Everybody has experienced those days: You wake up and feel low. You don´t understand why; just the night before, you were planning your next day and looking forward to it with anticipation. But then it came a bad night. Maybe you couldn´t sleep as good as you wanted; or simply woke up the next morning and felt down and unmotivated. You walk towards the window and you see its raining outside, big grey clouds dominating the sky.
You are supposed to keep working on that important piece of work; on that project. For us writers, you know what it is…. Write! But the feeling is universal.
So, you go to the kitchen and have breakfast. Check the news. Check the social media… suddenly you end up in Tik Tok watching all kind of nonsense. Two hours passed by… WTF? Now it’s time to get serious and go back to work. How can we drag ourselves to sit in the chair and actually commit to work?
Maybe you were planning to hit the gym early morning, or go for a jog around the corner. All those great plans seem quite far away from how you feel now. You start seeing the image of yourself actually hitting the gym more distant and your imagery starts to get more vivid on the thoughts of turning on the TV, watch Netflix and eat nachos.
Yes, I have been there. Many times. More than I would like to admit.
But I also know that if I follow the second plan (TV with Nachos) it will make me feel much worse later in the day. I call it “The hangover of procrastination”.
The feeling of unsatisfaction for not doing what we were supposed to do is as bad as the hangover feeling after drinking 8 shots of cheap tequila. It is unbearable. But we are smart people, so we have found mechanisms to go around the hangover of procrastination… with…more of it.
Typical example: You promise to yourself the night before that you will go jogging tomorrow morning. Then you wake up the next day and it’s raining outside. Then you say to yourself: “Oh no, it’s raining. I cannot go jogging because I will get wet and then I will get sick. Better tomorrow if the sun is shining”. And if tomorrow rains again? You know what will happen next.
The same with going back to work on your project. In a good “sunny day”, when you are in good mood, well rested, and well fed, then you are eager to work on it and even strive at it. But what happens in a grey day, when nothing seems to have a meaning?
I think that what differentiate the ordinary people from the extraordinary one, is precisely those people who show up with their responsibilities, no matter what; in the rain, in the snow, in sunny and grey days. Is the person that develops within him or herself the strength to overcome their feelings, pains and other obstacles and keep showing up every day.
So, to the question of what to do to keep going when you lack motivation, the answer is simple:
Do whatever you were planning to do. Show up. And do a double effort to strive, despite your down feeling.
You will realize that while doing it, the feeling of uneasiness and low energy disappears. You don’t give it any importance anymore, so you start to focus all your energy in the task at hand.
Believe me, it works wonders.
If I feel like not wanting to write, I just go and sit and write. And as I start writing and I let myself go on the act, I lose the sense of time. My body and mind are focused on the task so I have no time to think that I am unmotivated. This is how you get to finish any work that is of value. Working constantly, diligently, daily, with no big interruptions.
If everybody would just work when the time is right, the sun is shining and we feel at our top capacity, then probably we would still be living in caves hunting rabbits and making fire with two small wood sticks.
The key is the following: The more unmotivated you feel, the more you have to go and do it.
Like David Goggins rightly says in his book “Can´t Hurt Me”: “The reason it’s important to push hardest when you want to quit the most is because it helps you callous your mind. It’s the same reason why you have to do your best work when you are the least motivated”.
So, if you were waiting for some divine sign that gives you the immediate motivation burst, then take this: Go back to work!