6 Steps to Take When You're Feeling Unmotivated

Finding motivation can be difficult, because it’s such a fleeting thing. One day you’re a lean, mean, energized machine, smashing through your projects, checking off your goals, and looking good while doing it. The next day, you’re on the couch, dreading your to-do list, and wondering where all of that energy went.

It’s a frustrating feeling, especially since today’s busy world makes it easy to fall behind. And that fear of losing progress can make it even harder to get back into it and re-discover our motivation.

If you follow a few simple steps, though, you can often climb out of the pit of “unmotivation” and find your groove again. It’s going to take a little more than a few motivational quotes, but I promise you that it’ll be worth it.

Since I know that it’s hard to remember these steps when you’re in the midst of a funk (after all, who wants to go out in search of solutions to their lack of motivation when they lack motivation?) I created a printable, self-motivation checklist that you can keep nearby to remind you of how to get back on your feet.

You can download it at the end of this post! For now, let’s get on with the steps:

1. Run through a basic self-care checklist.

You can’t expect yourself to be at 100% when you haven’t taken care of yourself. You wouldn’t expect your car to be able to make a cross-country road trip when it’s running on an empty tank and one of the tires has blown, so you shouldn’t expect yourself to be ready to smash your to-do list when you’re hungry and tired. If you’re feeling unmotivated, the very first thing you should do is ask yourself these questions:

  1. Have I gotten enough sleep?

  2. Am I hydrated?

  3. Am I hungry?

  4. Do I need a short break?

Sometimes the solution is easy. If you realize your headache and fatigue are caused by dehydration, then BAM, drink a bottle of water and you’ll be good to go in no time. If you’re running, however, on a streak of sleepless nights, that’s a little harder to fix. Perhaps you’ve got a pressing deadline and simply can’t afford the ten hours of sleep it’ll take to get you well-rested again. In that case, it’s important to at least acknowledge what the issue is, and then you can work on finding ways to alleviate the symptoms (see the next step) until you have a chance to fix the root cause.

2. Refresh yourself

How long have you been sitting at your computer? If it’s been a marathon of desk work since your day started, you might just need to hit the refresh button.

Two things that never fail for me are movement and fresh air. Movement can be anything from going to the gym to doing twenty jumping jacks, anything that gets your heart pumping and your lungs… exchanging gases, I guess. As for fresh air, just go to your nearest available exit and go breathe that beautiful outdoor air. If you’re just an overachiever and want to feel super duper refreshed, try exercising outdoors.

You might also find it helpful to meditate - it’ll help you relax and re-focus your mind. You can find apps that’ll guide you through whatever type of meditation you are looking for.

A last resort (but still quite a powerful tool) is caffeine. If you really need some energy, it can give you the boost of alertness that you need. Just don’t depend on it every time.

3. Make a to-do list

There is nothing more paralyzing than having a million things to do but not having those to-dos written down anywhere. It’s like grasping at thin air. I don’t care how averse you are to planning or how freaking amazing your brain is at remembering tasks, you. need. a to-do list.

Give your brain a break from trying to hold on to the bits and pieces of information that are floating around, and write down absolutely everything that you need to do.

No task is too small for a place on your to-do list. Need to get your laptop charger from the other room? Write it down, find that charger, check it off, and feel like a boss.

The relaxation of having all of your tasks written out, the resulting focus, and the satisfaction of checking off tasks - that’s why to-do lists are so effective.

Download the free checklist to motivate you.jpg

4. Visualize the result.

You can’t get to where you want to be without a little bit of hard work, but sometimes our vision is muddled by all of that time and effort that we’re putting in. It can become easy to lose sight of what it is we are actually working towards.

So stop. Take a second to engage your imagination.

Need to work on a book report for school? Imagine yourself walking up to the turn-in tray to hand in your polished report. Imagine receiving the report back in your hands, with a crisp red “A” written on the front.

Need to do some chores around the house? Imagine a glimmering clean home environment. Imagine sitting down to a relaxing evening, with everything polished and in its place.

You get the idea. Imagine every possible sensory detail of success, and you’ll find the motivation it takes to do the hard work to get there.

5. Check your goals

Did you attempt number 4 only to realize that you’re not even sure WHAT your end result is? Maybe your lack of motivation stems simply from unclear goals. It’s hard to get yourself to do something when the work feels meaningless.

If you don’t currently have any goals, stop right now and set 3 goals for the next month. These should be simple and attainable. Think about what your big projects at school or work currently are, but also consider what you want in other areas of life, like health and relationships.

If you do have goals but feel like your work isn’t aligning with them, it might be time for something a little more drastic, like sitting down to journal and re-evaluate your priorities. It’s a lot of work, but it’ll be worth it.

6. Last resort: a healthy, but bitter, dose of self-discipline

I’m sorry, I have to do it. This is the not-so-nice motivational talk that sometimes we all need. Ahem:

A lot of times in life you will have to do things you don’t want to do. You need forget the idea of choosing to do things based on how pleasant they are and just DO the work that needs to be done. Stop thinking about how hard your work is, and just DO IT.

It’s taking all of my willpower to not insert a Shia LaBeouf “just do it” gif. I feel like that would be unprofessional, so you’ll just have to imagine his screaming image in your head.

That’s it, six steps to getting your groove back, and none of them were a magic “motivation potion”. It just doesn’t work that way. It takes practical steps, and it’s not always easy, but YOU have the power to get yourself back on track.

You have to… Oh, what the heck -

Now it’s time for the printable checklist I promised. The next time you can’t find the motivation to study, to work out, to do anything, just pull out this sheet and get to the root of your problem right away.

I know I said at the beginning of this post that a few motivational quotes can’t always solve your problems, but I do love a good inspirational wallpaper now and then, so my question for this blog post is - What is your favorite motivational quote?

My current favorite is - “You did not wake up today to be mediocre.” Share yours in the comments!

Why You Should Give Yourself a Pep Talk Right Now

Have you ever tried to psych yourself up for something? A big test, a job interview, a workout? I’m willing to bet all of the chocolate I have right now that you have done this at some point. Almost everyone uses this self-talk technique, so I wanted to see if I could delve deeper into it. How can YOU make the best use of these “self-pep talks” as I like to call them, and apply them throughout your life, ie. NOT just when you are about to take the AP Bio test that only 6% of people score a 5 on (hehe, who’s worried about that? Definitely not me… hehe *nervous laugh*).

When you hear “self-pep talk” you might think of the SNL sketch where Stuart Smalley says “I'm good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me!”. It may have been a comedic sketch but the value of such self-talk is no joke *ba dum tss*.

Hearing motivational talk boosts our self-esteem and makes us more confident (duh!). But what happens when there’s no one around to give us a pep talk? Or maybe only we know what it is that we really need to hear. That’s when you need to take things into your own hands and be your own Stuart Smalley.

So let’s talk about what makes an effective self-pep talk.

First, focus on using positive language. You know how elementary school rules avoid saying “don’t” and try to phrase things more positively? For example, rather than “don’t run” (which might give kids the idea to do exactly that), they'll say “walk calmly”. Instead of “don’t yell”, “use level 1 voices”. The same thing applies to you! “Don’t procrastinate” has negative connotations. “You will get your to-dos completed now so you have more free time later” sounds sooo much better, doesn’t it?

“Don’t procrastinate” has negative connotations. “You will get your to-dos completed now so you have more free time later” sounds sooo much better, doesn’t it?

Second, (and this is something I only learned and started doing today), use “you” or *your name* to refer to yourself. A University of Michigan study (that's right, I'm throwing SCIENCE in here) found that it is more effective to talk in third person when trying to pump yourself up. In another Michigan State study, people had to talk about negative experiences they’d had, using either first-person or third-person language. Those who referred to themselves using their name were actually able to experience less intense emotions! Which is exactly what you need when you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.

This intuitively makes sense, because if we avoid saying “I”, we can pull ourselves out of the situation, detach from it emotionally, and get a more rational look at whatever it is that we’re having trouble with. “Beatrice” isn’t the me that’s sitting at my desk, frustrated with studying and feeling STUCK. Beatrice is some girl I know who I am trying to comfort. Someone who I know is strong and capable and intelligent, and I need to make sure she knows that!

And have you ever noticed that you sometimes find it easier to be kind to your friends than to yourself? It can be easier to dole out good, loving advice to others than to ourselves because of negative self-talk patterns we’ve built up. Using “you” makes us feel like we are talking to a friend!

Alright, so how do you do this “self-pep talk” thing? It’s really quite easy.

1. Recognize that you are in a place where you need a pep talk. Perhaps you are experiencing some negative emotion. Fear, worry, anxiety, stress, etc. Or maybe you just need to get yourself pumped up for something that will require your best, most energetic self.

2. Take deep breaths. When are deep breaths NOT useful? Take 3, or 5, or 10. Get that heart rate down and deliver fresh oxygen to your brain so you can think clearly.

3. If you can, find a calm place to do this. It’s great if you can say it out loud, but writing it also works well. And in a pinch, the voice in your head would always be happy to narrate your self-pep talk.

4. Switch to your third person mode. Start referring to yourself as “you” or *your name*. If you feel weird about it, start out with saying something like “you are calm”, just to get yourself warmed up.

5. Pep talk! Basically, say what you would want someone to say to you to comfort you. What is worrying you and what is the antidote to that worry? Or another way of thinking of it - if your friend was feeling the same way, what would you say to them?

6. Throw some more deep breaths in there.

7. If it feels appropriate, try out a power pose. Stand with your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart, and put your hands on your hips or stretch them out high above you. Don’t you feel POWERFUL? I actually did this in the bathroom one time before I had an important presentation for a state competition. I placed first, so I guess it worked!

I wrote this before I learned that you should avoid using "I" ;)

I wrote this before I learned that you should avoid using "I" ;)

Something else that I’ve started doing is keeping a little notebook of affirmations and self-pep talks. I’ve gotten into the habit of writing down what I say to myself when I’m feeling down. These situation-specific pep talks are all stored in that notebook and I can refer back to them when I’m again feeling down for the same reason. It’s kind of like a little pep talk playbook.

When can you give yourself pep talks?

Not just when you feel down! You can use it as a kind of preventative self-care, too. Try a pep talk in the morning, to get yourself pumped up for the day. A great place to do this is in your journal. In the evening, congratulate yourself on a day well spent. Or, if it wasn’t a very good day, comfort yourself by assuring yourself the next day will be better. Again, journal that ish out!

I also like to say affirmations while I’m driving. I find driving to already be a pretty relaxing activity. Just focusing on the road, steering, not having to think about anything. I can really capitalize on that time if I also take the opportunity to get some affirmations in. For example, I’ll say out loud: “You are focused. You are calm. You are happy. You will do great on your math test.”

You can also try making a self-pep talk jar for when you need a pick-me-up but aren’t exactly sure what you need to hear. Fill it with little messages like:
“You are focused and productive.”
“You are smashing your to-do list.”
“You are cheerful and optimistic.”
“You can achieve anything you think of.”
(I know, this just gets cheesier and cheesier as we go along, doesn’t it?)

Wow, just writing this post has made me feel so positive. This stuff works! "Guaranteed to work or your money back" ;)

My question of the day: When is a time you could use a pep talk?  For me, I think it would be when I get home from school. That's when I need to tackle my to-do list, so a bit of motivation would definitely help! Actually, I think I should add that to my "tips for being efficient with schoolwork" video - giving yourself a pep talk before you start!

Thank you for reading, don't forget to share with your friends who might need a pep talk every now and then, and I hope you have a lovely, POSITIVE, MOTIVATED, PRODUCTIVE day. 
Beatrice x