049: Defeating Lack of Motivation With a Vengeance

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 – 58 minutes

Download: MP3 (56.1 MB) | Lo-Fi MP3 (28.1 MB)


Do you have a big project you’re having trouble completing? Are you feeling a lack of motivation when it comes to something you really want to be working on? We evaluate why you’re stuck, what to do in order to get past it, and how to identify the optimal time to act in the future to prevent loss of motivation from happening.

Show Notes
  • On Starting
  • 07:18 Today’s topic is on motivation, but more specifically, how to find motivation when you feel like you’ve lost it.
  • 07:46 If you haven’t started something, you’re not lacking motivation. You’re lacking discipline. Starting something is a choice. You choose to show up.
  • 07:56 If you wait for inspiration, you will never get around to working. If you start with the commitment to show up, the inspiration will come.
  • Learn to recognize the times you do have inspiration
  • 09:10 You may not be motivated right now, but before we get into tips for coming out of that slump, let’s first learn to spot the times where you actually have motivation but you may not recognize it.
  • 09:49 Whenever you happen to to be inspired—if you feel like you have a strong idea—THAT is the time to do something. Act on inspiration right away. As immediately as possible. You’re going to have the greatest about of motivation to work on that thing when you have the inspiration for it.
  • 10:15 The worst thing you can do is file that idea away and tell yourself you’ll work on it later. That’s how things end up never getting done.
  • 10:24 We work well within constraints and condensed time. It’s why you’re able to finish a school paper at the last minute. Acting immediately on inspiration is going to give you the most productive use of that time. You’re going to get a lot more done in a few hours or few days now that you will if put it off to be scheduled later.
  • 11:18 Dealing with distraction.
  • 14:57 Ideally, you want to create for yourself the kind of margin that would allow you to pursue an idea or project immediately at any time. I realize that’s a bit tricky, and is certainly difficult, but if you can manage it, it’s going to be tremendously beneficial.
  • Make sure the real issue isn’t depression
  • 16:51 Before I get to some of the tips that I have, I want to really mention that you want to rule out this being depression. I’m not a psychologist or therapist or anything like that, but you may want to ask yourself:
    • Do you feel a loss of motivation about just this one project, or is it with everything in life?
    • Do you feel like you just don’t feel anything at all?
    • Do you have trouble accepting praise or compliments or nice things from other people?
  • 17:52 I am not at all qualified to diagnose you or help you with it, but the rest of this show I’m going to be talking about overcoming a lack of motivation, and I don’t want you to ignore a core issue if that’s really what’s causing it.
  • Is this really the right thing I should be doing right now?
  • 18:45 Sometimes and idea can be good, but right now may not be the right time for it.
  • 19:10 Let’s say you have this super awesome idea for a really large project. Well, if you’re living paycheck to paycheck and you have no margin in your life, or money in your savings account, it’s going to be really difficult to find availability for that kind of a project.
  • 19:41 The idea might be good, but it’s the wrong time for it. You may need to focus on building and launching something smaller right now—especially if it’s your first thing.
  • Start small and get in the habit of launching and shipping your ideas.

  • 20:08 Once you become accustomed to that model and that cycle, you can scale it to bigger and better things.
  • 21:36 Don’t feel bad if you can’t do this thing right now. It’s worse if you just have it hanging over your head and then you end up doing nothing because you have this guilt.
  • 22:43 Create a “Someday” list on your todo app and log the idea away. That way you’ll feel better, it’s off you mind, but it’s catalogued so you don’t feel like it’s lost. Now you’ve freed up your mental capacity to pursue something else right now.
  • 23:04 Putting off your idea for later can often be beneficial, in that things you learn in the mean time can lend themselves toward helping your later project.
  • 23:46 A brief note of “backwards-building” products.
  • Am I working too hard?
  • 27:24 This is a tough one for me. I don’t really like seeing this one here in my notes because it hits too close to home, but it’s something you need to ask yourself and be honest about.
  • 28:00 If you are working too hard, that really can have detrimental affects.
  • 28:41 Evaluate whether or not you’re working too hard, because that can suck the energy from you. if you’re not able to be objective, maybe ask a friend or your spouse if you want a real honest answer. And be prepared to listen and accept what they have to say.
  • 29:22 When you’re burnt out, pushing yourself is not the solution.
  • Make perfectionism work for you instead of against you
  • 31:08 A perfectionist mindset can keep you from shipping. It can be a wasteful use of your time. Yes, there is something to be said for obsessing over the details that no one see, because it is true that all of those intangible details do add up to a comprehensively positive experience, but at some point it becomes counterproductive. At some point, perfectionism leads to paralysis. And if you’ve allowed it to get that far, you’ve failed.
  • 32:30 Here’s my formula for preventing my perfectionist self from getting stuck: 90%.
  • 33:06 That’s it. 90%. 90% of what my perfectionist mindset wants to do. 90% of what I think would be perfect. The reason this works is because I can be so obsessive about an incredible level of detail that 90% of what I consider perfect is actually better than almost anything else out there because of my standards. By setting a limit of 90% perfect for myself, I’m able to ship. I’m able to say “Ok, this is done. It’s not perfect, but I made it to 90% of what would be perfect, and that means that I’m done.”
  • 34:05 So what I’ve done here is I’ve freed myself from me and from my own imposed limitations, if that makes sense. I’m saying my job right now, perfectionist self, is to do 90%. That’s my job. No more, no less. Now do the work and get it done.
  • Sometimes you just have to show up
  • 36:20 When you’re in your bed and it’s 5:30am and it’s cold outside, and you’re all warm under the blankets, motivation is not going to get you out of that bed.
  • 36:42 Even those of us who you might argue are inherently driven don’t always have that magical every to pull from. We just show up.
  • Half of motivation is showing up.

  • 36:53 It’s once you show up that you start feeling that momentum. You don’t do because you’re motivated. The momentum comes from doing.
  • Break it down
  • 37:33 Let’s say you need to write something, and you’re having a hard time doing it. Break down the tasks to a minute level, even something as basic as “Open the text editor,” or “Create a new document.” Type out a list of titles for each of the articles or lessons, or whatever you want to write.
  • 38:18 If you don’t have a list like that ready to go, maybe keep an ongoing todo list that you add to throughout the week. You may be listening to a podcast and topic comes to mind that you know you want to write on, add it to the list. Do this throughout the week, and then when you get to that time where you’re sitting down to write, you have something to go off of.
  • 38:44 Now from that list, pick one of those titles. Write out a list of bullets with things you want to touch on. Pick a bullet. Write 3 paragraphs expounding on the idea.
  • Chunking
  • 39:04 I want to talk about this idea of chunking. Chunking is taking a bunch of similar tasks and doing them at once. Chunking is more effective than multitasking, because we aren’t actually able to multitask, we’re just diverting our attention.
  • 39:21 The goal here is to have a singular focus. Pick something and start doing only one kind of thing.
  • 41:57 You want to do a lot of one kind of thing. The most difficult part is starting. Those startup costs are the worst part. You spend too much energy getting yourself to start to be switching form one thing to the next.
  • 42:13 Since it is so difficult to start, you have to take advantage of the times that you were able to start. Once you’ve started, keep going on that path for as long as you have momentum. The less you change about the type of work you’re doing, the longer you’re going to be able to stick with it for that session.
  • Sense of Accomplishment
  • 44:33 Turn everything into more manageable tasks and group together like tasks to complete at once. One of the benefits of chunking is that it gives you an easier way to get to that sense of accomplishment.
  • 45:03 By chunking these tasks, you feel good because you’re going to be able to cross off more items on your list more regularly, but you’re actually going to be able to get more work done than if you’re constantly switching the type of thing you’re working on.
  • 45:31 The sense of accomplishment you get from completing a certain kind of task will help fuel you to start the next thing.
  • 49:59 “So when it’s 5:30am and it’s cold… how DO you get out of your bed?”

By Sean McCabe

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