Finding Motivation When You Have None

This past weekend, I woke up late, switched to the couch, and stayed there for the vast majority of the day.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, my dishes were waiting for me to wash them, dinner was waiting to be cooked, and other homework was begging to be done. Also, since I had been a couch potato all day, I knew I should get to the gym.

When you’re having a lazy day and feeling unmotivated, these types of tasks seem impossible. I generally like working out, but working out when I’m not motivated makes me resent it.

I had to pull out the big guns to motivate myself to do these things without hating my life. Here’s how I usually go about kicking myself in the butt.

Friendly Competition

I have a theory that all human beings are at least a little competitive. Our debt levels from keeping up with the Jones’ is attributable to that fact. We have a competitive streak, which is rooted by our most primal of instincts.

I always get an extra kick of motivation to get something done if somebody with whom I’m particularly competitive is doing well at it. Or even very poorly.

I have a friend who has lost a lot of weight recently, and that’s been motivating to get to the gym. Even if you’re not competitive with somebody, you can use them as  inspiration, which is also very motivating.


Have you ever watched The Biggest Loser and because of that, made better meal choices that day? Or watched ‘Til Debt Do Us Part, and reassessed your budget?

It’s likely because watching other people struggle with those issues has reinforced your desire to avoid that state. Even though I’m nowhere near the $60K in debt that some of the couples on those shows are in, watching them still makes me transfer funds into my retirement account and scares me into cutting down my variable spending.


There’s nothing like a little self-bribery to get yourself into gear. Sometimes, if I’m really procrastinating on an assignment, I’ll tell myself that I can have a reward if I finish a certain amount of it. I make sure it’s in bite sized chunks, because if I only rewarded myself after finishing a 40 page paper, I’d never finish it – my opportunity cost would be too low for doing that assignment.

If you have a whole house to clean, spend a couple of hours doing the kitchen and laundry, and then allow yourself a reward of your choice.

Try to make the reward match the goal. For instance, don’t allow yourself to pig out on an entire plate of nachos because you went to the gym – that doesn’t align with your goal, or the reason you went to the gym. Just like you shouldn’t be buying yourself a $200 handbag because you cut your discretionary spending by 10%.

If I work hard to get an assignment done, my reward might be allowing myself to go out with friends that night and relax as a reward for my hard work.

A reward can also be to withhold something from yourself until you complete a task. For instance, I tell myself that if I do an hour of uninterrupted housework, I can watch Teen Mom (my trash TV guilty pleasure). If I don’t do an hour, then I have to move onto something else that is unpleasant, such as paperwork.

Find Your Time

I am extremely motivated to do certain things, such as blogging and exercising, at certain times of the day or week. I get a zest for writing on Saturday mornings. Same with working out. I’m usually more motivated to work out in the mornings than I am in the evenings after work. In the evening, especially if I have some caffeine in my system, I’m all about getting the housework done and doing paperwork.

However, trying to do paperwork in the morning before work? It’s just not happening for me. I struggle with finding the motivation, my mind wanders, and I chastise myself for not getting it done. This may be something that you have to work at, and it really can be trial and error, but finding the time of day that you’re more motivated to do certain things will prevent you from burning out or dragging your heels.

Doing those things during that time frame will keep you more motivated in the future, because you know you can actually do it.

If you are unmotivated to do something, it may not mean you don’t want to do it. Unmotivated might just mean that you’re not approaching it in a way that makes you want to take action.

How do you motivate yourself to do things?


Finding Motivation When You Have None — 12 Comments

  1. I enjoy friendly AND some unfriendly competition. To be frank, unfriendly competition is what pushes me to my limits of effort. In tennis, there is this one arrogant prick that talks a lot of smack. As a result of him, and my impending match, I worked out longer, slimmed down another 5 pounds, practiced 1 hour longer each session and eventually beat his arse. I thanked him profusely for his motivation afterward!

    Celebration is definitely what we need to do more of FOR SURE. I’ve got to work on that!



    • I am so with you. Unfriendly competition pushes me so much harder. Friendly competition is what often gets me started, but once someone gets arrogant I am competitive beyond belief, lol. Funny thing is my husband is so laid back about stuff he almost needs life support.

      Great post Daisy! So many tips and I too think I need to celebrate my success more. I tend to finish things and move straight onto the next without really acknowledging how well I have done on something.

      • I do the same thing. I am not so good at allowing myself to celebrate and feel good about my accomplishment. I often just move on to the next thing. It is good to pause and give ourselves a pat on the back.

        I am not so competitive myself but I still find I push myself when I work on things with someone else.

  2. For me, I usually just put my head down and do what’s needed to be done. I guess it’s just work ethic. I think having a schedule helps too. Sometime I’m not motivated to write a post for my blog, but I want to stick to the schedule so usually I’ll go ahead and do it.

  3. Sometimes motivation can be really hard but looking at whatever is at the end of the tunnel (money, vacation) usually helps me out.

  4. I’m like Kathleen. I like the competition aspect, too. Although I must admit that when I watch the Biggest Loser, all it really does for me is make me feel really good about myself at the beginning of the season and then really bad about myself by the time they get to the finale.

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