You wake up in the morning. One second everything was fine, it seemed like a normal day. Then all of a sudden you are looking with dread into the next few hours.
Where’s that motivation pill?
There is none.
And may I add: You don’t need one. You are already 100% motivated. (To stay in bed though, not to go to work.)
So how do you get yourself to do the things that need to get done but you don’t feel energised doing?
- You learn to manage your mind.
- You learn to call yourself out on your excuses.
- And then you just do it.
When you’re hesitant to try things that no one has succeeded in before…
It might be fear or insecurity or some other uncomfortable emotion that’s holding you back from venturing beyond your comfort zone. These are powerful feelings and they are caused by even more powerful thoughts.
Start by exploring the thoughts that cause you to stay safe instead of taking a leap. Dig up all the worries and concerns and then look at them realistically: How bad would it really be if that came true? The end of the world as you just imagined or can you get past it?
Leaning on your strength of curiosity is another good tactic when you need a little nudge to venture out in unknown territories. When you take the pressure off and are curious and playful about it, you stay motivated and have fun with it as well.
Here’s what curiosity could look like:
- I wonder what this is… why that is happening… what is causing it to be like that…
- Let’s find out what strategies others have tried that didn’t work… what else could I do to find out what works… or doesn’t?
- I’d like to see how far I can get… what I will learn… who I can speak to…
When you have to go to work knowing it is going to be a stressful day…
If your work is continuously stressful and the challenging demands keep exceeding your ability to cope, then you’ll need to change the situation. Get help from your manager or HR. In drastic cases you might even want to consider changing jobs.
If on the other hand you’re generally fine, but have the occasional stressful day or week, you can learn to deal with that.
It’s important you don’t add to the stress yourself. If you have a lot to do you need all your brainpower and energy to focus on that. Thinking about how stressful your stress is or that the workload is “killing you” amplifies the overwhelm. You don’t need that.
… And it saps your energy.
… And you might get sick because of these thoughts.
Instead, try to make friends with the situation. You could even see it as an opportunity to propel you into action. This is nicely explained by Kelly McGonigal in her TED Talk “How to make stress your friend”.
You can also take back control of your workload and minimise the stress by being mindful of what you put on your to-do list. On stressful days, be very clear about what really needs to get done today. What doesn’t make the “Top 3” can be postponed to the next day, next week, delegated or – truth to be told – can sometimes even be eliminated.
When you can’t get yourself started…
Just as with stress, much of the overwhelm we experience is caused in our own minds. It’s best to short circuit the endless internal debates and start to take action instead.
Plan the work, work the plan: On the day before, write down the three (not more) things you will do the next day. Schedule them in your calendar. When the time comes, sit down and do the work. Don’t start negotiating with yourself. This is important: You already decided ahead of time, so no need to spend more time thinking about whether or not this is a good idea. Jump straight into execution mode.
Break it into the tiniest steps: If “Write report” seems too overwhelming, make the steps smaller: sit down at desk, boot computer, open document, write headline, write first line… It might seem ridiculous, but for me it really does work with the things I’m totally not up for.
Once you get started, you’ll notice how you gain momentum quickly. If stepping out of your comfort zone catches up with you, here are four more tips to keep you on track: Feeling overwhelmed, stuck or not in the mood? Here’s how to keep going.