How to beat the lockdown lack of motivation
I haven't posted in a while and I'm not sure how to express what I'm feeling right now going into week three of our six-week lockdown.
Allow me to start with a written word from one of my favourite artists:
"Motivation" Motivation - such an aggravation Accusations - don't know how to take them Inspiration - getting hard to fake it Concentration - never hard to break it Situation never what you want it to be Written by Sum 41
So why is this pop-punk song from the early noughties so relevant right now? Everything has shut down to prevent the spread of the virus, which, regardless of whether you think this means we're living in an autocracy (hint: we're not), it means there is not a lot that we can do right now. I've lost my gym, my sport, my friends, my social life, most of my work hours and many people have lost much more than that. Things are expected to stay this way for quite some time, at least months, probably a matter of years. It's looking bleak and from the people I've spoken to it is starting to feel that way, too.
But to say there is not a lot we can do right now is just not true. The world has never quite been at our fingertips as much as it is now with computers, phones and the internet. The number of things we can do at home has skyrocketed, and that's not to discount the countless craft and entertainment options people have been using for centuries like books and sewing.
I had the idea for this article when I was lying awake at night, unable to sleep because I felt like I was not making the most of my time by just getting through. This article isn't meant to shame anyone who isn't being productive right now, it is completely fine to just be getting through these times. This article is meant for those of you who have extra time on your hands and want to be doing more, to give you the tools to do what you want, despite the lethargy of the times.
Here are five tactics to avoid the lockdown lack of motivation.
1. Don't rely on motivation
Sorry, Sum 41, but your power chords won't always be there to save me.
You can't base the success of your day on motivation because there will always be days where it doesn't exist. I don't care how much you want something, how hard you feel you're willing to work right now, there will always be a day where you want to give up. Just doing what you feel like at the time is asking for wasted days and sleepless nights.
Anyone who has watched the original Rocky will understand, even the most motivated of athletes has those days where you wonder "what's the point in trying". If you only try on the days that you feel like it, you will always have days where you achieve nothing because motivation is a feeling that can come and go.
Rocky very nearly gives up halfway through the film, breaking down in front of his girlfriend Adrian. If he stopped there we never would have got Rocky II, Rocky III and Rocky IV. Okay maybe not the best example of good things happening when you don't give up but the point stands: everyone feels that way at some point.
"But this whole article is about how to get your motivation back!?" I hear you gasp emphatically. Wrong. This article is about how to deal with a lack of motivation, not necessarily gain it back.
Don't entirely base what you do each day on how motivated you feel, base it on what you want to achieve. From there you can add a bit of flexibility to your day to match your motivation, such as finishing work early or going the extra mile for a partner. Just make sure you do the bare minimum each and every day.
If you need a method to avoid relying on motivation, look no further than the next tip.
2. Write down what you want to achieve before you want to achieve it
A journal, a scrap piece of paper or your phone - they can all be equally as useful here.
The benefit of writing it down is it makes you define very clearly what you want and makes it real. The benefit of defining it before you want it done is that it completely removes feelings and motivation from the equation.
What I want from you, is what is in the heading. Take those feelings of inadequacy, uselessness or irrelevance and write them down while you are most worked up about them.
"I feel like I'm not studying enough"
"I feel like I'm not seeing my friends enough"
"I feel like I'm not challenging myself enough"
Whatever is dragging you down through this lockdown, write it down.
Great, now we can turn them into goals by writing them in positive terms. Instead of writing down what isn't happening, write what you can do to remedy that particular feeling. Keep it general at this stage, we don't need a detailed step-by-step plan, heck we don't even need to know if it's practically possible at this stage, just write down what you feel you want to do.
Study more often
Talk to friends more often
Push yourself to do more
Now here is the part where we get rid of relying on that ever-elusive motivation. Write down what you are going to do tomorrow. It doesn't have to achieve all your goals, just write down one step in that process that you know you can do tomorrow.
Read through old notes on Intra-muscular fatigue
Two easy to achieve goals to get done tomorrow, regardless of motivation levels. Depending on how much you need to get done, this can be scaled up to target every small task throughout your day or kept low-key like this example. And who knows, this might set you on the right path for the rest of your day.
3. Move your body early on
Everybody likes to move in different ways - figure out what works for you!
Obviously as a personal trainer and exercise scientist I'm a little bit biased, but I believe if you move your body early in the day you will have a better day.
That's not just a baseless theory, there are countless research articles on how low-moderate exercise improves brain function, releases the happy drugs in your brain and basically creates world peace, but I think there is more to it than that. Maybe it's because it means you avoid bad behaviours like getting sucked into your phone, or maybe the happy hormones put you in a good mood...
Whatever causes the results, this is my number one tip for getting things done! (Coming in at number three on this list for dramatic effect)
Now the simplest and one of the best ways to do this is to go for a walk, but it is winter in Melbourne at the moment... meaning lots of layers of clothing and not very pleasant walks.
Another top method is to go through a stretching routine. This one you can do in the comfort of your own bedroom. Every time you get out of bed go through a couple salutes to the sun, hop down on the ground into some spider mans or push ups or sit ups or hip stretches - yoga, pilates, zumba, fortnite dances - whatever feels good to you.
You could also sit on the exercise bike for five minutes or play with the dog or climb your stairs five times or dance to Michael Jackson's Thriller or pull off some Bruce Lee kung-fu style moves... You get the idea.
Remember this isn't here to majorly challenge your fitness, we just want to get the blood pumping. You can even read the news while you do this if you like, whatever works for you.
It might take some experimenting, but once you get this simple movement into your daily routine it will feel incredibly normal and will have an enormous benefit to your day.
4. Do something productive, something creative and something fun
No, sleeping in, choosing something on Netflix and ordering Ubereats doesn't count...
I've found that breaking up my tasks for the day into these three categories helps to make sure I don't spend the entire day sitting at my computer on one thing. By doing something productive, something creative and something fun each day, I know I'll get things done, be further along now than I was yesterday and have something to look forward to.
- Use this time to work, clean or create something that will make your future easier. These things often aren't the most enjoyable, but need to be done and have a significant payoff, even if it doesn't seem like it now. They can often be draining to your energy levels so aim to get these out of the way first.
Obviously work counts as productive time, but, if you're not working many hours at the moment this could look like: exercising, tidying your house, doing the laundry, planning this week's meals, buying essential items, doing something nice for your partner, setting out your timetable, studying, organising your equipment or cooking meals.
- Use this time to CREATE something. These things often make us feel good once they are completed, but, might take some persuading to start working on. I think it is really important that in times like these, when it is so easy for us to CONSUME vast amounts of entertainment, that we are creating something of our own. Not only will this give us a better appreciation of the arts that we are consuming, but it can also inspire something within us that consuming alone cannot. Let your inner child out.
This can be anything from: painting, learning a musical instrument, creating a maze, filming a trick-shot, baking a new recipe, drawing, writing a blog, colouring in, sculpting, making a level in a video-game, decorating, taking photos, making photo collages, sewing, creating an outfit for your next zoom session, making puzzles or quizzes.
- This should be something that you look forward to. These things are usually very easy to do as they give us instant gratification, but can quickly become addicting and overwhelm our timetables. These should give you energy as you do them. Sprinkle these lightly throughout the day as a break from working or save them for the evening once you've done what you needed to.
I don't think you really need any ideas from me on this one but: calling a friend, getting on the Zeers (Zoom beers) with your mates, watching Netflix, playing games, reading a book.
Remember it's just as important that we plan to have fun as it is planning to work. Hit all three of these categories consistently each day and you'll be feeling like you just took your spirit to a day spa.
5. So you want to do more, but what are you going to do less of?
As uncle Iroh once said to his misguided nephew Prince Zuko - "it's time for you to look inward and start asking yourself the big question: who are you and what do you want?"
If you are going to be adding productive things into your day, it means you will have to take out things which don't add to your goals.
This step requires a bit of self-reflection and honesty. Look back at your previous seven days and write down what you did each day.
Now we're going to see if anything stands out as something you don't want to be doing.
My revelation is a little bit embarrassing. I realised every time I sat down on the toilet, I whipped out my phone and ended up spending way too much time getting distracted rather than doing my duty.
If I can shave down the time spent on my phone I have a little bit longer to spend on my goals such as spending more time doing my lockdown hobby: limestone sculpting!
It's not the worst first sculpture I've ever seen... Okay, maybe I won't quit my day job just yet.
Also take note of whether you hit the productive, creative and fun categories, see if you did any exercise that day and if it helped you accomplish more. Take notice of whether you felt motivated that day and how that affected the outcome.
Reflecting on how you spend your time can be one of the most beneficial tools for combating a lack of motivation. Acknowledging what is working well, and what isn't, is the key to spending your time well.
Summary: Everyone is feeling a little down at the moment, and that is absolutely to be expected given the circumstances, but if you feel like you want to be doing more, then you can.
By using these five tips:
Don't rely on motivation
Write down what you want to do, before you do it
Move your body early on
Do something productive, something creative and something fun
Choose what you are going to do less of
You can help yourself get over the motivational slump it seems we are all going through collectively.
I'll leave you with these final words of wisdom:
What you do in your life, affects those around you
Yes, I did get that from another song, I like my music.
If you want to get in touch to chat motivation you can comment below or reach me on instagram.