Something I really struggle with (and I’m sure I’m not the only one) is motivating myself to complete tasks. This isn’t just limited to work-related tasks, I find it really hard to push myself to do things I enjoy too, which is really frustrating.
I thought it would be a good idea to share some of my tips on getting, and staying, motivated which will hopefully be useful to some of you reading this too!
1. Make a realistic to-do list
I’ve tried to make to-do lists on different apps but I definitely think that hand-written lists are better. It feels amazing when you can score off a completed task because it just feels like a more emphasised achievement than clicking a box on your phone. It’s important to keep lists realistic, though, so make sure any task you write is a super simplified version of a bigger project. Like, instead of writing ‘I’ll start and finish my 2000 word essay’, say ‘I’ll write the first 500 words of my essay’. Usually, I’ll end up doing way more words than I put on my to-do list, but by keeping goals realistic you feel more successful when you complete the task instead of feeling awful when you don’t manage the full, unrealistic task. I think it is so much better to write a to-do list the night before also. I find my motivation is highest at night-time when I’m getting ready for bed, excited for the new day and all the amazing things I can get done. That all disappears in the morning when I wake up and feel like I need 5 more hours of sleep and I can’t push myself to do anything. It’s so much easier for me to have a list all ready for me getting up because it saves me the hassle of actually motivating myself to make a to-do list ready to motivate myself (what?) because helpful little me already did the hard part.
2. Start small
Another thing that really helps me when I have lots to do is to start with the easiest task. This could be something really simple like writing out the headings for an essay/project/blog post you need to get done or something like making your bed before clearing out your whole room. Whatever thing you choose to do first, it gets your brain and body moving and so I find it’s easiest to keep motivated once I’ve already started to do something productive.
3. Get out of bed!
I don’t know if this is just me or not, but because I spend most of my day in my room, I find it’s really easy to get into bed, snuggle under my duvet and try to work from there. I can start with the best motivation ever but as soon as I get sucked into my bed vortex, I feel really sleepy, can’t be bothered doing anything, give up and nap. Hopefully, it’s not just me that does this, but I’ve tried lately to even just sit ON my bed instead of actually getting into the cosy warmness. If I really can’t resist my bed and know that I’m having a day where I feel really tired and being near it will just ruin the rest of my plans, I’ll move to a different room and the change in environment really does help me push myself to do more.
4. Set time limits
I use an app called ‘Be Focused’ to set myself time limits for tasks which I find really helps. This app uses the Pomodoro method which basically involves doing a certain task for 25 minutes (called a Pomodoro) and then taking a short 5-10 minute break before completing another 25 minutes and so on. I find this really helps because after you do 4 blocks of the activity (or 4 Pomodoro’s) you get a longer break (I usually go for 20-30 minutes depending on the task) and I really find I push myself to do more during those Pomodoro’s because I’m racing against the clock (and I’m a competitive person, okay). You can find more info about this technique here.
5. Find a comfortable work space
I’m more of a messy/organised chaos person but when I’m making my way through a list of tasks, I love having a tidy desk. I find it’s so much easier to sit at a table or desk to work because it feels more professional and structured. Saying that though, my desk is always a mess and is due a huge clean over the next few days, but I definitely find I’m more productive when my desk is relatively clear of clutter and I can set up a little workstation there.
6. Tell someone
Something I find really helps me get motivated is to tell someone what tasks I want to complete. Usually, I’ll message my boyfriend and tell him all the things that I want to do that day, so then when he asks me how I got on with my list later that day, I feel guilty having to say I didn’t do it. This might not work for everyone, but I really am a people-pleaser and I hate feeling like I’ve let someone down. I’m definitely more likely to do things once I tell others about my plans because I can’t face the feeling of telling them I didn’t do what I said I would.
7. Get ready for the day
I always feel ready for the day once I’m up, out of bed, and got my hair and makeup all sorted. I find it really hard to do any work when I’m in my pyjamas and makeup-free and I don’t really know why, but getting ready for the day helps me feel more productive. I’ll usually try to get up and dressed and all made up before starting to work through to-do lists because I feel better once I’m all fresh for the day and so I find staying motivated much easier.
8. Set deadlines
I’m one of those people who can’t work on a project that is open-ended, I need targets and deadlines. I find it is so much easier to work towards an end-date because then you have an end goal in place and you can measure your progress until that point which I just find helps me stay on track.
I do this a lot with blogging, where I’ll schedule a post to go live at a certain time so I need to work to make sure it’s finished in time. I could just write for days and so if I don’t have a proper schedule or plan I’d never get anything finished or published! If there’s a certain task that is long-term and over a few months, like a dissertation or research project, I find that setting weekly deadlines, or asking a friend/family member/supervisor to set deadlines makes the process a lot easier since you feel that satisfaction of reaching each goal as you complete the task.
This is my favourite way to stay motivated because it involves getting loads of new exciting things! I constantly have a list of items I want to buy, from makeup to stationery to craft items, so once I reach certain milestones in a task I buy myself a little treat. I prefer getting smaller items, like a new lipstick or nail polish and then building up towards a bigger reward once I’ve finished a task, usually going out for dinner or buying clothes. This one doesn’t always have to involve buying things, though. If there’s a new YouTube video I really want to watch, I’ll make sure I’ve met a goal before letting myself watch it, or I won’t have any chocolate before I’ve reached a certain point etc. There are so many ways you can work this tip which is why it’s my favourite, plus who doesn’t love being rewarded for all their hard work! It’s often helpful to make a little wish list before starting a project so you can see all the things you’re hoping to get/would like to do once all the hard work is done. It really helps to see yourself getting all the good things for working so hard!
10. Get started
Finally, my biggest way to find motivation is to just get started. Once I begin a task that I’ve meant to do, I find it’s so much easier to continue with when I see it’s not so bad. This is definitely easier with tasks that are more enjoyable, but for those that aren’t so great, I tell myself I’ll just do it for 5 minutes and then usually end up finishing it off to save myself doing it again later.
So those were my top tips for getting motivated! I hope these are helpful and please let me know your tips for staying motivated and on task!