How to overcome low motivation

There have been two periods in my life where I’ve suffered from severely low motivation.

Both times, I have been faced with either indefinite or seemingly indefinitely long periods of free time, with very few commitments. Both times, I needed to use that free time to further a long-term goal.

I like to think I’m quite driven and self-motivated, but what I found myself doing was more like this:

  • Putting off getting up by going back to bed with my morning cereal
  • Staying in bed once the cereal was finished, looking at Facebook
  • Getting drawn into hours of viral videos
  • Getting up much later than planned and after my morning productivity peak had passed
  • Deciding to stay at home instead of going to the library
  • Getting out my laptop but spending an hour surfing instead of working
  • Intending to take a short break after half an hour’s work and it turning into another hour surfing
  • Pretty much writing the day off as a failure if I had snoozed for 10 minutes after my alarm, or had had to pop out for milk for my morning tea
  • Putting off starting work because there were too many papers on my desk
  • Putting off starting work because my room was untidy
  • Obsessively checking every app for notifications
  • Having to incentivise myself to work but in counterproductive ways, like sitting in noisy cafés and buying expensive chai lattes

Any of this sound familiar?! Both times, I had a terrible case of low motivation. So, how did I get out of it?

On this second occasion of low motivation, it took a late-night rant with a friend to make me realise what the problem was.

Deep down, I knew what was happening, and I knew that this had been my problem the first time round. I was ignoring the problem – never good news.

The problem was that I had given up. I didn’t think I could do it (reach my goal), so what was the point of trying? If there’s no point in trying, then I might as well allow myself to be distracted by the mess on my desk and the viral spiral.

The problem was a lack of confidence. I know I keep banging on about confidence, but life just keeps hammering it home. I’m not sure how much more strongly I can say that lack of confidence is pretty much the root of all evil, the devil on your shoulder telling you you’re just not good enough. Don’t let it win!!

Lessons learnt about the mysteries of motivation:

  1. Repairing damaged confidence is only the first step: you’ll then need to address the bad habits you may have slid into (e.g. not going to the library, not leaving your phone where its vibrations can’t be heard)
  2. Rant more, asap. If I had ranted earlier, I would have realised sooner what the problem was and could have got out of my rut sooner
  3. Above all, next time you lose your mojo, ask yourself instead whether you’ve lost your self-belief.

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