Low on Motivation? 7 Psychological Hacks to Get Going

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3. Set a timer.

You can also motivate yourself by setting a timer,forcing yourself to work for a fixed amount of time and putting a break on the schedule for the near future. This simultaneously puts a limit on how much effort you’ll need to expend and gives you something to look forward to — a break.

Studies show that the “average” optimal time for this work-break split entails working for 52 minutes and breaking for 17, but you’ll likely need some adjustments to make the pattern work for you. For example, Tony Schwartz (president of the Energy Project) takes a break every 90 minutes, since he says his alertness tends to drop off after those 90 minutes are up.

4. Tell someone what you plan to do.

Social pressure can influence your personal motivation fairly strongly. If you have a big project to do, or a major goal for the day, tell someone close to you (such as a friend, family member or even a colleague) what you intend to accomplish. Knowing you’ll need to eventually report back to that person, you’ll feel extra pressure to do what you said you were going to.

If you want even more pressure, consider broadcasting your goal to a whole group of people, such as the entire office. Ray Wu, cofounder of Weilos, used that online weight-loss community’s platform to measure this effect. The result: Participants who actively shared their goals and progress ended up losing 1.2 pounds per week, compared to just 0.27 pounds per week among dieters not using the platform.

5. Change your “self-talk.”

A comprehensive review of 47 different studies reported in the Journal of Sports Exercise Psychology confirmed the effects of positive and negative “self-talk” — that running internal dialogue most of us experience throughout the day. Essentially, positive self-talk leads to higher motivation, better self-esteem and an elevated mood, while negative self-talk leads to the opposite.

If you find yourself saying or thinking things like “This is too much,” or “I’m stressed out of my mind,” try rephrasing those comments to things like, “This is an exciting challenge,” or “I’m going to feel great when I’m done with this.” Sometimes, a simple mental change is all it takes to radically transform your perspective.

6. Keep a task list.

Start keeping a list of tasks to do, and write down everything — even small, minutes-long tasks throughout your day. Whenever you get something done, cross it off the list or put a check mark next to it. This will help you stay organized but, more importantly, will give you a boost of motivation every time you cross something off.

In the words of April Underwood, vice president of product at Slack, “Have a clear system for to-dos: whether it’s ‘Getting Things Done’ or the ‘Checklist Manifesto,’ just have a system and stick to it.” Continued Underwood: “I have a very specific method I use in Slack and in email that works for me, and knowing I have that system keeps me from feeling overwhelmed even when I’m behind or the to-dos pile up.”

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