Ever had days when you just can’t muster up the motivation to get started?

It happens to the best of us.  Even driven people have days when their energy seems to have gone missing-in-action.  You spend your time telling yourself to get going, but it just doesn’t happen.

And you’re not quite sure why.

What if there was something specific and practical you could do that gets your motor running again?  Here are three practical and simple ways to kick-start that motivation and get productive – fast.

When it’s all too hard

You’re about to do something you haven’t done before, or even worse, you’ve tried to do it and discovered that you’re not very good at it. You don’t want to fumble your way through it because it makes you feel incompetent, but it’s not something you can delegate either.

Write a “Once Impossible, Now Easy” list.  What are the things that you’ve done that once seemed impossible, but are now easy?  There was once a time when tying your shoelaces seemed about as possible as flying like superman.  And yet now when you tie your shoelaces you do it without even having to think.

How about at work?  What skills have you developed that seemed so far-fetched and challenging at first, but now get you compliments?  Did you once shy away from giving feedback, but now you do it like a pro?   Was there a computer program that you had to learn which gave you nightmares, but now you whizz through it like you were born to?

One thing on my “Once Impossible, Now Easy” list is touch typing.  It was an incredibly hard slog to learn how to touch type, but with all the writing I do now, it’s like second nature.

Make a list of what was once impossible, but is now easy, and keep going until you get that “no task is going to conquer me” feeling.

When there’s so much to do that you feel paralysed

The to-do list is overflowing, but you don’t even know where to start.  You spend your time reviewing and reprioritising the list, trying to find the best place to tackle the pile.

Race the clock. Pick something – anything – on the list that is important.  Set a timer for 50 minutes and burn through it.  If you finish the task within 50 minutes, quickly choose another task and keep going . After 50 minutes, stop.  Progress is a great motivator.   How far have you come?

I race the clock every Friday, which is the day that I tackle admin work that I haven’t delegated.  The first 5 minutes or so I’m fighting against it, but then I get into a groove and when the timer goes off I’m usually caught off guard because I’m so into what I’m doing.

When your 50 minutes are over, take a 10 minute break – check your emails, get a cup of coffee, do whatever you need to do – then get ready for the next race against time.

When you can’t remember why you do what you do

You have a vague memory that you used to enjoy doing this work.  You felt like you were making a contribution and that people recognised and appreciated you for it.  But now, it just feels like work.

Read Your “Nice Things People Said” file. Remember when you felt appreciated?  What did people say?  Record those comments in a file.  Include things people wrote about you, said about you or said to you.  Include thank you letters you received, nice comments from clients, colleagues, or from anyone who said something to you that made you feel like what you do makes a difference.

I met a lovely lady named Anita who was a fellow attendee at a weekend training course.  We had a deep and meaningful conversation over lunch and the next day she sent me such a lovely email that I printed it up and posted it by by desk.  When I’m wondering why I do what I do, I read that letter and re-connect with what motivates me:  creating change for people, quickly and more easily than they ever thought possible (even when I’m not being paid to.)

When your motor’s idling

You’re still going to have days when you don’t feel driven – that’s a human reality.  Success isn’t about being motivated every second of every day.  But it is about recognising when the motivation’s flagging, and doing something about it.

Which of the three situations – too hard, too much, too meaningless – is challenging you right now?  It’s time to take action with a practical and simple step to rev your motivation engine, and revive your productivity, fast.


Debbie Thompson is a leadership coach who combines her years in leadership positions with her love of coaching high achievers to outstanding results.  She works to help managers, leaders and business owners master that “leadership thing” so that they get more clarity, have more impact, and multiply their influence.