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Are You Stuck? 24 Ways to Get Motivated

Do you ever get stuck and can’t seem to get motivated to do what you want or need to do?  That’s where I am right now.  After spending several months dealing with a health issue, I am having a hard time getting anything done on my daily to-do list. And what I tell myself is just a short break to “just take a peek” at social media or to play “just one computer game” ends up lasting way too long. Then I find myself slipping into negative self-talk for ignoring the important things I need to get done.

I don’t know about you, but some of the negative thoughts include the lie that I should just have an intrinsic motivation to do a boring task in my everyday life and there is something wrong with me because I can’t keep on top of things. But that’s not how the real world works. There are just some things in my daily life that need some extrinsic motivation…such as cleaning the bathroom.

So, let’s get rid of that negativity and use kind words when engaging in self-talk instead of “shoulding” all over ourselves. And, let’s turn to our mid-century mentor Alfred Armand Montapert, who shares with us 24 motivation tips in his book Success Planning {Confidential}. His focus was on personal development and helping us achieve great things but I think his wisdom helps us with a lack of motivation in our daily routine and daily tasks, too.

How to Motivate Yourself

A sticky note with the word whatever on it.
  • Put your concrete plans on a piece of paper.  Spell out goals and the best ways to reach them.
  • Be specific.  The advice you give yourself must be such that you can put it into practice.
  • Break the job down into smaller tasks so that you have no excuse for not starting each small step (emphasis added).
  • Establish checkpoints so that you can check your progress. Remember that small things add up to make a big difference in the long run.
  • Remind yourself of the benefits you expect from completion of the job.
  • Avoid temptation by deliberately avoiding circumstances or thoughts that might sidetrack you (I ended up removing my social media apps from my phone).
  • Recognize your limitations.  Don’t set goals you don’t expect to reach.
  • Take advantage of energy peaks, those periods of the day when you are habitually in top form.
  • Take risks.  Don’t be afraid to try new methods.
  • When negative emotions show up, remind yourself of the unfavorable consequences of inaction. Reframe the emotion and tell yourself that successful people take baby steps, too.
  • Keep a time-control budget, comparing the priorities of various projects in progress.
  • Set deadlines and hold yourself to them.
  • Make an honest distinction between “I can’t” and “I don’t want to.”
  • Get started.  Don’t stall.
  • Improve your self-persuasion ability.  Learn to know when you are reasoning and when you are rationalizing.
  • Be optimistic, and your chances for success increase.
  • Decide how you want to start, and what needs to be done first.
  • Read, especially literature related to your problem.
  • Use self-signaling devices-notes, cues, and reminders.
  • Promise yourself an external reward for achieving your tasks –small rewards for small accomplishments, big rewards for big accomplishments.
  • Use the stimulation provided by good news to do extra work.
  • Recognize conflicts and make a choice.  Don’t let inertia set it.
  • Give yourself the right to make mistakes.  No one is perfect.
  • Exercise your sense of humor.  Laughter indicates a realistic point of view.

“Can’t” versus “Not Wanting To”

A hand holding a piece of paper that says i can't.

The most common advice given to writers is to “just write.”  And so, I’m using Mr. Montapert’s suggestions of making a distinction between “can’t and not wanting to” and “to get started” to get myself unstuck.  This isn’t the blog post I had intended to write today but it is the one that will help me overcome inertia to finish the more complex posts I’ve been working on for several weeks.

Just writing this post already makes me feel better.  It may not put me completely back in my groove but it makes me feel hopeful that I’ll slip back into it again.

Are you feeling stuck?  Which strategy do you think will help you get unstuck?  Share your ideas in the comments section.

This post was originally published on July 7, 2016. It was revised, expanded, and updated on October 16, 2023.

Image credit: Fels-Naptha soap advertisement, June 1924; Image courtesy of AmethystA2 on Flickr.com


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  1. Glad to know I’m not the only one who has a hard time getting motivated! My will-power hit such a low that in the last couple of weeks I purchased two audio-books on CD from Amazon, and they have really helped me. They are both by Brian Tracy; “No Excuses! The Power of Self-Discipline” and “Eat that Frog!” They are available in book and other formats as well, but I enjoy listening to the CDs as I drift off to sleep at night. Mr. Tracy has a very calming, pleasant voice but his words are definitely motivating and I’m starting to get things done that I have procrastinated about for a long time. Much of his advice is very similar to Mr. Montapert’s. I am going to check online and see if I can find his book “Success Planning”. Thank you so much for always inspiring us, Dr. Julie-Ann!

  2. Thank YOU for the book recommendations, Betsy! They look interesting and I’ve downloaded the samples of them already.

  3. I’m totally with you on the “we both live here, so we are not going to argue about whose is whose” method of doing chores such as cleaning out the fridge. 🙂 For me, the biggest motivator at the moment is that here on the east coast the summer is really short. My reward for getting moving and getting things done is more time to enjoy the sunshine. I don’t know about you, but I have a way of “punishing” myself without even knowing I’m doing it, so I find myself procrastinating reading Facebook or something and then dragging myself through a few chores — and then getting to the end of the day dispirited and mad at myself because I spent the whole day indoors. Instead, I’ve started trying to plan my days off with what I WANT to do first (like spend a couple of hours on the deck with a book) and then work out my have-to-do list to accommodate it.

  4. This is the perfect post for me today! Thank you! One practice I’m working on is removing the “shoulds” from my to do list. I put together the list, and then I highlight the items that I really want to do, either because I think they will enhance my life or the life of someone I love or my community, or because I think I will enjoy them, The ones that are on there because someone somewhere might think I should do them get crossed off before I waste energy avoiding them. Leaves more energy for the good stuff!

  5. Thank you for writing this post.
    I certainly have what we name in our family as the ‘dropseats’. Grandma Smith used to say, I just don’t know what was the matter with me today . every time I saw a chair , I just had to drop my seat in it 🙂

    I currently have tomatoes in a pail needing to be canned.
    I WILL do them today !

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