I got an email the other day from a reader who wished she could stay motivated. “I’m extremely motivated at work,” she wrote, “and then I completely lose it when I get home.”
I get it. Some nights I want to work on art after the kids go to bed. And frankly, there are times when Kim and I just end up sinking into the couch to watch the latest episode of Gotham.
First of all, a disclaimer: It’s important to be kind to yourself. Some days are harder than others, and we end them feeling pretty beat up. On those days, it’s totally ok to cut yourself some slack.
The problem is that it’s easy to rationalize a pretty long string of them. Before long, you’ve squandered big chunks of your precious life binge-watching television. I’m pretty sure that’s not why we’re on this planet.
The truth remains that at the end of most days, you’re going to be tired. How do you push past it to accomplish things that are important to you? How do you stay motivated?
The secret to staying motivated is to quit waiting to feel motivated. Period.
Doing things that matter has nothing to do with motivation, or even passion for that matter. You would think that because I love making art, I’d eagerly bound downstairs after putting the kids to bed to whip up some new creations. Sadly, no. Because Adultitis is a tricky SOB. All of a sudden, I’m flooded with 99 reasons why those 13 steps to my studio are impassable: I’m too tired. I deserve a break. I’m not feeling inspired. I don’t have the right materials. I promise myself that I’ll spend twice as much time tomorrow.
So here’s a little trick I learned that works like a charm: Give yourself permission to spend just five minutes on the task at hand. Literally. Set a timer for five minutes, and when the timer goes off, you can be done and go back to having an affair with Hulu.
Here’s the magic part: by the time the five minutes is up, you’ve already started to get into the groove. The hardest part — starting — is over. 99 times out of 100, when I drag myself downstairs and commit to 5 minutes, I end up staying down there, making art, for more than an hour. And it’s glorious. I’m in the zone and happily creating.
Action breeds motivation.
You can do the same thing in the morning. Set the alarm an hour early, and commit to just 5 minutes of prayer, yoga, exercise, whatever. Set the timer, and at the end of 5 minutes, you can go back to bed if you want. Spoiler: you probably won’t.
If you wait to feel motivated, you’ll be waiting forever.
Start with action. Start the timer. I promise you’ll be shocked at how motivated you feel after five minutes.