You may think you want to be more motivated, but in reality a lack of motivation is usually a symptom of something else. Like I always say, if you want to increase the horsepower, you can’t just change the paintjob—you’ve got to get under the hood.
You’ve got to look at what’s really going on in your body and mind, to what’s stopping you from feeling motivated.
Once you address that, you’ll find you have more than enough motivation to get your to-do list done. Helping you build self-confidence, improve self-esteem, and even increase your self-love. Because you never need to doubt yourself when you know what makes you tick!
Here are 10 questions to ask yourself when you need to understand why you don’t feel motivated.
Bookmark this page (or pin it!) for the next time you need a reminder!
1. When was the last time you had a glass of water?
Fatigue is a symptom of dehydration, so when we forget to drink water (as most of us often do) we can feel low energy and have difficulty motivating through our to-do list.
Solution: Drink a glass of water! You may feel a shift in your body within moments of your first sip. This is the first one because it’s so easy, and usually solves the problem immediately!
2. Are you feeling overwhelmed?
When we’re in a state of overwhelm our body is utterly and completely focused on whatever is causing the overwhelm. There’s no room for anything else, least of all a to-do list. So dealing with those physical reactions, the buzzing brain or racing heart or shaking hands, has to be the first priority.
Solution: Use the 3 B’s. (Watch this video if you’re unfamiliar). This will instantly calm and soothe your nervous system so you come out of the overwhelmed state and become able to prioritize effectively.
3. How’s your sleep been the past few nights?
Our body keeps a sort of “energy ledger,” a balance book of the energy coming in and the energy going out. If we don’t replenish our energy through sleep and nutrition, it’s harder to spend energy on tasks throughout the day.
Solution: Give yourself a 5-10 minute break. Ideally sleeping, but that’s not realistic for most of us. Fortunately 10 minutes of motivation can take the place of 40 minutes of lost sleep. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, let your muscles relax and your mind go un-focused. If that’s difficult for you to do on your own, check out one of these guided meditations!
4. Have you been processing heavy emotions lately?
On the journey of personal growth and self-discovery, often we have to do a fair amount of emotional excavation. Unearthing old wounds so they can be healed and stop holding us back. But afterwards our mind and body often need some recovery time, to get everything re-integrated; leaving fewer resources for our daily tasks. (Note that this also applies to big scary times like the beginning of COVID, or after a major life event like a breakup)
Solution: Be gentle with yourself. Seriously. The more freedom you can give your mind and body to do their processing, the faster it will be done and you can find a new normal. If you pressure yourself or give in to feelings of guilt or shame, it will actually extend the process even longer! This reintegration time is essential to your well-being. Give yourself that gift.
5. Are you getting enough alone time?
Even extroverts need some time alone with their thoughts. This helps that re-integration process from #4. When we don’t get it, our brains have to work extra hard to do the processing while also maintaining executive function.
Solution: Set aside some time each week to be by yourself, ideally out in nature which is replenishing in its own right. Put it on your calendar if you need to, with a reminder notification to make sure you don’t forget.
6. Are you getting enough social time?
Even introverts need some time connecting with others. Humans are social animals, and when we’re feeling isolated our body can go into shutdown mode to preserve energy for our survival (there’s a whole evolutionary purpose to this, but it takes a while to explain, so you can take my word for it or schedule a call to ask me in person!)
Solution: Schedule time with a friend, find something fun on Meetup, go join a religious organization or volunteer group—anything that will help you feel like a part of a meaningful social group.
7. Does your to-do list feel too massive?
Sometimes we feel daunted by the size or complexity of the task(s) in front of us. This can make us avoid getting started, out of a subconscious fear that we won’t be successful or that the investment of energy is too substantial to justify the end result (remember that energy ledger from #3? That plays a part here, too.)
Solution: Break the task(s) up into smaller pieces. This can make them feel more manageable, and make our subconscious think the energy investment is much lower. Ideally each task on your list should take less than an hour to complete. If not, it can probably be broken up into even smaller portions.
8. Does your to-do list feel too boring or uninteresting?
There can be comfort in routine, but over time it can be wearing. Especially when the tasks are repetitive and lacking in creative expression (like cleaning, shopping, laundry… ugh!) It’s hard to motivate when we just don’t wanna!
Solution: Find a way to bring some fun in. Look for ways to gamify the task. Play loud music and rock out, or even dance. Or at the very least, promise yourself something awesome as a reward for getting it done so you have something to look forward to afterwards!
9. What stories are you telling yourself?
Whether we are aware of it or not, we are constantly talking to ourselves inside of our minds. Explaining what’s happening around us, anticipating what’s going to happen in the future. It’s a survival trait that has served us well for tens of thousands of years. But sometimes we’re not honest even with ourselves. Or we can make things harder for ourselves for no good reason.
Solution: Consider 1) how long the task will take, 2) how difficult it will be to complete, 3) whether you’ll be successful, and 4) how you’ll feel afterwards. Be honest. Look at your past experience for confirmation. Chances are it will take much less time than you’ve been telling yourself!
10. Is this something you actually want or have to do?
Watch for the word “should”. Shoulds are never motivating. And more often than not, they’re things we’ve internalized due to pressure from family, friends, society as a whole—but have no real desire for.
Solution: See if you can reframe your “shoulds” to reflect what you genuinely want to experience. Or if it’s something that you truly need to do, let yourself feel that urgency. But if it’s neither, let it go! You don’t need to carry that load.
If after all this you’re still struggling to get things done, it’s time to look at whether you’re stuck in a procrastination cycle. Fortunately for you, I’ve got a low-price course to help you break the pattern and become truly successful!