The only thing more frustrating than my lack of self-motivation is that everyone else seems to magically just have it and be natural superheroes all day. But since I know that's not true, and that most of you are struggling like me, I want to share my personal to-do list when I'm just not feeling it. Actually, I just made this up, so I'll be trying it along with you :)
1. Start With Why
Why in the world do you care about the things you care to do? What's the biggest purpose for your everyday actions or ideas? Oh really? That's cool. Write that down and post it somewhere you can see it every day. Keep it short and simple, although it may take some time for you to actually think about and clarify your why. Without a clearly defined why, you'll find yourself causally doing things that have nothing to do with anything greater than yourself, and I promise that's not fulfilling enough for you. With your why, you'll be able to gauge whether your tasks and to-do lists actually line up with you purpose, and if not, stop wasting time on those things.
Do this 30 second task right now: Write down your why. Not sure what that is yet? Take a blank piece of paper and write "My Why" at the top. Commit to write it down after you've given it some thought.
By the way, there's an excellent book on this topic that I read some time ago called Start With Why, You can find it here.
2. Pick Up the Phone
Despite all of our efforts, we cannot escape or deny how we're wired. We need connection with others in the form of genuine relationships. If you frequently work alone (like most freelancers or creatives like me), or you're a work-from-home or stay-at-home parent (again, like me), you have to make a real effort to engage with other people throughout the day. I am absolutely the least self-motivated when I wake up facing a full day of design projects (which require me to be alone in front of the computer for hours on end). Over time, I've found that interruptions in the form of phone calls from clients or friends actually motivate me to start or resume a project. When my craving for social interaction and genuine engagement is fulfilled, I am eager to create and to put my why to work.
Do this 45 second task right now: Think of someone you've been meaning to check on. Call them, and let him or her know you've been thinking of them. Ask how they are, and tell them you want to arrange a time to have a longer chat.
3. Commit to 20 Minutes
What is the biggest, most intimidating task that's on your eventual to-do list right now? If you're starting or have recently started a business, you've got a ton of them. Remove the pressure to complete those big items in one day. Pick one task, and set aside 20 minutes today to do something, anything, that's related to it. Have you heard of the free-writing approach to writing? Apply it to your task here. Just do as much as you can without fretting over how good it is. After your 20 minutes is up, go back and make adjustments. You can get more done in a focused, low-pressure 20 minutes than in an entire distracted day.
Do this 30 second task right now: Schedule (in your phone or calendar) 20 minutes within the next 24 hrs to commit to doing a task that you've been putting off. Consider your peak energy and output time when you're scheduling, ok?
4. Prepare a Reward
Disclaimer: this is only going to work for you if you have someone in your corner who you really trust (and you should!). Incentives really do work for us. It's amazing how much we will accomplish when we know there's a reward at the end of the task (that's why you clock in, right?) Well, if you can muster up just 30 seconds of strength and willpower, might I suggest that you prepare an advance cash incentive for yourself? Give a trustworthy accountability partner some money (not enough to break the bank, but enough that it actually means something to you), and tell him or her to hold on to it until you've accomplished a certain task. Let them know what the task is, and have them require proof that you've completed it before they return your money.
Do this 45 second task right now: Send a friend or family member $20 or any other amount (try using PayPal or Venmo for a quick transaction), and tell them that they can only return it when you (fill in the blank).
5. Log Out
Well you already figured out what I'm going to put here. So let's try it, ok? Social media is fantastic in so many ways BUT it's the quickest way to lose your way and fall into the dreaded comparison game, which steals your joy and your drive. It manipulates your why by trying to become it in a sneaky sort of way, and that's no good.
Do this 5 second task right now: Close this screen, log off, and get to work.