Low Motivation and Procrastination can be really great mates, particularly in my case. I always picture them sitting at a bar together and Motivation says, “Okay, it’s probably time to do something.” And Procrastination says, “Well, we could, let’s just have one more drink.”
Today’s episode focuses on my recent dip in motivation and the science on how to get unstuck. Join me in learning three tips to bust a dip in motivation – the Motivation Myth, How to start (when you don’t feel like it), and task size.
After you listen to this episode it’s time to stop procrastinating, use a technique from the podcast and get actioning!
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Motivation and Procrastination can be really great mates, particularly in my case. I always picture them sitting at a bar together and Motivation says, “Okay, it’s probably time to do something.” And Procrastination says, “Well, we could, let’s just have one more drink.”
You may have noticed it’s been a few weeks without podcasts. I have a number of interviews lined up but I didn’t have a plan for their releases and now a month’s gone by and still no podcasts have been released. And if I’m honest, I’ve felt low on motivation and now I’m procrastinating. Yep, I’m a procrastinator from way back. In fact, I have learnt a lot about procrastination.
Probably to procrastinate what I was supposed to be doing, I did a degree in Spain, an Executive Masters in Positive Leadership and Strategy, and one of the subjects was behavioral decision making. And in this subject, I wrote a whole paper reflecting on how I was hacking my habit of procrastination. Now I think like most things you never actually get cured from procrastinating, but I certainly have improved. And procrastination and lack of motivation are somewhat linked.
So if you are also feeling low on motivation or you have times that you feel low on motivation, today’s episode is all for you. I’m going to share a few tips on what I’ve learned from both research and life experience on motivation.
Tip number one, the Motivation Myth. If you are waiting to feel motivated, you will be stuck in a perpetual loop. So we think that “I will start a task once I feel motivated”, but actually it happens around the other way. So instead of expecting motivation to arrive like a knight in shining armor, consider this.
Action often precedes motivation. And what does that mean? It means start the task, take the first step and let motivation catch up. It’s a really powerful shift in perspective that can break the chains of procrastination and lack of motivation.
Now, I learned this from running.
I was never a runner until my mid to late twenties when a friend decided she was going to do a triathlon, and I thought that sounded like a great idea. So, what I learnt from running is, if I waited till I felt motivated, it never happened. Instead, I did a run, no matter how small, and I asked myself if I felt better or worse after, then used this for future motivation.
Once I got into a habit, it became easier, but it is a slow flywheel to begin. Like I said earlier, Motivation and Procrastination can be really great mates, particularly in my case. I always picture them sitting at a bar together and Motivation says, “Okay, it’s probably time to do something.” And Procrastination says, “Well, we could, let’s just have one more drink.”
So understand your procrastination, because this is also going to help you with your motivation. For example, my procrastination actually comes from perfectionism. What I’ve noticed is if I leave something to last minute, then I can’t be hard on myself for it not being perfect because I didn’t give myself a lot of time.
So yeah, it’s a little bit crazy, but for me, having someone to keep me accountable is essential. And the second thing that I started to understand was having minimal time to achieve something turbocharged me to perform. So what that means is if I only had a small amount of time to do something, I had to be creative, and I love being creative.
So I found that I would put myself in situations where I had to come up with a really creative and efficient and effective solution because I was under time pressure. I remember a situation when I was in run group and I was by far the slowest runner and I was asked to lead the group back to our starting point because we were having a group photo of the triathlon club.
I found this a little bit amusing, asking the slowest person to guide everyone back for a photo that we were running late for. But, when you get someone who’s under a time pressure to do something that they’re not going to get done because I was the slowest runner, I had to be creative.
And so, I led the group through a car park that I knew you could get around through a back door and to the place where we’re supposed to meet for the photo without breaking too much of a sweat. Now, did this ruin the point of run group? Maybe, but I think it’s a great example of how being put under a tight situation, I actually found an effective and efficient way to do it.
If you had someone who was a fast runner, they would have just led the group quickly back to the start.
So understanding your type of procrastination or how you get a buzz out of things is really important for you to understand your motivation as well. So busting the motivation myth, don’t wait to feel motivated. The act of doing makes you feel more like doing it.
Now, my tip number two is all about, well, how do you then start doing it when you don’t feel like it?
I have two tips here. One, is to use a Pomodoro method. If you’re not familiar with it, Pomodoro is Italian for tomato. This method came from someone who was using a tomato timer, like a kitchen timer and put it on for 25 minutes and set the goal of I’ll do 25 minutes of work and then have a five minute break.
You can also do 50 minutes of work and have a 10 minute break. What I found personally is I would set up my task and think, “Well, this is going to take three pomodoros, three 25 minute blocks.” But once I started, I found it really easy to keep going. It’s the starting that was difficult for me and my motivation.
So if you’re not sure then how to break these tasks down, my third tip is when it feels too big or too unknown, or you don’t know where to start, break it down into these small tasks. So for example, I have a room extension at home that I have done nothing on for 12 months, because I’m not clear on the next steps.
If I’m to move forward in this, I need to sit down and work out what the steps are and then break them down into smaller steps, and then set my timing.
It’s only when thinking about this episode did I realise why I haven’t done anything on this home extension, because the next step is too unknown. So even as a reformed procrastinator and someone who is hacking motivation, I still get myself stuck in the loop. But what I have learned is how to get myself out a lot faster.
When I’m working one on one with executive coaching clients, we always start with a strategy plan, working out where they are wanting to go, and then I’ll work with them to break it down into tactics and tasks. So these big tasks come to something that is achievable and a really clear plan forward.
So ambiguity is also the ally of procrastination. Ambiguity is the third one that sits at the bar with motivation and procrastination.
So by setting clear specific goals for each task rather than vague steps, such as record a podcast, what I can write down is choose five podcast topics. Put dot points for each podcast. Write the podcast introduction. Record the first three minutes. Clarity brings focus, and it makes it easier to initiate and complete tasks.
One of the things that makes it easy for me to really understand my clients is I’ve been there. I understand motivation and procrastination and lack of clarity when it comes to strategy.
When I work with my one on one executive coaching clients or team coaching, I work in three different areas. One Strategy, two, Accountability and three, Education.
So strategy is all about what is the end goal, what’s the plan, what’s the tactics to get there. So if you are struggling with motivation or procrastination, having a clear plan, this third ally that sits at the bar, ambiguity, is made really clear when you have this strategy pillar set.
The second pillar is Accountability. So we decide and discuss in the strategy what is important and how accountable you’d like to be kept to it. And my role is to help you achieve the goals that you want to achieve and noticing when you self sabotage. For example, I would self sabotage around when I procrastinate and leaving things to the last minute so I don’t judge myself on something not being perfect. So understanding that self sabotage and around accountability helps keep you to what you want to do and why it’s important.
And the third area is Education, which a lot of people have not been taught how to lead. They haven’t been taught the tools and also the conversations to have. So that’s the third pillar that I work with, education.
So if you feel like you’re lacking motivation, perhaps you are also procrastinating, pick something from today’s podcast that’s going to help move you forward. For example, busting that motivation myth. So waiting for motivation, don’t wait for it. It’s not coming.
You need to start and then you’ll feel motivated. You could also use the Pomodoro method, so set a 25 minute timer where you don’t get up, you don’t get a snack, you don’t do the washing, you don’t go to the bathroom or have a chat. You do 25 minutes of work. And once you start, you’ll find it easier.
Or, the third tip of breaking it down into small manageable tasks. I hope this podcast has helped you feel a little bit more motivated. And if you’re looking to work with me in a one on one capacity, there is a link in the show notes on how you can do that, and I would love to help you with your leadership, your accountability, and your strategy.
Thanks for listening.
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