In all likelihood, you’re trying to be good at too many things. Trimming down your list of priorities can make you more effective. Focus your attention on the tasks that bring the most results.
What is the one thing that will move the needle in your life to reach your goals? Have you even thought about it? The one thing that matters is often challenging or unenjoyable, but you might have more free time if you did that one thing instead of the three other things you’ve been doing instead.
Focus on your one thing:
1. Everyone has 24 hours each day. Everyone has 24 hours, but how you spend them is up to you. Some people manage to build huge companies with their 24 hours. Others struggle to pay the rent. Some people create great health and happiness with their 24 hours. Others are out of shape and miserable. How do you spend your 24 hours each day?
2. Focus on what you should do, not what you could do. Most of us that have a daily list of tasks have both on our list. It’s important to figure out the things that are so important and impactful that they must be accomplished TODAY. All the rest move down to the bottom of the list.
3. Prioritize until you’re down to just one task. Prioritize even further. What is the number one thing you need to do today that will make the biggest difference? When you complete that task, what is the next most important thing. Keep going until you run out of time.
4. Have one thing you’re known for. What are you known for? Playing the piano? Installing windows? Your intelligence? Figure out your one thing and ensure the world knows about it.
5. Eliminate distractions. Distractions get in the way of focusing on your one thing. Be relentless in eliminating distractions.
6. Apply this process to all areas of your life.
What is the one thing you can do for the next month to most improve your health? There’s one thing you can do in your current situation to improve your health the most. It will probably help more than the next five things on your list combined.
What is the one thing you can practice on the piano to improve your playing the most over the next week? Or your golf swing. Or your reading speed?
What is the one thing you can consistently do at work to increase your value as an employee? What can you do that would help your company and career the most?
7. Be tough. The most important thing is often the least enjoyable. Squats are far less enjoyable than leg extensions, but far more effective. Joining Toastmasters is far less appealing than practicing your speeches by yourself at home. The one thing is often easy to identify but challenging to do.
What is the one thing for you? What is the one thing for each area of your life that will make the biggest difference? What is the one thing you need to do TODAY? What about this week?
Find your ONE thing, and you’ll see that little else matters.
I decided that right now, I’m going to sit in front of my MacBook Pro and type whatever comes up in my mind. I do this because I know how debilitating perfectionism can be and therefore, allowing myself to just write freely without trying to perfect the structure and flow of the entire post is quite freeing. It’s also good because that way I can actually get stuff DONE.
I’m sitting in my grandparents’ guest bedroom in Northern California, with my phone face up next to my right arm on the desk, Instagram opened. Today’s IGTV video is 74% loaded, after many many attempts to upload the video. The app kept saying “Upload Failed,” to which I responded by tapping “Try Again” – and this happened probably twenty times, if not more.
You would think that this kind of situation would make a person extremely frustrated and upset, but for some reason I was completely fine (not usually like this when it comes to technological issues).
But this evening as I was tapping “Try Again” for what felt like the thousandth time, I was fine, and even quite upbeat and happy. I think the reason for this is that the rest of my day today was what I’d call a “successful” day.
What defines a successful day? Probably depends on the person. But for me, a successful day generally means that I started my day early with a lovely and refreshing morning routine, completed important tasks throughout the day, gave myself enough time to relax and rest in the afternoon (like a 30 minute nap or so), and spending adequate time planning, evaluating, and adjusting my schedule, my short and long term goals, and just my whole life in general.
It also means that I did things that I consider my lifeline: prayer (30 minutes is ideal), meditating (and really just doing nothing), Bible reading, and reading other spiritual and self-help books.
I just started reading High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard (I recently discovered the amount of value he brings to the world and now trust pretty much every word he says). IT’S SO GOOD.
I’ve never considered myself an avid reader, especially since I can actually count with one hand the books (or series of books) I read growing up: Harry Potter (but I never got around to reading the 7th book..), A Series of Unfortunate Events… and I recall reading some Nancy Drew books every so often.
But that was mostly in elementary school, and maybe some of middle school. Once high school hit though, I don’t recall ever reading a book for leisure. I do remember reading enough books for all my high school English classes.
Anyway, my point is that when I say a book is good, it’s usually a pretty big deal. But then again ever since I became obsessed with all things personal development, pretty much every self help book turned into a good book.
Here are some enlightening quotes that struck a chord in me today from High Performance Habits:
“Who are these people, and what’s their secret? They are high performers, and their secret is their habits…With the right training and habits, anyone can become a high performer…”
“What you need is a reliable set of practices for unleashing your greatest abilities. Study high performers and you will see that they have systems built into their days that drive their success. Systems are what separate the pro from the novice…Without systems, you cannot… repeatedly deliver exceptional results. In personal and professional development, these systems and procedures are, ultimately habits.”
“High performance is not achieved by a specific kind of person, but rather by a specific set of practices, which I call high performance habits.”
Anyway, just a few things that stood out to me and gave me renewed hope, all within the first twelve pages of High Performance Habits. I’m suuper stoked to finish the rest of the book!
One of my goals for 2019 is to READ MORE. So please send me your book recommendations and I’ll put it on my To-Read list!
I really really believe that 2019 will be the best year yet, and something just tells me that my life will be drastically different by the end of the year. Maybe it’s just a feeling, but anyway, these motivational people like Brendon Burchard give me much hope and expectation for amazing things to come this year!!
If you haven’t read Part 1 and Part 2 yet, reading those first may help give some more context before reading Part 3. Or you can read this first, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can always refer back to the first two parts of this mini “motivation series.”
Part 1 stressed that motivation is not necessarily a feeling. To accomplish something, you can’t solely rely on how motivated you feel. Otherwise, chances are, your “momentum” will not last forever and you’ll easily want to quit.
Part 2 stressed that on the other hand, sometimes it’s necessary to be a little more forgiving when someone doesn’t feel motivated to do anything, because the lack of motivation might be due to poor mental health, which can often be easily treated or helped with medication and/or professional therapy.
Both of these views are rather “extreme” and “absolute,” and suggest more of an underlying “all-or-nothing” mindset. But in most cases, the average person usually experiences a combination of both self discipline and a motivating feeling. So Part 3 will be called “normal.”
Normal: Somewhere in Between
We’ve all experienced some kind of “I have no choice but to do this anyway” approach (e.g. writing papers in college, picking up your dog’s poop, showering, dragging yourself out of your cloud-like bed to go to work), as well as the “I’m feeling so pumped right now LET’S DO THIS” approach (e.g. signing up for a half marathon without thinking, starting a business after getting majorly inspired, happily doing your first homework assignment after the first day of school, getting up at 5AM to hit the gym on January 1st, 2nd, and 3rd).
I do not believe that you or I have experienced ONLY doing things by means of self discipline, or ONLY doing things based on how pumped we feel. There’s a time and place for black and white situations, but this is not what we’re talking about here.
I myself have fallen prey to such black and whiteness, to all or nothingness. Actually, the situations themselves may not have been so black and white, but rather my way of thinking just did not have much of a middle ground. I believe that this all-or-nothing way of thinking and approach to life is why my life at times have felt so difficult or un-enjoyable.
I am also, right at this very second as I am typing this sentence, experiencing major writer’s block and cannot figure out what it was that I was supposed to talk about at this point of this blog post. My brain feels fried and empty, but I am still typing this.
I cannot say that right now at this moment I am practicing outstanding self discipline, because if I was, I would probably just willfully and unforgivingly tell myself, “Amy, snap out of it right now and use your brain to its full capacity for goodness sake. Just force yourself NOW to give it your absolute all and nothing less, or else you are a failure and your life is meaningless and you will never succeed in life because successful people don’t give in to their lazy feelings so easily so what in the world is wrong with you.”
But a part of me also thinks that this military-like mentality would likely result in unnecessary over-exhaustion by the end of the day. So, on the one hand I somehow am still typing away at this post, yet not beating myself up over not writing the most intellectually stimulating content, and also not fully succumbing to my blank-mindedness or blah-ness.
I guess maybe my current state of being and how I am responding to this circumstance is illustrative of this “happy medium” or “normality” that I am trying to explain here. I’m basically experiencing and practicing an approach that is somewhere in between the two “extremes.”
I would also say that what I am talking about is very much related to the matter of perfectionism, which is one of the top characteristics of people who waver between one extreme to the other, between black and white, between all or nothing.
Perfectionism “brings home” the discipline aspect and the emotional aspect, but not in a positive sense. If I were to let my perfectionism get to me right now, I would probably just keep thinking about how my head is starting to hurt and I have no idea what I’m writing or if my train of thought even makes sense at all, so I give up on writing this post because I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore, and why would anyone want to read this, etc. etc. and then as a result of this approach/way of thinking, aka this deadly perfectionism, I probably wouldn’t get anything done today. I’d rather complete a task imperfectly than not complete a task perfectly.
Meanwhile my eager best friend keeps texting me almost every day asking for a new blog post.. so giving in to my “I don’t know how good my writing is” thought would result in disappointing at least one of my perpetually excited readers. And I hope she feels special that I’m giving her yet another shoutout on this blog. You’re welcome. 😛
So how do you feel motivated when you’re feeling down or low energy? Do you just suck it up and forget how you feel altogether? Do you throw a pity party and say that your life sucks, and let your emotions give in to every negative thought in your mind? I don’t have the answers. But both Part 1 and Part 2 have their place and their validity.
I do, however, have a few “tricks” that seem to almost always work for me in terms of motivation, though sometimes it takes longer for the motivation to kick in.
Sometimes, when all the energy is gone and motivation is but a distant memory and all I can do is sprawl on my bed which, by the way, is the most comfortable bed ever, I have found that the hidden inner motivated Amy within knows that anything is still possible with her iPhone 8.
Literally though, I can’t even count the number of times my phone inspired me to get out of bed and get things done. What does this look like? A few different possibilites..
Possibility #1: Text one of my bffs, usually the one in my timezone, and say that I need motivation and can’t get out of bed. But for some reason I can still text in bed.. Then she’ll send me all the cheerleader-like texts and emojis and even record herself saying “You can do it” in a weird voice, or come up with a great convincing reason for me to get up. I’m fortunate to have this kind of best friend, but maybe not everyone’s friends are as weird and quirky as us..
Possibility #2:Open YouTube app, and watch or listen to a personal development video (also while in bed). Sam Brown’s videos will usually do the trick. I don’t know why, but I would say in less than 15 minutes I’m usually “pumped” again because something in those videos always sparks renewed inspiration in me.
Possibility #3: Similarly, sometimes I’ll open either my Podcasts app or Libby app to play life-changing podcasts and audiobooks. I am currently listening to The Magic of Thinking Big. If you listen to or read a portion of that book and you don’t feel at all motivated and/or inspired afterwards… maybe you’re not a real human.
There is an overarching principle in all the above iPhone techniques. If you have an Android that’s fine too. The principle is that when there’s no motivation in me, I draw from others’ energy and motivation to get energized myself.
This “hack” somehow works well for me. It even worked, or at least helped to some extent, when I was miserably going through a rough breakup, in which case the bff technique usually worked best.
All that being said, I will add that if you’re feeling down and low energy, you might just need to take a nap or get to bed earlier. Or maybe you just need to eat a healthy meal, drink some water, or go for a run.
Our bodies and souls are so intricate and complex, for which reason practicing self care is (in my opinion) mandatory and foundational for our well-being. Any little issue with our body, soul, or spirit, can affect a person’s level of motivation.
My purpose in writing these three posts is not to address every possible scenario or solve everyone’s problem. I am just a fellow millennial figuring all this out myself alongside you, and sharing my own insights that could potentially be helpful or thought-provoking for my fellow Gen Y-ers.
In Part 1 I talked about the first “extreme” way of looking at the issue of lack of motivation. Extreme #1 is all the way on one side of the spectrum, basically saying that if you’re not motivated, suck it up and forget about your feelings. It’s not about the feeling of motivation. It’s about straight up self discipline. Just do it.
So what does Part 2 look like? Now let’s go to the complete opposite side of the spectrum and discuss a much more “forgiving” way of looking at it.
Extreme #2: Mental Health
On the one hand, sure, self discipline is absolutely necessary to accomplish pretty much anything in life. But at a certain point there is the need to look at what it is that is causing the lack of motivation. Sometimes, it may very well be related to one’s mental health, or lack thereof.
Despite all the stigma of mental health problems, this is actually something that is probably more common than we realize. I was personally never too aware of some of these issues until I became victim to a stigmatized illness myself, for lack of better way to say it. I never thought I could experience a “mental illness,” but to my surprise, life happened and depression decided to pay me a nice long visit.
This post is not about me and my experience of depression, but rather to emphasize this often neglected point, that sometimes, the “lazy” person who won’t get his/her act together may very well have the best of intentions in terms of work ethic, but can only fight against the weight of internal imbalances so much before it takes over him/her.
I never understood why it was so difficult for me to get through college, or any other longer term endeavor, when I KNEW 100% that I was NOT a lazy person and had no intention to be lazy. In fact, I am probably one of the most ambitious people I know, to put it plainly. However, I couldn’t understand why my inner ambition and desire to overachieve didn’t manifest itself in my actions. I would try, and try, and try, only to succumb to that invisible weight that always seemed to win in the end.
You don’t have to feel sorry for me at all. I just don’t know how else to make my point more clear. But I would say that if you’ve been having some serious motivational problems over a longer period of time, and you know that you’ve tried your best (or close to your best), you might want to consider paying a visit to your primary care physician to discuss this struggle of yours. What can you lose just by inquiring?
I don’t know too much beyond depression and anxiety (which I’ve also experienced to some extent, but not as much as depression), but the realm of mental health is a vast territory of mysterious things that I don’t even know about or understand. We human beings are rather complex creatures, to say the least.
I do know however, that for someone with depression, having low energy is not uncommon. I’m not a doctor but I know it has something to do with our physical body and the chemical/hormonal stuff going on inside. And a lot of this “stuff” can be treated with just a little pill, or even just a little bit of therapy. Actually, I really believe that everyone in the world can benefit from therapy, because we ALL have deep issues and wounds that we probably aren’t even aware of. Tis true.
So, this second “extreme” approach or view of dealing with motivational lack is a rather forgiving one, and really gives a person the benefit of the doubt. But I am also hesitant about being too forgiving lest people who actually don’t have clinical mental health issues think they can get away with certain kinds of behavior. But, how do we really know what’s going on in a person’s complex soul? Meh. I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. I just have my experiences.
So Part 1 stresses exercising self discipline, and Part 2 stresses taking care of mental health, both of which I feel are important. But both are also on opposite sides of the same spectrum. Hence, we need to find a way to bring these two points home, perhaps finding a happy medium. Which I guess will bring us to…
A couple nights ago one of my best friends sent me a text suggesting/asking that I write something about how to feel motivated when you’re down and low energy – the title of this post. “My current life problem,” she added.
My response to her: “I’m definitely not an expert at that one.”
Yup, not an expert at all, so I can’t solve your problems. However, I do have some perspective and can share what I’ve learned through my own experience and what I’ve observed of others.
There are three parts to what I’ll be sharing, which are three different ways to look at this issue of motivation – two “extremes” and one “normal.” The three different ways of looking at it depend on the person and the situation.
Extreme #1 – Self Discipline
This may be self explanatory because we’ve been taught either in school or by our parents that we need to have self discipline in order to succeed in anything. Self discipline means you have self control. You’re strict with yourself.
This does not have anything to do with the feeling of motivation at all. Self discipline means you do whatever you need to do regardless of how you feel. I consider this an “extreme” approach/view of what to do when motivation is lacking.
You can easily say, “Well duh, just work hard and you’ll succeed.” Not feeling motivated? Well, then get your act together and work on your character and work habits. Stop being so lazy!
Blah blah blah. Yes, you can say all this to someone or someone can say the same to you, but my guess is that more likely than not, hearing this kind of talk will not solve anyone’s problem. It’d probably just make you feel condemned and angry. Then you may very well just give up on life all together.
Okay I’m being extreme here, but then again, I did label this section with the word “Extreme.”
HOWEVER, there is truth to the positive benefits of self discipline. If we lived by our feelings all the time, and only operated when we felt like it, I’m not sure if we would have been able to graduate from any kind of school. I mean, WHO wants to do homework and take standardized tests that measure the kind of intelligence that is favored by the long established academic system?
I also have never heard of a CEO or any other ridiculously successful person who only worked when the feeling of motivation was strong and present. The reality is, no one on earth was born with the gift of 24/7 motivation. That just doesn’t exist. And none of us would have gotten to where we are today without some self discipline.
Self discipline means being able to do things even when you don’t feel like doing them.
This has been one of the hardest but most helpful lessons I’ve learned in life thus far, being someone who was born with an emotional personality. It’s a lesson we ALL have to learn. Don’t feel like going to work today? Well then, be prepared to be fired if this behavior continues.
It’s harsh but it’s true. So yes, this is one extreme of the spectrum of how to view motivation, or lack thereof.
Stay tuned for the other two parts to this blog post, Extreme #2and Normal…
“Early rising” may be defined differently for different people. If you’re a college/university student who only has afternoon and evening classes, perhaps your regular rise time is noon. If you’re a working professional, you might normally wake up between 6 to 8am, depending on when you get into work in addition to commute time. Regardless of when you may normally wake up, here’s my working definition of early rising that can apply to just about everyone: Early rising means waking (and getting) up at a time that is earlier than what one has been accustomed to.
For most of my life, I’ve been a long-term victim of the Snooze Button (and I bet I’m not alone), because those extra 8 minutes (times 5) of sleep feel so necessary and wonderful in the moment. However, what I’ve found is that EVERY time I do that, especially on weekdays and with some exceptions on weekends, once I’m rushing to eat a bite of breakfast and get dressed and run out the door within 10 minutes, one word comes to mind: REGRET.
If I’m always going to regret pressing snooze, yet I keep doing it, I need to find a great motivating reason to get up the first time the alarm goes off. Well, sometimes we really do just need more rest, but in general whenever I get out of bed earlier than usual, my whole day is better, I become more productive, and I feel happier (happiness is a huge deal when you’ve fought with depression for years). Without further ado, these are the reasons why getting up early can improve your quality of life:
Early Rising Improves Physical Health: If you get up early, you have time to actually eat a decent breakfast, which makes such a difference in your day, because you’ll actually have the adequate nutrients and fuel you need to make it to lunch time without feeling tired and weak. Getting up earlier also allows you to have time to incorporate healthy habits into your routine, such as going to the gym. Regular exercise can feel like such a suffering sometimes (no pain no gain), but the results are excellent, not just for vain reasons, but even more so for the energy and strength you get from being more active. Exercise is also REALLY good for depression sufferers, and I’m pretty sure that also goes for overall mental health in general whether or not a person has clinical depression. This leads to my second point that…
Early Rising Improves Mental Health: After starting the day off productively with enough un-rushed time to have breakfast, to get dressed properly, and to do other productive things like working out or reading a book, I can testify that I start and end the day as a much happier and fulfilled person. A morning with adequate time to do what you need to do, in the way that you want to do it, helps boost self-esteem and confidence and makes you feel more motivated and productive. In my experience, whenever I start the day feeling rushed, I tend to feel more discouraged and disappointed for my crummy morning, and it’s also more likely that I’ll be late for work, which gets put onto my invisible list of little failures that have added up over time. Not good for mental health. Of course, there’s also the time and place for having a “new start” in the middle of the day, or at any time one feels it’s necessary. Furthermore…
Early Rising Improves Spiritual Health: I’m not saying everyone needs to convert to any particular belief system or religion, but I do believe that there’s a part of our being that is even deeper than just our physical bodies and what we think and feel. It’s hard to describe, but I would categorize this area of “health” as spiritual health. If you like to pray, there’s nothing like praying early in the morning that makes you feel more refreshed for the rest of the day. Likewise, if you like to meditate, I personally can’t think of a better time of day to do so than the early morning. If there’s a spiritual activity you’ve been trying to do, I feel the morning is the best time to do it, to take care of that deeper part that often is what motivates us to keep going.
Hope this was helpful! I’m definitely open to suggestions on other topics to write about. 🙂
There’s something in me that says that not many twentysomethings these days can assuredly say they’ve got their life figured out, that they have it all together and they’re all set for life.
I’m 26 years old, turning 27 in less than 3 months (which means I’m practically 30), and based on how this past year turned out, I would say that 2017 has been a roller coaster of trial and error, of more failures than successes, of learning how to live independently (esp. financially) from my immediate family for the first time. Yes, I know, moving out at 26 seems pretty darn late in life, but personally I am encouraged by my recent progress.
To save you from reading a long wordy post, I’ll cut to the chase. Here are three steps I’ve taken within the past few months that have helped me make significant progress in growing into a (more) stable adult:
I Made a Detailed Spreadsheet of My Finances: And I realized that I was spending more than I earned because of sneaky credit cards. Somehow I found myself a couple thousand dollars in credit card debt. After two months of tracking where every penny went, I have no more credit card debt and have even started making payments on my student loans.
I Started My First Bullet Journal: And I love it! It’s essentially the perfect hybrid of a planner, diary, journal, and to-do list, or whatever you want to put in a blank notebook. For those of you who are not familiar with bullet journaling, there are plenty of articles, pinterest pins, and YouTube tutorials with tons of ideas to get your life together, or to just spice up your life a little bit with cute notebooks and colorful pens. Anyway, just Google it.
On another note, I’ve read that bullet journaling is good for mental health, something I’ve struggled with ever since my parents’ divorce in 2014. I’ve been tracking my daily mood and taking notes on what might have contributed to how I felt on a particular day.
I Started Reading More Books: And yes, I’ve been tracking them in my beautiful, organized bullet journal. Currently reading Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert T. Kioysaki. What I love about books is that they are packed full of consolidated treasures of wisdom that others have taken YEARS to figure out. Now we can inherit what these successful people have learned in a much shorter period of time. If only I could just sleep with all these books by my head so I could be smart and successful by osmosis…