Finding Motivation to Do the Hard Things When You Literally Can’t Even

Some days I just can’t. Like literally just the thought of work, cleaning, cooking or parenting is too much.

Sometimes I really want to or need to complete a task or project but it just seems like it will take too much energy. Or I just don’t know where to start and I’m overwhelmed. It is so easy to get stuck in this phase and it sucks.

And the very worst part is that I know that if I can just find motivation, I can get it done faster and move on with my life. However, just knowing that motivation can lead to great things doesn’t make it magically appear.

In the last few years, I have worked really hard to find ways to complete tasks efficiently and effectively even when I don’t want to. It is a skill that takes time to practice but I promise anyone can do it.

When I find myself in a rut, here are the best ways to break free, complete tasks and work more effectively (even when you have zero energy). The best part is it frees up more of my time and adds a lot of value to our family.

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Learn to block out negative mental chatter

You finally start to gather up the courage to start the task and quickly the negative mental chatter starts. Your brain is desperately trying to find any solution or distraction to not do the task. This type of thinking alone can derail your progress a lot.

Not only does this make it ten times harder to complete the task but also this type of thought process can creep into your self-esteem. Start to practice turning it off and replacing it with other thoughts.

Every time your thoughts turn down that pathway, you need to break the pattern. The more often you break the pattern, the less often it will happen. So here are a few ways to break the cycle that I use.

By using this question for an instant mood booster

To quickly break the thoughts, I ask myself what is something I am looking forward to? I only focus on trying to answer since it usually takes me a couple of moments. This distracts me from my current thought pattern and instantly improves my mood.

Once you feel that jolt of happiness, try again to tackle the task. I usually keep thinking about the “thing” I am looking forward to if it is a mundane task. For instance, I love to use this one when I do the dishes. It makes them go by quicker. And oddly, now I associate doing the dishes with feelings of excitement and happiness.

If the task needs me to be focused, I then start with this and then use the other two tricks below.

Have an affirmation and motivational quote handy

Other important ways to break out from this negative thought process is to use affirmations and motivational quotes. My favorite saying is FAIL, which stands for First Attempt In Learning. My personal biggest mental block is thinking I am not going to succeed.

With that mindset, tasks can become daunting. FAIL (first attempt in learning) helps to remind me that learning is part of the process. Instead of giving up when it doesn’t go well, I keep going because learning is a step to getting where I want to be.

Find phrases and affirmations that work for you. Do whatever motivational pep talk you need that fits you.

Ask questions that get your wheels turning

Your goal with this strategy is to only have thoughts that are productive. Questions on topic will keep your mind focused on completing the task at hand. You need your mind involved and actively working on a part of the task.

No matter what the task is, start with simple questions as you begin to get some motivation. These can be something like “Alright, what do I need to do or know to get this done?” or “What is most important to get done in the time I have right now?”

You can also ask yourself more detailed questions. If you need to, make a list of questions and then use them as a way to get your wheels turning. You will not only be more motivated but also be able to complete your work more efficiently.

Warm-up level for the first 10 minutes

This is especially important for overwhelming big tasks. Let’s say you need to tackle a work project or clean (or REALLY clean or declutter) the house. Jumping into the task right away will for sure cause stress or just a sense of overwhelm. Stress will lead to the negative mental chatter, which might kill all of your motivation or just make it that much harder to complete.

Instead, get your mind ready and do a warm up. The point of this is to let your mind get in the mood to do the work.

There are three ways to do this, but first remove yourself from the actual task. For instance, if your work is going to be at a computer, then use pen and paper. It is even better if you can remove yourself from the environment. Pick another room of the house, office or even just outside. The reason behind this is to keep stress low.

Now, with that pen and paper do one of the following: make a list, make a plan or let your mind wander. The idea behind this is to let your mind go over all the details, tasks and potential roadblocks before you start. Once you start, you are trying to complete the task. This warmup exercise will allow you to tackle the project better because your mind is ready.

Set aside time for it

Just like how a toddler loses their mind (aka temper tantrum) if you say it’s time to stop or start something without warnings or timers, your mind also doesn’t like abrupt change. For instance, let’s say you got told that you needed to go and organize your storage closet right now. Or you needed to watch three extra kids for the rest of the day starting now. Your mind would be doing a double flip.

I would not only be overwhelmed but also screaming “no” inside. I would have the opposite of motivation to complete that task. Now, those examples are extreme, but the same thing holds true for even daily tasks. If you didn’t know you would have to do a task or when you will have to do it, you have to first wrap your mind around it to gain motivation. And honestly, I even schedule cleaning tasks because it makes doing them so much easier. I remove that mental roadblock that comes with not knowing when I am going to do things.

The day before, decide what tasks you will take on and when. The most important task to “schedule” is the hardest one for you to complete mentally. For the hardest task, keep these ideas in mind:

Pick a time with no distractions

For tasks that take a LOT of motivation, the last thing you want to happen is a distraction. You just spent so much energy gathering up all that motivation. If a distraction happens, then you might lose all that motivation. Make sure that when you have the want to get it done, you can get it done.

Pick your best time of the day

If you are a morning person, don’t leave your hardest task of the day for the evening, and vise versa. It really doesn’t matter when you do a task as long as it isn’t time sensitive.

I love to write at night after my kids go to sleep. However, if I tried to write in the morning before they woke, I don’t think I would get past one sentence. Therefore, I only write at night.

Make it a date

There are some tasks that are better to do with a friend. For me, this is working out and meal prepping. I just can’t do them alone. Therefore, I make an effort to schedule both of these things with a friend.

My friend and I coordinate our grocery shopping one evening a month so we meal prep together after the kids go to bed. We spend the evening talking while we make freezer prep meals. It takes a boring task that is so valuable to our families and makes it fun.

Working out is another area where I need friend motivation. I won’t cancel on a friend, but I will bail out on the gym if it is just myself. Again, I just can’t find the motivation to work out by myself. So, in order to get that workout in, I make it fun by doing it with a friend.

Make it better

I don’t know why it works so well but if I add in a comfort perk, I am able to accomplish so much more. For instance, if I allow myself to pick up a latte on a stressful parenting day, I am able to handle the day so much better.

If it allowed you to complete your task or complete it faster, then it was worth it.

There is no problem with rewards or competition

Seriously, rewarding yourself or competing is an excellent motivator. If you want to get more fit, grab a Fitbit and try to beat your friends in how many steps you take. Wine and chocolate are excellent rewards for a day of parenting. Whatever helps you accomplish more, use it to motivate.

Change your mindset of “progress”

This is really important, particularly to keeping your motivation high during the task. Let’s say I work up my motivation to finally start a daunting or overwhelming task. I find that once I start, if I don’t feel like I’m “succeeding” right away, then I am failing.

For example, let’s say writing this post was the task at hand. If my measurement of success is finishing the post, then if I have only written a paragraph, I will feel like “I could be doing better”. I am literally failing until I finish. I will feel like I am not making progress.

Instead, change your idea of success. If I am actively working on writing this post then I am making progress. Therefore, every time I add more, I am succeeding. Completing something cannot be your only measure of success or you will be bound to fail when it comes to keeping motivation.

Sometimes I make a list of the little tasks just so I can cross them off as I go. This shows myself that I am succeeding and making progress.

Make your “why I care” list

If you are having a hard time finding the motivation, then you need to remind yourself of the reasons. Why are you trying to complete this task? While it might take ten minutes to have a mental pep talk or even write down why you are doing this, it will be worth it. The list should remind you and result in you doing the work. If it doesn’t, then maybe you need to rethink your task at hand.

Take a shower

If you are one of those people who gets all of your good ideas while in the shower, then you need to try this. Spend your next shower pondering the task you need motivation for. Seriously, spend your whole shower on the topic and you are bound to be ready to tackle it.

Pursue motivation Today

A lot of life is just finding the motivation to do things that get you where you want to be.

Find what works for you and don’t stop until you find a strategy.

Get positive with mood boosters, affirmations and inspirational quotes. It never hurts to write out the reasons behind why you care. If you can answer why you want to do the task, then you will find your motivation.

Keep a schedule and make sure to pencil in those really hard tasks during distraction-free times. Don’t be a night owl if you are a morning person. You will get nothing done that way.

Remember to see success as progress and not completion. And if all else fails, try the shower trick.

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1 thought on “Finding Motivation to Do the Hard Things When You Literally Can’t Even”

  1. Loved this article! So many great ideas, especially the FAIL acronym. It’s so important to allow ourselves to fail and embrace failure as a positive step in the learning process. Great work!

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