November 18, 2019

Motivating yourself is hard so here is what I do instead

I travel almost every week for work and as part of my traveling, I take a bus for about 3.5 hours each way every week to be able to work on site. Ahead of the 3.5 hours, I think “wow, I’ve got so much time to do the things I want to do – I can read, I can write, I can journal, I can even watch a few videos to learn something new”.

Then reality kicks in. I get on the bus and then I’m watching movies or TV shows for the few hours that I’m on. Or I end up passing out and taking a nap on the bus. Essentially, I get distracted from whatever I thought I was going to do and end up doing something else.

Has that ever happened to you? You plan on being productive and then end up wasting away hours watching Youtube or browsing through Instagram?

So how do you end up not relying on motivation to get you to do productive work? Here are a few ways that I’ve found that works for me:

From Ramit Sethi – schedule it in your calendar

Think about your work and if you have meetings. Do you ever miss meetings? Do you feel bad when you are even late to a meeting? It’s likely that you keep your meetings as much as possible, whether it’s a meeting with a client, meeting with a boss or a meeting with your team.

After hearing about this suggestion from Ramit, I try to schedule as much as possible into my calendar. Whether it’s a meeting, work event, specific work activities that I need to get done or even just goofing off. I put it in my calendar and then when the time comes, I follow my calendar. It’s a lot easier to follow whatever the plan is for the day (which is why it is important to schedule and plan out your day, otherwise, other people end up monopolizing your time).

From Benjamin Hardy – control your environment

Benjamin believes that the way to get motivated is to control your environment – that is, to examine your surroundings and to create an environment that induces you to work. This is why you can get more done at a coffee shop where everybody else is working. Or why you might go to the library to study (because you see other students studying hard).

Here are some things that I’ve done to control my environment to get myself to maintain good habits:

  • Have my gym / workout clothing laid out so that I see it first thing when I wake up
  • Have my tea / hot water ready on the kitchen counter so that it’s the first thing I drink when I go downstairs
  • Have a go bag for when I go to work at a coffee shop (it has my laptop, laptop charger, a notebook, earbuds and everything else I need to get work done)
  • Have my water bottle out when I work so that I am reaching for water (and not for anything else)
  • Regularly clean up my computer desktop and clear my screen of work that I have completed

From Gretchen Rubin – the pairing strategy

Hate working out? Or dislike doing chores? But do you enjoy watching Netflix? Or listening to audiobooks or podcasts? Pair up what you don’t like with what you do like. For example, I find running on a treadmill quite boring but lots of time can pass if I just put up a tablet and put on Netflix so that I’m watching videos while running. And I don’t terribly like doing chores but it is definitely more bearable when I’m listening to an audiobook or podcast while washing the dishes or cleaning the toilets.

Also from Gretchen Rubin (a different book) – get accountability from a friend

In her excellent book, Gretchen talks about how everybody can be split into four tendencies depending on the expectations that you have of yourself (inner expectations) and expectations others have of you (outer expectations). Those that meet both inner and outer expectations are motivated in different ways than those that only meet inner expectations or outer expectations (or neither). She tells the story of a friend who ran every day in high school but as she grew older, stopped running and wanted to figure out why. What was interesting was that the friend who ran every day when she was younger was running as part of a team and her coach expected her to be there, but when she grew older, she was running by herself so did not have that outer accountability on her to show up every day.

The lesson that she learned? Sometimes getting accountability from a friend works because of your tendency – so whether it’s exercise, eating healthy or hustling on that side gig (which is how mastermind groups can help, consider that as one form of ‘motivation’.


What other ways have you tried motivating yourself? What do you do when you don’t feel like doing anything? Let me know in the comments.

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