5 Ways to Build Your Motivation Muscles

Smartphones and tablets may have put the power of the internet right in our hands, but they have only further complicated our ability to stay focused on, well, anything.

When access to information (and, therefore, distraction) runs so rampant, how can it not have an adverse effect on how we process the world around us?

Three people working on arranging post-it notes on a window. Motivation pbs rewire
Being present is no mean feat. But practice makes perfect.

“Because we struggle to stay present, focused and engaged, we hear differently, see differently and notice differently overall,” said Courtney Carver, author of “Soulful Simplicity: How Living with Less Can Lead to So Much More.”

“This means we can’t go as deep with our relationships, our work, or even in knowing what’s best for us. By fracturing how we spend our time and attention, we are also fracturing the most meaningful things in our lives.”

Through advocating for simplicity, Carver hopes to inspire those around her to refocus on what matters and find the motivation to get more done. Here are a few choice bits of advice for those of you looking for ways to stay motivated on your current project.

1. Steer clear of digital distractions

The internet has truly emerged at the center of distraction. So, the real trick is to restrict how long you’re online, whether by limiting yourself to checking email twice a day or otherwise taking precautionary measures to keep yourself off of Twitter and on task.

“Not only do we get caught up in meaningless activities and end up in digital rabbit holes instead of doing the real work, but social media makes it easy to get into the comparison game,” Carver said.

She suggests using a time-tracker like the Moment app to shed some light on how you’re spending your time online. No matter what you’re working on, this could be the most critical step in restoring your ability to accomplish your goals efficiently.

2. Practice the art of self-discipline

Once you develop a keen self-awareness of your own biggest distractions, you can practice developing self-discipline, either by using productivity tools or by creating a routine that works for you.

Starting off your morning with some exercise, meditation or even a bit of inspiration will pump you up far more than defaulting to Facebook as soon as your eyes open. You can also try the Pomodoro technique, a popular time management system that alternates between periods of intense focus and short breaks.

The important thing is to get into a habit that works for you.

“I’m much more focused than I was in the past because I create boundaries around the things that distract me—and respect them,” Carver said.

3. Avoid the temptation to multitask

With so much on your plate, you might often find yourself trying to get more than one thing done at the same time. While this makes sense for mindless tasks—go ahead, fold laundry while you catch up on the latest Netflix original series—it doesn’t work so well for projects that require an element of concentration or creativity.

Woman presenting a new idea to her peers at a meeting. Motivation pbs rewire
A work meeting and not an open laptop in sight.

Making peace with your own limitations is a common obstacle for people who need to realign their priorities as well as their schedules, Carver said.

“Doing one thing at a time really helps, which usually requires letting go and doing less overall,” she said.

If you stay focused on tasks individually, you’re more likely to finish them quicker, freeing you up to move on to other things.

4. Always make self-care a priority

Although it might sound obvious, many people neglect to set aside the necessary time to tend to their own physical and emotional needs.

Even if you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t sacrifice your wellbeing to cram more into each day. Allow yourself to take a nap once in a while, go for a daily 30-minute walk or just give yourself time to unplug from all the madness for a while.

Such an approach can not only protect your long-term health but actually optimizes your ability to get things done. Carver suggests delving into the 2017 book “Bored and Brilliant” by Manoush Zomorodi to explore how designating some alone time can go a long way toward unlocking your potential to accomplish more than ever before.

5. Reflect on why you’re doing it

If all else fails, Carver has one effective trick up her sleeve that just might prevent you from clicking away or whipping out your smartphone when you’re supposed to be focused.

“When you aren’t feeling motivated, remind yourself why you are doing what you do,” she said. “Write down three reasons why you want to stay engaged in a particular project.”

For some tasks, the answers might be as simple as “to earn a paycheck” or “to keep my apartment clean.” But shifting your mindset to perceive these projects as choices you’re deliberately making to enrich some aspect of your life, whether financially or spiritually, will curb the stress and pressure to get them done in the first place.

A headshot of a man. PBS Rewire. Robert Yaniz Jr.

Robert Yaniz Jr. is a full-time freelance writer specializing in business, marketing and entertainment. Over the last 15 years, he has covered everything from the regional business scene to the latest movies and TV shows. You can usually find him—laptop on hand—sipping a latte or chasing after his young daughter. For more on his work, check out robertyanizjr.com or email him directly at [email protected] You can also find him on Twitter @robertyanizjr.