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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How to Increase Motivation When You’re in a Slump

How to Increase Motivation When You’re in a Slump

Before Bruno Mars became a fixture of every wedding playlist ever, he wrote the Lazy Song—a chart-topping ode to just chillin’. In this reggae-infused track, your mother-in-law’s favorite singer proudly proclaims, “Today I don’t feel like doing anything, I just wanna lay in my bed.” It seems Bruno Mars also needed help learning how to increase motivation.

How often have you felt this kind of desire to do nothing? It’s such a common sentiment that religions dedicate entire days of the week to it. You might just need a rest, but what if you feel unmotivated every single day? Well, that is called a slump.

First, know that you’re not alone. A 2017 study found that 85% of employees are disengaged.[1] We go about our tasks in a fog, and some of our days are so redundant that they could inspire a Bill Murray spoof.

In the past, the greats regained motivation through exploration. Before recording the White Album, The Beatles trekked through Northern India and studied transcendental meditation. Steve Jobs did the same, met a guru, and invented the iPhone. Prince Siddhartha left his royal palace one day to realize full enlightenment and became the Buddha.

But with borders closed all around us, the closest thing to wanderlust is grabbing a pizza across town—not quite as invigorating.

The good news is that you don’t need to live like a monk to get back on track. Motivation is everywhere around us; we just need to know where to look. This list is meant to help you overcome a slump—find the sources that speak to you, or just try each one for a day.

Here are some tips on how to increase motivation when you’re in a slump.

1. Unplug (For Real This Time)

You won’t hear this much in the blogosphere where eyeballs mean dollars, but if you’ve stared at a computer screen for the last ten days, pause for a moment and change your surroundings. That work email or application can wait for a moment. Take your lunch to a park, or go for an urban hike.

Listen to the sounds of nature, smell the plants and flowers, breath in fresh air, and feel how the wilderness teems with life. Focus on being entirely in the present moment, and you’ll realize the world didn’t suddenly end in the past year.

2. Put Some Motivation in Your Ear

If you’re stuck in a slump, I’ve found that all it takes is one rousing speech to change your mindset. Changing your mindset is a great way to learn how to increase motivation.

The right motivational content at the right time can transform your attitude. Pop in your headphones, and do a Google search for “motivation.” There are thousands of speeches on YouTube, even mega-mixes of motivational speakers like Joel Osteen, Wayne Dyer, Les Brown, etc. TED has inspiring speeches by Dan Pink, Angela Duckworth, Tony Robbins, and more.

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If you need another motivation boost on top of this, check out Lifehack’s Fast-Track Class: Activate Your Motivation.

3. Give Back to Others

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” –Mahatma Gandhi

When you’re hurting, the best thing you can do for yourself is to help others. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s true.

When you focus externally on making a difference in the lives of others, it provides you immense satisfaction, which can also improve motivation. These acts of service make your problems look and feel smaller. Most importantly, you feel more empowered to overcome any challenges you face.

Try this: Go to volunteermatch.org and find a charitable opportunity that is meaningful to you. I promise that giving back will lessen the weight of your problems.

4. Call Your Most Positive Friend

We’ve all heard the adage, “You are the sum of your five closest friends.” It’s true because what our peers say affects us.

If you suffer from negative family members or peers, their cynicism will slowly infect you. Instead, drown them out. If your mother is pessimist-in-chief, tell her you to love her, and then draw some boundaries. Spend more time with people that are always searching for the silver lining.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your best friend or that acquaintance you haven’t spoken to since high school. If you don’t have anyone like that in your community, join Facebook or LinkedIn Groups for positive thinkers. Attend a virtual Meetup of like-minded individuals. Don’t overlook the importance of your inner circle as you’re learning how to increase motivation.

5. Find Your Creative Side

Creativity is an essential skill and will gain more importance in the future. It’s one of the few things that can’t be automated, outsourced, or offshored.

One unseen benefit of the lockdowns was that many people finally had time for creative projects. By invoking our imagination, we can often break through mental blocks at work. This can help us increase our motivation to do things.

Have you ever wanted to write poetry, play an instrument, or paint? Stop talking about it and start doing it. Pull out a piece of paper or buy a starter kit online, and unleash your artistic side to break through your slump.

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6. Create a Bucket List

In the 2007 film The Bucket List, two terminally-ill seniors played by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson decide to live their best life before kicking the bucket—think sky-diving, traveling the world, and taking a safari.

Sure, many of these things are out of reach in 2021, but there’s still plenty of life experiences you can check off in order to boost motivation.

It’s a fantastic time to learn a language, practice photography, or get your start in amateur film-making. You can write that book that you’ve been putting off for years or train to run a marathon. You might rent an RV and explore the backroads of your country.

The possibilities are endless.

7. Listen to Music That Moves You

There’s never been a better time to go deeper into your favorite genres of music or to branch out and explore something new. Start with a “Best of” list, like the Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Use websites like Soundcloud and Spotify’s Discover feature for finding new artists. Genres like classical music help people focus and inspire their creativity. Most importantly, they can help you get out of a funk and back to being productive as you learn how to increase motivation. Achieving your goal will feel a lot easier with some inspirational music in the background.

8. Start a Gratitude Journal

“The struggle ends when gratitude begins.” -Neale Donald Walsch

Let’s take some lessons from this horrible pandemic—a simple but profound one: just appreciate everything that we have.

This isn’t our first crisis, and it won’t be the last, so let’s take heart in gratitude for the simple pleasures in life. Appreciate that satisfying meal, the roof over your head, loving friends, and family. It’s easy to fall into the cycle of wanting more. Instead, build the habit of writing down three things you’re grateful for in your journal every day.

You don’t need to list a million items. Instead, go deep into why you cherish a few people and things that mean the most to you.

9. Cherish Past Victories

Most people don’t chase their dreams because of fear. They don’t think that they have what it takes—talent, resources, connections—to accomplish their goals. The best antidote is to relive your own victory story.

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Think back to a time where you did something that you previously hadn’t thought possible. Maybe you earned a promotion, got an A in a class, or traveled solo. If it’s been a while since you stepped out of your comfort zone, go back to your childhood.

Remember how you learned to ride a bike when you were scared, made a new friend, or asked someone out even though you were shy. We’ve all overcome fear in the past, so keep it at the forefront of your mind as you learn how to increase motivation each day.

10. Jot Great Ideas Down

You likely have dozens of great ideas each day, but life is a constant stream of distractions. We often forget about these ideas before we can give them a second thought or use them to create measurable goals.

Many comedians and artists get their best ideas in random moments—on the bus or waiting in line at the store. When a motivating idea or thought enters your mind or when you hear it outside, write it down immediately. This way you can refer and build on them later, rather than let them fall into the quicksand of time.

11. Sweat out Stress

I am a firm believer that an incredible workout (and a delicious recovery meal) can cure almost any bad day. It’s no coincidence that so many successful people like to run or jog.

Exercise brings levels of mental clarity like nothing else. If you can’t go to the gym, follow home workout videos on YouTube or stream fitness classes on apps like Peloton. If you prefer doing cardio outdoors, go for a run. 

If you want to build muscle, buy a pull-up bar or kettle-bells and get to work. If you have bad joints, go for a swim in your nearest lake or ocean.

5 Best Workouts to Try at Home. When you exercise, you enhance your… | by Herbalife Nutrition | Herbalife Nutrition | Medium

    The bottom line is that there are so many fun ways to stay in shape[2] and get endorphins flowing, and it can help you as you learn how to increase motivation.

    12. Disable the Distractions

    The average person gets interrupted once every 8 minutes. It’s no wonder that people struggle to stay focused.

    Put your phone on do-not-disturb, or shut it off completely. Do the same for your desktop apps like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or email. If you’re in a noisy environment, get noise-canceling headphones or earplugs. Follow the Pomodoro Method and set a timer for 25 minutes.

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    By reducing distractions and scheduling regular breaks, you will find yourself getting more done and going deeper into your work. You’ll thus get better results, creating a virtuous cycle of motivation.

    13. Learn From History

    If you’re not sure how to become the best version of yourself, follow those who inspire you. Maybe your idol is a parent or mentor—ask them about their past and find out how they grew to be the person they are today. Investigate the lives of famous people and find where their success left clues. Start with biographies or autobiographies.

    Finding inspiration will help you learn how to increase motivation in the long run.

    14. Just Breathe

    The most important part of my morning routine is meditation. You’re probably familiar with some of the benefits of mindfulness, such as feeling calmer and better able to handle stress by reducing negative thoughts. Through consistent practice, I found that my mental clarity and focus improved, too.

    We all have a “monkey mind” that’s always on the move, like a monkey swinging from branch to branch. All of life’s distractions consume our thoughts, even when it’s unproductive. By meditating, we can consciously choose which thoughts to interact with. Through this practice, you also gain the mental space to operate at peak motivation and inspiration.

    15. Reframe Your Questions

    Let’s say that you are demotivated by a problem that seems impossible to solve. What you can do is invest a lot of time upfront framing the right questions.

    In the Tribe of Mentors, author Timothy Ferriss encourages his readers to ask, “How would it look if this [endeavor, goal, etc.] were easy?”

    In The One Thing, author Gary Keller suggests you ask yourself, “What is one thing I can do that would make everything else less important or unnecessary?”

    Think about the problem you want to solve, and ensure you ask the right questions. Also, consider if you have assumptions baked into your line of thinking. Remember: it’s always better to ask (the right) questions than to assume. These methods can turn a frustrating problem into an inspiring solution.

    Final Thoughts

    Everyone encounters a slump at least once in their lives, but what differs from person to person is how they handle it. There are many ways that you can improve motivation when you’re in a slump. You can start with these 15 tips on how to increase motivation to help you overcome that slump and be the best that you can be.

    More on How to Boost Motivation

    Featured photo credit: Tegan Mierle via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Gallup: The World’s Broken Workplace
    [2] Herbalife Nutrition: 5 Best Workouts to Try at Home

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    Chris Tubbs

    Biz Dev Leader, MBA, Marathoner, Triathlete, and Writer for Knowyourbest.com

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    Published on May 10, 2021

    How To Motivate Yourself To Study When You’re Too Busy With Work

    How To Motivate Yourself To Study When You’re Too Busy With Work

    It was just after 5 AM as I gathered my things to head to the gym. As I walked down the hall, I noticed the light on in my daughter Kinsey’s bedroom. She isn’t typically up that early, so I decided to peek inside to see what was going on.

    As I opened the door, I saw her sitting in bed with her laptop open and a perplexed look on her face.

    “What are you doing?” I asked.
    “I’m doing some last-minute studying before I take my pharmacology exam.”
    “Why are you doing it so early?” I questioned.
    “I need to get it done before I go to work because I have a full day, and I won’t want to do it later.”

    Kinsey is a great student, and she works full-time and goes to school, so I didn’t want to question her actions. Still, as she responded, it hit me. This was one way she kept her motivation to study when she was too busy with work.

    I didn’t want to disturb her further, so I slowly closed the door and went on my way, pondering the question on my own, “how does one maintain their motivation to study when they are too busy with work?”

    Motivation is an interesting topic that psychologists, sociologists, and scientists of all types have studied for decades. Countless books and articles have been written on the subject and continue to pop up each year. But what motivates us in certain situations? How can we stay motivated when we have so many other things on our minds like work?

    To answer these questions, we first need to understand motivation itself. More specifically, the two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.

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    Intrinsic motivation is an incentive to engage in a specific activity that derives from pleasure in the activity itself rather than because of any external benefits that might be obtained.[1] It sounds like, “I’m going to work hard to get that promotion so I can be more fulfilled at work.”

    On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is an external incentive to engage in a specific activity, especially motivation arising from the expectation of punishment or reward.[2] It sounds like, “I really want that promotion at work to make more money.”

    How we are motivated really comes down to whether the motivation is coming from within us or outside us. We all tend to gravitate toward one more than the other, but this can depend on a specific situation.

    Let’s look at the facts from the specific situation in my example and break them down to understand them further.

    • Kinsey works and goes to school like a lot of college students.
    • Kinsey was taking her exam very early in the morning before her usual wake-up time.
    • She was doing the exam before going to work.
    • She had a busy day of work ahead.
    • She acknowledged that she would not want to do it later.

    All of the facts above point to a motivated individual. What they don’t tell us specifically is, was she motivated intrinsically or extrinsically? I would lean towards intrinsic as there doesn’t seem to be any obvious reward.

    This example provides some less apparent clues to ways that can help others like you. I’ve compiled the secrets inspired by these clues, along with some additional wisdom I’ve learned along the way to help you in maintaining your motivation to study.

    Here are 11 tips on how to motivate yourself to study even when you’re too busy with work.

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    1. Have a Great mindset

    It all starts here, and a positive mindset can go a long way. Believe that you will achieve your goals, and focus on the good things that you have already done. Studies show that being optimistic leads to getting more done and having better overall mental and physical well-being.[3]

    2. Visualize Success

    Once your mindset is in order, then the next step is to visualize your success. Begin with a clear vision of what you want to achieve and then experience the feeling of having that success. For example, if you know you want to get an A on an exam, break down the steps to learning the material to ensure success.

    3. Break Your Goals Into Small Attainable Tasks

    Sometimes, a goal can feel too big, like graduating college with straight A’s. Think of the goals you have and break them down into simple, attainable steps instead.

    For example, if you know you want to get an A on an exam, start with gathering the right resources to study, and then go further to identify what you need from each resource. Once you drill down far enough, everything becomes attainable.

    4. Reward yourself

    Rewards help keep you motivated as long as they are healthy. Once you’ve set a goal, establish a small reward for achieving it. Whether it’s an edible treat you love or something bigger like a massage, this type of external motivator can help maintain your motivation and push you closer to your bigger goals.

    5. Pomodoro for the Win

    The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that encourages you to work with the time you have, rather than against it. Break the time you have to study into 25-minute chunks separated by 5-minute breaks. Each interval or Pomodoro helps you resist interruptions and trains your brain to focus. You’ll find that the sense of urgency it creates is a fantastic motivator.

    6. Measure Progress

    Once you start to accomplish goals and have successful Pomodoro’s, you need to measure it all. If you do not measure and report your progress, then you’re probably not making much progress at all. According to Pearson’s Law, when performance is measured, it improves; when performance is measured and reported, it improves exponentially.

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    7. Make It a Competition

    Healthy competition is advantageous to keep you moving, and it’s great for building your motivation to study. You can positively compete with others to push each other to succeed. If you don’t have anyone else, then set up a competition with yourself.

    For example, see how many Pomodoro’s you can do without breaking focus and looking at your phone. Keep pushing the bar higher, and you will strive to reach it.

    8. Find a Mentor

    Another way for you to build and maintain your motivation to study is to find a mentor. Having a mentor is a great way to motivate and connect with someone you admire or someone in the field that you are studying. Having a mentor provides a double benefit in that they can provide both assistance and encouragement to you on your road to success.

    9. Get an Accountability Buddy

    While this is occasionally the role of a mentor, you can also find another person studying the same thing as you as your accountability buddy or partner. With both of you focused on the same outcome, you can share ideas that you may not have thought of and understand the point of view of your friend.

    Studies show that publicly committing your goals to someone gives you at least a 65% chance of completing them. Having a specific accountability partner increases your chance of success to 95%.[4]

    10. Find “Your” Time

    There’s a funny line from an old movie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, where a student is disrupting class, and the teacher tells him to stop interrupting the class and do what he’s doing on his own time. The student responds, “I’m here, you’re here, doesn’t that make it our time?”

    Whether you are studying with a group or solo, you still need to find the time that works best for your needs and your brain. For some, this is first thing in the morning, but for others, it’s after work when they have decompressed. By measuring your success and the efficiency of your Pomodoro’s, you can identify the optimal time for you.

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    11. Move

    Taking the time to move is critical toward moving towards your goals. It doesn’t matter if you study at a desk, in bed, or on the floor, you still need to move. Take short five-minute breaks after each successful Pomodoro to stand up, stretch, and move your legs around. This increased blood flow will help keep you awake and get oxygen to your brain.

    After you’ve completed four consecutive sessions, then it’s time for a more extended 15 to 20-minute break. This break is the optimal time to get some fresh air and brief exercise outside. This short amount of time will make a significant difference in your level of motivation.

    Final Thoughts

    Any of the above tips on their own can help with building and maintaining motivation when put into action. Find the ones that work for you and make them a habit. Once this is done, you won’t need the level of external motivation as you will be programmed internally for success.

    I want to think that I’ve raised Kinsey with some good internal programming and her grades indicate that as well. When she got home from work around 7 PM, she came into my office and asked if she could use it for a while.

    I said, “Sure, what do you need to do?”
    “Take my pharmacology exam.”
    “I thought you took it this morning.”
    “I was going to, but the opening time was wrong on the exam, so it didn’t open until noon today instead of midnight.”
    “Oh, I get it now. Sure, let me get out, so you have peace and quiet.”

    I closed the door and left her in the serenity of my cave, knowing she would get a good grade on her exam. I ended up being right about the grade but not about the source of her motivation to study that morning.

    When she emerged from the office about 30 minutes later, she quickly turned on the TV. It all came down to the fact that she didn’t want to miss the season finale of The Batchelor. I guess it was more extrinsic than I thought.

    More Tips on Staying Motivated

    Featured photo credit: Green Chameleon via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] American Psychological Association: intrinsic motivation
    [2] American Psychological Association: extrinsic motivation
    [3] NCBI: Optimism and Its Impact on Mental and Physical Well-Being
    [4] Entrepreneur: An Accountability Partner Makes You Vastly More Likely to Succeed

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