Somehow the first quarter of 2023 is over. Not gonna lie, I am really happy it is.
January to March (and April, if I’m being honest) is the worst time of the year for me. Winter where I live is brutal. It’s dark, cold, and everything feels a bit harder. You bundle up for every outing, giving yourself extra time for the inevitably bad driving conditions, and generally avoid leaving the house unless absolutely necessary. Winter here is also long. We get snow for 5 months and I won’t be able to plant flowers without the risk of frost until the third week of May. 😩
This year my husband and I also did a house renovation over January, my brother was in intensive care for nearly all of February (he’s ok now!), and March has been a blur of catching up, with some rough MS days throughout.
It’s all life stuff that has since settled but it combined to put me in an energy and motivation hole. My writing and any other grand plans for the year have suffered for it. While most hardship I experience eventually becomes fodder for my articles, it can be hard when I am in the middle of these experiences to find the words and lessons.
Although the worst of those challenges seem to be behind me, I’m tired. I mostly want to hibernate, curl up with some tea and read a book or play video games with my husband until the snow is gone for good.
But apparently, that won’t pay the bills and I have to continue to be a “responsible adult” and DO things.
Does that feeling of being tired, unmotivated, and generally blah sound familiar? I bet it does.
It’s normal. It’s common. Perhaps more common than you want…
So what can you do? How do you get motivated when you just aren’t feeling it?
8 ways to help you get motivated when you aren't feeling it
These are some things that have helped me over the last few weeks to keep moving forward, do responsible adult things, and even write this article! 😄
1. Let go of your expectations and start small
Every day won’t be super productive and awesome. It’s unrealistic to expect they will! When you aren’t feeling it, sometimes it’s enough to just show up.
It’s like the feeling you get when you are dreading going out to something, but once you get there it’s actually… fun.
You might surprise yourself when you sit down and let go of the expectations that you will (or won’t) get anything done and just see what happens.
Do the smallest thing you can to start. Write a few words, read a few lines, and see if you can get yourself going. What’s the tiniest step to move the needle? It doesn’t mean you will finish, but at worst you made some progress and at best it will get the wheels turning enough to propel you forward.
2. Look for quick wins
Maybe you aren’t feeling up to a specific project or task that you had in mind. Instead of spinning your wheels on something that you just don’t have the brain energy for, is there something else you can do that still moves the needle?
Sometimes these are procrastination tasks or tasks you have deprioritized. Getting something small done, a quick win, can get your energy going and might motivate you enough to start on other things.
And if not, you still did a thing!
3. Get something on the horizon
Sometimes having something to look forward to can help motivate you to keep things rolling.
What’s a fun thing on the horizon you can set your sights on?
It might be simple things or big things, but they help remind you that the malaise you are feeling today is not forever. It might be:
- A meal with a friend
- Date night with your partner
- Starting a new book you’ve had on your reading list for a long time
- A concert for a favourite band you haven’t seen live
- A new tv show or movie release to watch with some popcorn
If there is nothing on your current horizon, what could you add?
Sometimes all it takes to pull yourself out of a mental slump and get into gear is a reminder that tomorrow (or soon) will be better.
4. Look for the small joys
Each day has its small annoyances which are amplified when you’re exhausted and feeling unmotivated. They wear on you. But every day will also have its small joys which get hidden among the annoyances.
While you can’t just “be happy” or “be energized”, and it’s totally fine to be tired and cranky, you can remind yourself that even when you are feeling blah there are small joys.
What are they? Rarely is everything good or bad. Take a breath, acknowledge the hard bits and look for things you are grateful for.
5. Look for inspiration
When you are feeling unmotivated, it can be helpful to read or listen to content in your area of interest. Maybe you can read your newsletter backlog or pick up a book you’ve been meaning to read. Maybe you have a podcast you’ve been working through.
Can you read or listen for half an hour to just get your brain thinking about something other than how unmotivated you are?
Note: Scrolling through social media will do the opposite and make you feel bad about how unmotivated you are because all you will see are the smiling faces of people who look SO SUCCESSFUL AND HAPPY. Remember that they are only sharing an excerpt, not the whole story. So much of social media is fake.
6. Move your body
Exercise gets the chemicals in your brain going that make you feel good. Full stop.
Some of you might already be curling your lip and thinking about how much you hate exercise and how, while feeling unmotivated and blah, you want to exercise even less.
You don’t have to do HIIT or go for a run or any other type of exercise that sounds awful to you. Choose something that is enjoyable. Go for a walk or a bike ride, do some yoga, or anything that gets you moving and away from your desk.
Change the word exercise to MOVEMENT. It’s about moving your body and getting those brain chemicals going.
7. Keep up your basic self-maintenance
Shockingly, when you rest, nourish, and move, you feel better!
Don’t let your feeling of listlessness convince you to let go of the things you know make you feel better. Sleep, good food, and movement will help sustain you through the lulls when you aren’t feeling it and help you feel better faster. They are the foundation of motivation.
Even on the days when you can’t get yourself going to do much, consider your daily self-maintenance as non-negotiable. Change the question from IF you will do it, to WHAT you will do and WHEN you will do it.
It’s not a question of IF you move your body but what you will do, and when. Maybe you don’t have a spin class in you, but you can do some gentle stretching. Maybe you don’t have a full gourmet meal in you, but you can thaw some leftovers instead of ordering takeout.
8. Give yourself the space and grace to rest
Each day will be somewhere on a spectrum of:
Days where you should have stayed in bed with the covers over your head.
Days you did all the things and then some AND felt great doing them.
When you are closer to the former, give yourself the space and grace to not feel awesome and not do all the things.
Feeling unmotivated is often a signal that you need to rest but it often goes unheeded because of guilt or feeling like you haven’t “earned” rest. Instead of beating yourself up for being “lazy” think about WHY you might be feeling the way you feel. Think about what you have control over, what you don’t and what your options are.
Giving yourself space and grace means asking:
- Can I take a minimum viable day?
- Can I book a day off?
- Can I clear some things on the weekend and do what I need to do to recharge a bit?
- Can I ask for help?
- Can I make adjustments to my work schedule or commitments?
And DO those things, knowing they are an investment in you.
Remember this feeling won’t last forever
My favourite passage from Dolly Alderton’s book Ghosts was shared with me by my friend Amanda when we were both experiencing particularly hard months and completely lacked motivation:
“You just have to trust me when I say: you shall not pass.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘You shall not pass,’ she repeated sagely, giving me a gentle smile.
‘It’s a phrase my mum always used to say to me when I was sad. It means: this will end at some point, then you’ll be happy again.’
‘This too shall pass.’
‘Yes, exactly, it will.’
‘No, that’s what you’re meant to say.’
‘Is it? Why do I know the proverb “you shall not pass”?
‘It’s not a proverb, it’s what Gandalf says in Lord of the Rings.”
When you are in the middle of feeling unmotivated and tired, it’s hard to imagine feeling otherwise. It’s hard to think of the days when you kick butt and take names and feel awesome.
Take good care, look for quick wins, and push yourself a little to try, but also recognize when rest is the only solution.
This too shall pass.
If you feel stuck in a rut and need help getting motivated, I can help. Book a free consultation.