Today is our final post in this 6-part series on motivation. Rather than trying to increase or bypass motivation, this week we’ll look at one way to keep motivation going:
to keep in the correct proportions
After all, one reason people lose motivation is due to burn out. Going too fast, too hard and depleting the motivation you had is a recipe for struggling to motivate later on. Therefore, finding balance is key to sustaining motivation. You can also think of balance as a form of self-care.
Emphasizing balance may be particularly helpful for you if you are often sick, exhausted, stressed, or daydreaming of doing anything else. These are all signs that you’ve been pushing too hard and need a break.
Tips to maintain balance:
> Pomodoro Technique. This is a great strategy for breaking up what used to be tasks that may take hours such as writing a term paper or decluttering the closet. Essentially, you alternate between focused working and breaks. You can tweak the exact numbers, but this commonly looks like 25 minutes of work then a 5 minute break. After repeating the 25/5 cycle 4 times, take a 15-30 minute break.
> Set daily time limits. Actions often take the amount of time we give them, so think ahead to how long you are willing to work on a given task. Then, set yourself a timer and tell yourself it’s a hard deadline, and get to work! (Note that it is important to be still be realistic with how long something will take.)
> Set annual time limits. The above hourly time limit technique is very task-focused. You look at your list, then decide how long each item gets. Another way of finding balance is preventing things from ever making it on your list. Think about the next significant chunk of time (maybe you consider the rest of 2022, the next fiscal quarter at work, or the next semester at school). Then, write down the number of hours you’re willing to put into work tasks. Now, write down all of the commitments you have and how many hours they actually take (we are prone to what is called the “planning fallacy” – inaccurately guessing how long something will take because we don’t consider how long it has taken in the past or the likely complications and delays that will occur in the future; therefore, round up on your guesses). I remember my list one semester in graduate school looking something like: willing to work 50 hours/week, hours I’ve committed to working include 20 teaching, 10 practicum, 10 supervising, 5 mentoring, 15 research, 15 classes, 5 misc e-mails/etc. = 80. Now, look at your own list and join me in ruthlessly culling out activities until you reach the number of hours you’re willing to work. Trust me, the discomfort you experience during the e-mails and conversations it takes to back out of something (“It turns out I cannot help you on your research project after all.” “How do I drop this class?”) are worth preventing the burnout that come from months on end of working above your capacity.
> Self-care. Be sure to prioritize self-care, such as getting enough sleep, social time, relaxation, time in nature, exercise, etc. Do not have your basic self-care be contingent on whether or not your to-do list was finished. Often, self-care items are used as a “reward,” but this neglects the fact that it will be hard to be productive in any capacity because basic needs are being neglected. Even if you’re falling behind, it’s okay to pause to video chat a friend, go to bed early, or go on a walk outside so that you can replenish.
> Self-compassion. Be kind to yourself, always. Contrary to the popular belief that if we’re hard on ourselves we’ll be more successful, people who are kind to themselves can be equally (dare I say more?) successful. Selfcompassion.org has some excellent practice exercises, and you could also guide yourself through the workbook I use most often with my therapy clients, The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook.
> Say no. Whether it is to family, coworkers, friends, or yourself, practice saying “no” to anything that does not fit for you – if it does not fit your values, your schedule, or you just don’t want to… say no! This will allow for you to say “yes” to all of the other things you need, like the self-care and self-compassion we just talked about.
> Check-in. Regularly check-in with yourself: Are you overworked? Is this realistic? What do you need? Where can you cut back? Take the necessary action based on your answers.
Thank you for joining me throughout this series on motivation! I hope you found some helpful strategies.
If you’d like to receive support in implementing these strategies, contact us to be connected with a therapist. I, and so many others here at CARE Counseling, would be happy to support you.
Our wellness experts will be happy to take care of you. You can CLICK HERE to schedule an appointment now or call (612)223-8898.
We’re united by our commitment to providing effective, relevant, and innovative mental health support at all stages of your journey. Click Here to find out more about who we are, where we come from, and how we live out CARE’s mission every day.