When you’re not feeling inspired, try thes
Sometimes you wake up and go to sit at your desk, fire up your device of choice, open up your editor, face the white screen and — blank. You might find you didn’t even make it that far.
Maybe your brain psyched you out of sitting down to face the work altogether.
I can tell you; you’re not broken. It happens to everyone. If you ever meet someone who says they’ve never struggled with the feeling of demotivation or a creative block, they’re either lying or not human — cue the X-Files tune.
So what do you do when you’re not feeling up to the task? When motivation appears to have eluded you at that moment?
From very recent experience, I can share some of the things I’ve done to give my motivation a kick in the butt when I felt like all I wanted to do was spend the day sleeping.
#1 An easy-to-do list
I can already feel you rolling your eyes but stick with me here. A lot of people talk about the power of to-do lists; it’s rooted in the psychological term “the Zeigarnik effect” — that we remember things we need to do better than things we’ve done.
What I’ve realised though, from being a serial to-do-ist, is that there are two different types of to-dos.
First is the grand, goal building, life experience kind. Take a bucket-list, for example, or a 5/10-year plan. These to-dos are for life events you can see over the horizon or may even be beyond your current vision. I find this kind of list to have a more profoundly inspiring effect — a north star to aim for.
The second, however, is the everyday to-do list. This list is the one I turn to each morning to motivate me into action. Either first thing in the morning or before I go to bed, I write a list of small tasks that need doing.
For example, today, besides the task of writing this article, I’ve also got the following things to do:
- Sort out the bins.
- Reapply to Publishous (I applied to be a writer many months ago, I think I’m okay to reapply now).
- Re-read Scott Young’s blogs/e-book about Ultralearning.
- Mind Journal.
The key to making this list motivating as opposed to intimidating is to sprinkle things in you know you can do with minimal effort in as little time as possible (like sorting out the bins). My brain gets a funny dopamine hit when I cross things off my to-do list — and I know I’m not alone in that.
#2 Get into the groove (play some music)
Music speaks to us in a way like nothing else in the world. We have an ancient connection with it that crosses physical, mental and language barriers. However, different types of music affect us differently, which I’ll be writing more about soon.
For now, though, we can follow some common sense here, right? If you decide to wake up and listen to music made for relaxing you, what are the chances of you falling back to sleep? Or at least tricking your brain into wanting to sleep.
There’s a lot of variances here in regards to your personal music tastes though, because of this you’ll have to spend a little time figuring out what kind of music motivates you — then the fun part starts.
Make a playlist, or find a ready-made one.
Personally, I use YouTube Premium. I made the switch over from Spotify, and I’m super happy with my decision because I love listening to unsigned or obscure artists and the extended in-video playlists/radios that go on for hours.
For writing, I listen to one particular type of playlist — epic film/game music. I find epic music to be a great way to motivate me into action; after all, that was the purpose of the tracks in their original sources.
But you might also find a different kind of music to be motivating, like classical, metal, jazz etc.
I will leave one important note though, if you’re looking to motivate yourself into doing tasks which require focus, such as writing, avoid music with lyrical content that you can understand and sing along to. It’ll only distract you.
3# Celebrate small wins
Recently, I wrote an article called ‘The 7 Principles of a Happy Life According to Psychological Research’. In that article, the very first point I bring up is that ‘happiness comes before success’.
In turn, what does happiness also tend to do? Motivates us to move forward. Therefore, when we are happy and motivated to achieve, we are more likely to succeed in our endeavours.
So how can you pull yourself out of your negative, unmotivated mood and turn it into a positive one? By celebrating your small wins.
For this, whenever something happens as a result of my actions makes me smile, I make a note of it. Whether that be finishing to-do’s for the day, overcoming a big part of a personal project, landing a new client, learning something new or helping out a friend or family member.
I have a few places where these kinds of notes live (I’m one of those people with tens of half-finished notebooks), but yesterday I rediscovered Notion. It’s a software an old company I worked for store how-to’s, but I didn’t realise how amazing it is for personal use as well.
You can set up unlimited pages for all sorts of things, and Notion gives you a few examples when you first sign in to inspire you. I kept some, but I’ve added others for my purposes as you see below:
Screenshot Courtesy of Author
I can already see myself going down a rabbit hole with this as I go through setting it up properly. But that’s the kind of thing I find fun and motivating — go figure.
A lot of what we do to respond to situations like creative block comes down to our attitude towards positivity and our self-motivation.
I’ve found the best way to avoid these stressful moments happening (they’ll still happen, but less frequently) is to be proactive rather than reactive. Taking in the points above, you can do these things even before you feel unmotivated.
However, we all forget sometimes or feel extra stumped for whatever reason, and it requires a real conscious effort to find a way to motivate yourself. Make a note of these tips:
- Make a manageable to-do list.
- Listen to/create a motivational music playlist.
- Track and celebrate your wins.
So that when you do find you’re struggling, you can look back on them and take things one step at a time. You’ve got this.