We’ve all experienced the dreaded “slump” – that slow-moving period of time when we just don’t have the motivation to do the things we need to do. Sometimes, simply getting motivated can be the hardest part of completing a task or reaching a goal.
In this article, we’ll talk about what we mean by motivation and why we feel unmotivated in the first place. Then we’ll give you some tools to climb your way out of the slump and get back to accomplishing your goals.
There’s no more time to waste – let’s get started!
- 1 What We Mean By Motivation
- 2 Why We Feel Unmotivated
- 3 How to Get Motivated Starting Right Now (5 Tips)
- 4 Conclusion
What We Mean By Motivation
When we discuss “motivation”, we simply mean your desire to accomplish a task. Motivation is the feeling that propels you to complete an assignment before the deadline, or to hit the gym after work.
There are several different types of motivation, all of which fall into two categories: ‘intrinsic’ motivation and ‘extrinsic’ motivation. Intrinsic motivation is your own internal drive, or motivation that comes from within you. Extrinsic motivation comes from outside sources that propel you to accomplish things.
You can drill down even further with this. For example, intrinsic motivation includes competence motivation and attitude motivation. The former is the desire to learn new skills or improve old ones for the sake of having the knowledge, while the latter is the desire to change something about yourself or your lifestyle.
Fear can also be an intrinsic motivator if it stems from an internal source. For example, a fear of failure would be an intrinsic motivator. On the other hand, a fear of getting fired would be an extrinsic motivator, because your fear comes from an external force.
Other examples of extrinsic motivation include reward- or incentive-based motivation, achievement-based motivation, power-based motivation, and affiliation motivation. These types of motivation drive you forward by promising some kind of reward, a marker of achievement, new power, or affiliation with powerful people.
None of these types of motivation are inherently better or worse than the other types. Some, like fear, power-based, and affiliation motivation may sound easily corruptible, but they can also be used in healthy ways to accomplish necessary tasks when you’re feeling unmotivated.
Why We Feel Unmotivated
Before we discuss how to get out of a slump, let’s touch on why we face a lack of motivation in the first place. Understanding the reasons behind why you feel unmotivated will help you tackle the problem in a way that directly confronts it.
Three common contributors to a lack of motivation include fear, burnout or fatigue, and poor goal setting. These things can work alone, or combination to sap your will to strive toward your goals.
We’ve briefly talked about how fear can motivate you by providing a reason for you to accomplish a task, but sometimes it does the opposite. A fear of failure might spur you to work harder to succeed, but it could also cause you to hold back. After all, if you never try, you cannot fail.
Burnout can also make it difficult to stay focused. One symptom of burnout is a diminished passion for work, which could undermine intrinsic motivations such as competence and attitude motivation. It’s hard to learn new work-related skills when you don’t have the energy to care about your work.
Setting goals could help you get motivated, but if your goals aren’t well-designed, they could do more harm than good. Unspecific goals with no clear path to success are difficult to achieve. If you feel like you’re working hard and not seeing results, you can lose your desire to keep working.
How to Get Motivated Starting Right Now (5 Tips)
Getting motivated involves a combination of figuring out what does and does not motivate you. Then, you can start applying methods based around the type of motivation that works best for you. These tips can help get you started.
1. Put Your Goals in Writing
Simply put, those who put their goals in writing are more likely to achieve them. Having a visual representation of your goals can provide an external reminder that taps into your achievement motivation, and encourages you to continue.
This could be as simple as listing your goals on a sticky note and leaving it on your bathroom mirror. In contrast, you could concoct a dream board with a ten-year plan mapped out on it. The only qualification for how you display your goals is that it should make you feel motivated.
However, when you’re writing your goals, they shouldn’t be too generalized. Setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound (i.e. SMART) can help give you parameters to make sure your goals won’t overwhelm you.
2. Develop a Routine to Minimize Distractions
If you’re intrinsically motivated most of the time, but are currently distracted enough that you’re unable to work, developing a routine could help you get back on track. Routine helps us avoid distraction and get into a mindset suitable to achieving our goals.
To develop a constructive routine, start by looking at your current schedule. Your routine should fit with it, and not conflict. If your routine and your schedule are always butting heads, you’re not likely to stick to the routine.
You could incorporate ‘rituals’ into your routine to help put you in the right mindset to work. For example, listening to the same song at the beginning of every day will train you to associate it with work.
Your routine should cut down on distractions. If there’s something always seeming to pull you away from work that brings you closer to your goal, complete the task early on, or work somewhere away from the distraction.
With your other concerns out of the way, you should be able to better access the intrinsic motivation that normally drives you to accomplish tasks. Sometimes our motivation to accomplish something is not far out of reach – we just need to focus in order to see it.
3. Break Down Your Long-Term Goals
Achievement motivation can be a great help when it comes to completing the tasks needed to progress in your career. However, goals such as earning a promotion are long-term. In the period between, you might find yourself feeling unmotivated.
Like many other kinds of extrinsic motivation, achievement motivation depends on you feeling as though your work is garnering results. If you instead feel like you’re putting in a lot of work and not getting any closer to your goal, your level of motivation will likely decrease.
Creating smaller goals leading to your main goal can help you keep your achievement motivation high. Ticking off a smaller goal, like completing a project for example, will help you see ways in which your work is getting you closer to a specific goal.
4. Reward Yourself for Completing Small Goals
Reward- and incentive-based motivation are what we use to train animals such as dogs. When the dog does a trick, it gets a treat. As much as we might like to think we’re above such things as an advanced species, we’re actually susceptible to the same sort of bribery.
For example, think of something you really love. Whatever you decide to reward yourself with should be personalized to you and carry enough weight to make you want to achieve your goals. Tell yourself that if you complete all the work you scheduled for the day, you can go see a movie or take yourself out to dinner.
If you want to simplify it even more, keep a bag of your favorite snack nearby and reward yourself with a small helping for finishing each task on your to do list. If you want to avoid food-based rewards, try using ten-minute work breaks as an incentive. However, do make sure breaks are a scheduled part of your work day, regardless of whether you meet your goals.
Many articles on motivation will tell you to shout your goals from the rooftops, because having others who know about your goals will hold you accountable to them. However, research has shown this isn’t necessarily true, and could have the opposite effect.
If you announce your intentions to achieve by posting your goals on social media or sharing them with friends, you start to see yourself as having already achieved them. In a nutshell, your motivation decreases because you already see yourself as having achieved what you want.
If you still want some level of accountability, try joining something like a writing or design group where you can meet with other people and work on projects together. Remember, the focus of these groups should be completing work or providing deadlines to motivate you, not talking about projects you’ll do someday.
There’s no need to feel afraid of being unmotivated. It happens to just about everyone, and the good news is it doesn’t last forever. When you find yourself stuck in a slump, there are plenty of actions you can take to get back on track and accomplish your goals.
This post has looked at a few tips to help give you some extra motivation. Let’s recap them:
- Put your goals in writing
- Develop a routine
- Break your goals down
- Reward yourself for completing small goals
- Don’t post your goals on social media
If you continue to struggle with a lack of motivation, you might be interested in reading our post about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a motivational theory that focuses on addressing human needs with the goal of finding self-fulfillment.
Do you have questions about how to get motivated? Ask away in the comments section below!
Article thumbnail credit: Andrew Rybalko / shutterstock.