we’ll be to do it. This is a brilliant trick from James Clear’s book, ‘Atomic Habits’ that says: Make it easy! We want to remove all friction that can slow us down and make it easier for us to say “I can’t be bothered to do that today.”

So, if you want to exercise more, then make it easy to do so. If all of your workout clothes are hidden away in drawers, you can’t find your trainers, and your yoga mat is tucked away in a cupboard, what’s going to happen? By the time you’ve got everything together, you’ll have lost all motivation.

In this example, you’ll want to lay your workout clothes out ready for the day, put your trainers somewhere you can see them, and even roll your yoga mat out the night before. 

Again, this can work for pretty much anything you want to focus on or make a habit. For housework, put all of your cleaning products out ready. Want to eat better? Hide away the junk food and put healthy snacks out in the kitchen instead.

Go Back to Basics

At the beginning of this article, we looked at why we might feel a lack of motivation and any underlying causes. Sometimes, the simplest answer is the best. If you’re struggling to find motivation most days a week, then you may want to go back to basics.

Are you sleeping enough? Are you drinking enough water and eating nutritious food? By focusing on the very basics of self-care, we can often find that this is enough to help boost our energy and natural motivation levels. 

Be honest with yourself and ask whether you have the basics covered first. Even just a glass of cold water can boost our energy and motivation levels if we’re actually dehydrated.

Create a Routine

For many of us, life can feel a bit all over the place right now. Our routines have gone through a huge upheaval and we might be finding it difficult to stay motivated because of that. Getting back into a routine can be really helpful for our motivation levels, but also our mental health overall.

Now, you don’t need to meticulously plan out every hour or every day to have a good routine going. However, knowing what your focus is for the day and what you want to get done can help you track progress and feel like you’re moving forward. 

Use The Anti-Burnout Matrix to plot out your to-do list for the day and then work your routine around that. If you know that you’re going to have high motivation levels in the morning, then get your toughest task done first (this is called Eating the Frog)! When you know energy levels are going to dip, take a nap or invest some time into self-care. 

Goals and Intentions

As mentioned earlier, a lack of motivation may also come from not setting the right goals and intentions – or not setting any at all! As humans, we need to know that we’re working towards something that is meaningful to us.

Perhaps it’s time to go back to the very beginning and ask ourselves, “Why?” You’ll find a whole guide on setting goals and intentions here. If you wake up every morning and set an intention for the day, you’ll find it easier to get the motivation needed to keep going.

Watch How you Talk to Yourself

During Motivation Week for Spring into Action, we hosted a Live Q&A with counsellor Gemma and CBT psychotherapist Rach. We received plenty of questions from people who thought they were lazy or a failure for struggling with motivation. The way you talk to yourself really matters and if we constantly put ourselves down, we may experience a further lack of motivation from low mood or a lack of confidence.

Be mindful of how you talk to yourself. Be more positive with that inner monologue, and focus on the things you did achieve today – not the things you didn’t. I’d highly recommend watching the Live Q&A which we made public, as it’s packed full of even more helpful tips and tricks on motivation. 

Accept the Ebbs and Flows

Following on from that, it’s important to remember that motivation is not linear. There aren’t people who are born with a constant state of motivation – we all go through ebbs and flows. Sometimes, life gets hectic, our routine goes out of the window, and we struggle to stay on track. That is perfectly normal.

What happens next, however, is completely down to you. If you decide to put yourself down and call yourself a failure, then you’ll end up in a negative cycle that will make it almost impossible to achieve your goals. If you decide to write off one bad day, or week, as exactly that, then you’ll find it a lot easier to find motivation going forward.

Motivation is a tricky thing to master and there will be times when our bodies tell us we need to slow down. Listen to that! If you need a break, take the break. If you’re using these tricks to work 15 hour days and then wonder why you’re so tired by Wednesday, go back to basics. Make some time for yourself, make sure that you’re not burning out, and enjoy each task with a mindful purpose. That is the most important part of any motivation technique, tip or trick.

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