What Do You Do When You Lack Motivation?

What are you supposed to do when you lack motivation?

Have you ever woken up one day and said to yourself ‘I don’t want to do this’? It has definitely happened to me and interestingly enough it can happen with tasks and goal I really do care about but perhaps have lost sight of. Some days I feel really motivated and others I just feel like doing nothing. But, if you want to get to your goals, inconsistent effort is definitely not the way to do it. 

That said, the problems and solutions are different for everyone – even I’ve experienced a wide range myself. Let’s explore the problems then discuss solutions for each.


Lost Sight of Long Term Vision

We all forget why we are doing something sometimes. Why does this happen? When a goal seems so far away it can be really difficult to stay focused especially if you don’t feel like you are making progress. There are also competing priorities that can take you off your path. If instead of routinely executing your task you do something else that’s a pretty good way to lose track of what you are doing and why you are doing it. 

Fall Out of a Routine

I notice that I lose motivation when I stop a routine task or routinely reinforcing a goal. That said, there are some tasks that I consistently feel compelled to have to do (usually for other people). So, what’s the difference?

Framed Outcome Only Benefits Me

At times, I frame certain tasks as only benefiting myself and interestingly those are the ones that I have more trouble sticking with in the long term. Why would I not help myself as much as someone else I would care for? It is not always this way but it seems to be like that at least for me by and large. 

This is an interesting one as I’m not sure that this is a problem for everyone. In fact some successful people may achieve it by acting only for themselves and using others. That said, I think that typically this only works in the short term.

Just Tired

Other times when you’re lacking motivation because you are tired. 

Not Specific

Sometimes the goal is not specific, doesn’t have a place, and doesn’t have a time. 


The goal seems too big with too many tasks and seems unachievable. 

Progress is Blocked

Other times I am lacking motivations because something is blocking progress. 

Progress is Slow

I find that if I have a long term goal it can be easy to lose focus and feel demotivated especially if getting closer towards it seems to be really slow. 

Other Unmet Tasks Have Higher Priority

At other times I feel frustrated and lack motivation because there is something that I feel like I should be doing but I don’t know what it is. What I am usually missing here is a specific definition of what my problem is and a definition of the goal that will solve that problem. Therefore, by taking some time to ask myself questions and come to an understanding of what actually the problem is the answer for what I should becomes quite clear.

Feel Melancholy

In another scenario I lack motivation because I feel melancholy. I just feel unhappy or unmotivated for no reason or a reason that I am not consciously aware of. This requires a more wholistic review to go down a checklist to figure out what the problem is. 


Define Goal

Define a Specific Goal with a Time and Place with clear steps that can be consistently executed to accomplish that goal. 

View and Repeat Your Goals Daily

You are more likely to not lose sight of your vision if you see it and affirm it daily. Create a document that contains. To stay both focused and motivated I will repeat the goal a few times in the morning and at sometimes in a bit more of an emotional way which seems to get me more excited about achieving it. In the evening I imagine what my life would be like with my goal fulfilled and envision myself doing the thing that will achieve it. That seems to work pretty well and gets me in the headspace to continue pushing towards a goal.

Remind Yourself Why

On a daily basis (or the interval that makes sense) remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing. Document this somewhere so it can be easily referred to and rehearsed. 

Frame Outcomes As Benefitting Others

This one is not so obvious. It seems to me that if I don’t have a reason why this is making an impact no the world I have trouble committing to do it. With all goals define a reason why it benefits someone else and yourself equally. Then remind yourself of that on a daily basis. 

Create a Habit

The ultimate way to solve motivation problems is to make the activity so routine that it is just something you do in a day. This is the best way I have found because it requires no motivation at all. A challenge here though is that if you fall out of your routine for any reason it can be a little difficult to get back into it. However, if you have a long term habit of generally doing the same thing over and over again getting back into a daily habit becomes a little easier.

Reward Yourself

Reward myself for achieving the goal rather than penalize myself for not achieving the goal or using something that I would consider using as a reward to take me off track so like for instance if there is food that I really like that is expensive then set a goal such that if I hit my budget targets then I will spend the money to buy that item that may be good for motivation.

Narrow Focus

If you are too scattered then progress will be really slow. Set a few key long term goals related to baseline needs such as feeling love, safety, belonging, etc. Then, break these down into specific tasks with a due date.

Step Back

In these scenarios sometimes stepping away will allow your subconscious to solve the problem on its own and you will just know the solution later. Other times taking an hour and just researching solutions to your problem whether it is technical, business, or even personal can help you stay motivated while trying other proven solutions. When all else fails reach out to friends and see if they have solved your problem before. If you’ve done your research and asked your friends but still don’t have your problem solved then you’ll just need to try things until it works. If I’m working on a technical issue that doesn’t have a proven solution I will try something and then walk around my house and clean. That way if I am going through iterations of trial and error it feels less frustrating as I am taking my focus away from the problem for a brief period of time before a subsequent try.

Wholistic and Sequential Review

Sometimes this doesn’t solve my motivation process. Therefore, it is almost better to dispassionately follow a checklist of activities if you’re able to do that every day. Although that may not be creative activities it will definitely help with repetitive tasks. I would characterize this process as discipline. How to improve discipline. Create a task list and wake up, take action, and then update the checklist. Written and spoken reinforce makes choosing a response easier on a more consistent basis. If there is an action that takes me away from my discipline consciously defer that choice by a day. Little by little if I can defer that decision longer and longer I will more consistently get what I want and less of what I don’t want.


You may just need rest. If you’re feeling burnt out sometimes pushing yourself isn’t the best answer because while you can motivate yourself in the short term you can completely lose motivation and ultimately may have health problems. With this in mind a good approach is to take 1 to 2 weeks off at the end of every quarter. When taking time off don’t do anything related to work (look at / answer email, take calls, jump into meetings). The goal here is to completely disconnect and then feel motivated to get back into your normal work routine.

Just Need a Jolt

Sometimes just increasing your heart rate is all you need to do. Drinking caffeine can help but if you drink caffeine on a regular basis that may not do very much for you. Sometimes all you really need to do is just speed up your thoughts and cause yourself a little stress to prompt action. 

Motivation comes and goes but there are tactics that you can make more rather than less motivated. That said, if you have something that you really want to accomplish then you’ll find a way to get it done.

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