The Good Life #6
When you’ve lost all motivation, supercharge your willpower with these 15 strategies.
We’ve all had those projects that hang over us for days or weeks even though we know we need to get them done. What’s the problem? There is no one single factor that explains why you procrastinate. That’s why it’s so challenging to overcome.
“Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.” Will Rogers
Here are 6 factors that sap you of your motivation.
1) The task is unpleasant. It’s called task aversion. Your homework assignment could be boring or difficult.
2) The reward for completing the task is far in the future so we choose short term gratification over a long-term goal. This is referred to as temporal proximity.
3) Fear of failure and low self-confidence cause procrastination. You don’t think you can get the job done so you avoid it. It’s called low self-efficacy.
4) The trait of impulsiveness is a cause of task delay. We pick something distracting that gives us an immediate reward, such as watching a Tik Tok video over mowing the lawn. Who could blame us?
5) You lack control over when, where and how you’re supposed to get the project done, like a rebellious teenager who won’t clean their room to assert their independence. It’s a lack of autonomy.
6) You’re depressed. You are NOT ALONE. According to the World Health Organization, depression is the number ONE disability in the world today, outranking both cancer and heart disease, and this was BEFORE the Covid-19 pandemic arrived. I won’t address this issue today, but I recommend you seek professional help, as I did 9 years ago. Research shows modern treatments for depression that combine both medication and therapy have success rates as high as 80%. Were you aware that Emily Dickenson, J.K. Rowling, Georgia O’Keefe, Princess Diana, Oprah Winfrey, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Sir Charles Darwin, Wolfgang Amedeus Mozart and Sir Isaak Newton all suffered from depression? Depression is not a character defect. It’s a medical condition. Would you try to heal a broken leg without medical treatment?
Here are 15 strategies to supercharge your willpower.
1) If fear of failure/ low self-confidence is a factor, increase your rate of successful feedback from the task. Break a big project in small chunks and take on the easiest part first. It may be just writing your name and the outline of your 5-page homework assignment, then take a break and celebrate by doing something fun.
“The person who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” Confucius
2. Join a group who are doing the same task and getting it done. It’s called mirroring. Join a study group to study for your final exam.
3) If the problem is the reward is far in the future, (temporal proximity) picture yourself after the project is done. How will that feel? Write it down to make the future reward more tangible. This helps connect your present self with your future self.
“Plan to be spontaneous tomorrow, get your work done today.”
4) Another strategy to connect your present self with your future self is to say I will go for a walk after work, versus I should. If you say I will exercise, you move the locus of control to yourself. You take ownership. The motivation becomes internal, rather than external.
5) Place post it notes with your goal on your refrigerator, computer and bathroom mirror to remind yourself, “I’m going for a walk after work.”
“If you don’t know where you are going, you might end up someplace else.” Yogi Berra
6) A third strategy to overcome temporal proximity is to set micro deadlines to complete portions of a larger project that’s a long way out. Break down a three-month project into six 2-week deadlines.
“The best cure for procrastination is sheer panic over a deadline.” Gary Gilberg
7) If impulsiveness is a factor, remove all distractions. Design your environment to avoid temptation. Turn off your phone and put the remote for the TV in the garage.
8) If lack of decisiveness is a problem, decide when, where and how to complete the task. Take control of any aspects of the work that you can. For example, pick Tuesday night to clean the refrigerator and do it wearing headphones with your favorite heavy metal band, Metallica, screaming in your ears.
9) Build up your willpower with a simple task you repeat to increase your self-control. Students who practiced squeezing a hand grip twice a day for 2 weeks increased their perceived sense of self-control and had better study habits and better grades 7 months later. Doing 10 minutes of meditation or exercise every morning can give you an increased feeling of willpower.
10) Make the task easier to start. Layout your gym clothes and walking shoes on the entry bench so when you arrive home from work, they’re staring you in the face.
11) Design a trigger to initiate your new habit. In the example above, opening your front door as you come home from work is the trigger to change into your gym outfit and get walking.
12) If the task is boring, make it more interesting. This may be easier said than done, but be creative. Have your teen clean up his room by rolling up his dirty clothes in a ball and tossing it into the open clothes hamper. Every shot that goes in he yells “two points!!!”
13) If the task is too hard, make it easier. For a math challenged teenager hiring another student to tutor them may help, especially if they can develop a rapport.
“Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.” Mason Cooley
14) Reward yourself when you complete a difficult task. When the housework is done take a long soak in your hot tub.
15) Track your progress. Mark a calendar on your refrigerator to show every day you went to the gym. Daily tracking improves success rates when developing new habits.
“There is not enough time to do all the nothing we want to do.” Bill Waterson
If you’ve lost your motivation at school, work or in your life, sign up for my complimentary FIND YOUR DRIVE program by clicking on this link.
Gary Gilberg is a certified life coach and writer. He found his DRIVE helping others as a coach.