Hi there Zen Organizers,
In the previous article, I gave you four tips to manage your time more efficiently. In this one, we’ll cover a few techniques to help you stay motivated even when you’re not.
Let’s dive right into it!
1. Determine your why
Whether you study or work online – and even if you study or work “normally”– it’s crucial to determine why you’re doing what you’re doing.
"He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how."
Ask yourself the following questions:
If you’re studying:
Why are you studying? What are your real and deep motives?
Did you enroll because you really wanted to study or only because “you had to”? (think family or social pressure)
Do you genuinely enjoy the subject you chose, or did you choose it for “external reasons” (here again, family or social pressure, for example)?
Does your current program allow you to become the person you truly want to be in the future?
If you lived in a perfect world and you could get into any program of your choice or do any job you like, would you have chosen the same program? If not, what program would you have chosen instead?
If you’re working:
Why are you working (apart from surviving)?
Why are you working for X company? Why are you working in X sector? Do you genuinely like it?
Do you enjoy your job? Are you passionate about it?
Does this job allow you to be or become the person you truly want to be?
If you lived in a perfect world where you could be anything, would you do your actual job? If not, what would you do?
It’s hard to find the motivation to do something if it’s not what you truly want to do. My intention here is not to tell you to leave your job or abandon your university program if you've realized you’re not doing what you genuinely want to do. I only want you to realize that this might be the root cause of your lack of motivation.
"If your motivation and desire are great enough (that is, why you are acting), you'll take action even when it is quite difficult."
- Atomic Habits, James Clear
If you do realize that you’re not on the right path, then I suggest you do some deep thinking and try to find what might be the best path for you. However, you shouldn’t abandon your studies or your job too suddenly unless you have an alternative plan that can ensure some security.
On the contrary, if these questions made you realize you’re on the right path, then try to list the positive aspects that going through with your studies or doing your job will bring you. Whenever you feel unmotivated, think about these positive aspects.
Also, try to put the tasks you have to do into perspective: what greater objective or project do they allow you to complete? Don’t focus on the single mundane tasks, but try to link them to their higher purpose. You’ll see it’s much more motivating to do these annoying tasks when you see them in this optic!
It’s a bit like climbing a mountain, you see. If you think about all the single steps you’ll have to take to reach the summit, all the effort and the sweat it’ll require, it’s easy to be unmotivated and discouraged, and think about quitting right away. But when you imagine the breath-taking view you’ll get to see, and most importantly, the immense satisfaction you’ll get once you reach the top, it’s suddenly easier to take each step toward the summit. It’s crucial to visualize your successful self and let this vision motivate and guide you towards success.
So stay strong, resist, take one step at a time, and in less time than you think, you’ll get to the top of your mountain!
2. Set goals (short-term, mid-term, and long-term)
I’ve just mentioned that to keep your motivation high, you need to think in terms of greater objectives or bigger projects.
However, to do that, you need to have an idea of what these objectives or projects are.
So I’d suggest you take some time to write them down, whether they are personal or related to work or school, and whether they are long-term (for this month, quarter, or year) or short-term (for today or this week). Take five minutes to write everything down.
It’s important to write them down and not keep them in your head because it’s much easier to structure and actuate on something you’ve written down.
Of course, you might have too many goals to be able to work on all of them at the moment. So I’d suggest you keep only three per category (for today, for this week, for this month, etc.) for now.
It’s useless to set too many goals because you probably won’t be able to achieve all of them, and that would be very unmotivating…
To stick to the mountain metaphor, you’ve now identified your summits (i.e. your goals). Some are smaller than others (for example, your goals for today versus your goals for the year), but that’s OK.
Now that you’ve identified your goals – or your “summits” – you need to decide the path you’ll take to reach them. This path is made of all the small steps you’ll need to do to arrive at the summit; these steps are the tasks that need to be completed.
Try to deconstruct all your goals into the smallest possible actionable steps and establish significant thresholds.
For example, this year, one of my goals is to get my driver’s license. I’ve dissected this objective into the following actionable tasks and two thresholds (the theory and the practical exam):
It’s much easier to stay motivated when you perceive your continuous progression through all the steps you're taking towards your objective. Don't focus on the distance that separates you from your goal. Instead, regularly stop to assess all the tasks you’ve already accomplished that take you closer to success.
And keep in mind that the bigger the objective, the further is the summit.
For example, if you’re studying, you might find that a particular reading is useless and boring. However, think about the fact that this one reading is a small but important step towards passing your next exam, which in turn brings you a step closer to passing your class, which, in the end, will allow you to get your diploma. And if you want to see it further still, getting your diploma will hopefully help you to get the job you want, which will allow you to save some money to realize your projects, which will make you happier, etc.
If you’re working, putting in the extra work now might seem like a waste of time and energy. But then, your perseverance and effort might get noticed by your boss, who could consider you for the promotion you’ve been wanting for a while. This promotion could allow you to face new challenges and learn new things, which will make you feel more satisfied and accomplished.
Every small step counts when you’re working on accomplishing something important.
The bottom line is: when your motivation is low, don’t think about the immediate and mundane tasks you have to do. Think about their bigger purpose, the dream, the goal, the project they help realize, one step at a time.
3. Save the best for last - or not, it depends
This last tip about motivation depends on each person’s preference as well as the specific situation.
Let me explain: some people get discouraged when they keep the least appealing task for last while others prefer it this way.
If you know that you tend to procrastinate on tedious tasks and often end up not doing them at all, then it might be best to get rid of these first – and therefore save the best for last.
For example, I tend to procrastinate when I have to call somewhere to get information about something. Sometimes, I can postpone such tasks for weeks on end, even if the information I need is quite important. Therefore, when I have to do such a task, I do it first thing in the morning. This way, I can’t find excuses to postpone it.
Whether there’s a class, a task, or a project you don’t particularly enjoy doing, it might be best to get it done first, so it’s out of the way. You’ll even get a considerable motivation boost after completing it, which will help you go through the other tasks, classes, or projects you have.
On the contrary, if you know you need to be close to the deadline to get the motivation to do a task you’re not motivated to do, then do it this way. Just make sure you get started on it with enough anticipation to respect the deadline.
For instance, when I studied online, it happened a couple of times that I kept the writing of the final essay of boring and uninteresting classes as the last one I worked on. The deadline was the only source of motivation to finish these classes, so I used it to my advantage. However, I always made sure I started working on them with a decent amount of time before their deadline.
As you can see, this tip is not an either-or one. You can save the worst for last in some situations and save the best for last in others.
I hope these tips can help you find motivation when you’re running low! Do you have any tips to find or keep your motivation? Please share them here or on Instagram @zenlyorganized.
In the meantime, I wish you a motivated and zenly organized life,