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!