10 ways to boost your motivation and mood to help you get started on projects

A year ago I wrote a blog post called “5 ways to motivate yourself to study a boring subject and/or complete a project”. Several people responded to this blog post with comments along the following lines:

“Don’t know what to do … I have not gained any motivation …”

“I want something more to get motivated. This is not practically acceptable to me.”

I found these comments really interesting and I think they illustrate quite nicely how many of us are looking for quick fix solutions in a world where there are none. The comments also highlighted the false idea that you need to feel motivated before you start your work.

It usually takes years of consistent work and practice to become successful in your chosen field. The Beatles are a perfect example of this – they played over 1200 shows before they became a hit. The Colonel Sanders was also rejected over 1000 times before someone finally invested in his chicken recipe.

To achieve big things in life, it takes hard work. It also requires taking action despite the way you feel.

How can you stay motivated to keep taking action, especially when the task is painfully boring and you feel in a flat mood?

In this blog post I expand on my original list of strategies and explore some new ways in which you can motivate yourself and lift your mood to help you get started with projects.

1. Force yourself to start – The motivation will come

Many people tend to wait for the right moment (when they feel inspired and/or motivated) to start their work. But the reality is they may never feel inspired to do the work that needs to be done.

The most successful people don’t wait around until they’re in the right mood. They just get started and what they notice is after awhile they realise “wow, what I’ve done so far is pretty good” and this results in them feeling motivated and wanting to take more action.

If you just start doing something small (writing one sentence, getting the book out of your bag, etc.), it won’t take long before you’re on a roll and deeply immersed in your project.

2. Imagine the end

If you’re really struggling with a project it can help to imagine the end result and how you’ll feel once you accomplish it. Athletes use this strategy frequently to help them stay focused on their goals and to keep motivated.

You may want to consider putting a picture of the end result up on your wall or on your project file as this can be a great way to keep motivated when dealing with obstacles and setbacks.

3. Imagine taking the next action step

If you find imagining the end result too overwhelming, then imagine yourself just taking the next step on whatever it is you need to do. This could involve imagining yourself getting up and turning on your computer, putting on your jogging shoes or picking up a book. The simple act of visualising yourself executing a particular action can help you to take the first step (which is often the hardest part).

4. See the big picture

Often we lack motivation when we can’t see the point in what we are doing. Before you engage in your work ask yourself “Why am I doing this?”, “Where am I heading?” and “Where do I want to be in 3 years time?” Answering these questions can help you to gain clarity, focus your energy and propel you into action.

5. Trick yourself into getting started

Next time you have a piece of work you need to do, ask yourself this question –

“What’s the smallest, simplest action that I can take to start this task?”

If it’s a book you need to read, the simplest action may be getting the book from the shelf or your bag. You want to say to yourself “All I need to do is get my book from my bag”.

Once you’ve done this, ask yourself the question:

“What’s the next smallest and simplest action step I can take?”

This time it may be opening up the book or reading the first sentence on the page. It may not seem like much, but the act of taking the first action step is often the hardest part and once you’ve done that, it’s highly likely that you will keep going.

6. Gain Clarity

Get clear on what you need to do. What will the finished product/project look like? Spend some time thinking about this. You may want to even sketch out onto some paper what it is that you’re setting out to achieve.

Once you’re clear on this, set a goal with a deadline of when you want to have this completed by (e.g. “I will have completed my report by Friday the 10th of June by 4pm”

7. Power nap it up

If you’re feeling tired, don’t force yourself to start your work. Take a power nap instead. Power naps (aka nanna naps and power snoozes) are short intense naps between 10 and 24 minutes in duration.

Taking a power nap before 5pm can be a great way to re-energise and clear your mind before starting work on an important project that requires a fresh state of mind.

8. Watch an uplifting video on YouTube or put on some upbeat music

If you’re feeling in a flat mood, you can set a short period of time aside (e.g. 5 or 10 minutes) to watch an inspirational video on YouTube or listen to some uplifting music. As long as this doesn’t lead to you spending hours of your day watching random videos instead of doing your work, it can be a great way to get in the right mindset for a productive session of work. An inspirational video to get you started is Team Hoyt – The Journey of Life Together.

9. Move your body

Studies have found that intense physical activity can enhance creativity, decrease stress levels and sharpen your ability to think. If you want to feel motivated and be more productive, then hit the gym, go for a run, participate in a dance class or just dance in your bedroom!

In order to experience the full benefits of physical activity you need to engage in exercise that gets you working up a sweat and puffing. There is however a fine line. Whilst you want to work up a sweat, you also don’t want to exercise to the point where you feel completely exhausted and need to spend the rest of the day on the couch. You need to find the right level of intensity that works for you.

10. Work in 8 minute Power Bursts

Invest in a timer and work in 8 minute power bursts. 8 minutes doesn’t sound like a very long period of time but it’s long enough to allow you to get into the swing of a particular activity. When you need to start work on a particular project, set the alarm for 8 minutes and tell yourself “I’m going to focus on doing this for 8 minutes – no distractions!”.

When the timer goes off after 8 minutes, you have two choices – if you’re struggling with the task you can take a break but if you’re on a roll, keep going. The beauty of this strategy is that after 8 minutes you’ll most likely have eased into the project, realised “This isn’t so bad!” and want to keep going.

There you have it: ten more ways to boost your motivation and lift your mood to start your projects. Chances are that even after reading this, you’re still not feeling particularly motivated to start your work. But don’t despair – the solution is to try out one of the strategies and see how you go.

20 thoughts on “10 ways to boost your motivation and mood to help you get started on projects

  1. Ya u have helped now.i think I am motivated.but when ever I get in problem I may not be able to solve.i get demotivated.and then I spend hours on my bed.please help me.my exams are closer.

  2. This is very usefull tips and I love them all, I have tried to find a way/ways to boost my mood in reading books and focussing in my projects in a busy schedule & still trying, hopefully your tips will work for me.

    Thanks Jane for your effort.

  3. I am always looking for ways to help stay motivated & out of desperation I googled it. I found both your articles & after reading them both decided that I am going to make a plan for the rest of my day, instead of worrying about the few weeks I have left before the due date. Your advice is honest and helpful. Once I herd a quote that said: There are no shortcuts to somewhere worth going. Do the work and you’ll feel better. Thank you. Your advice is reassuring and I am going to put it into practice today. Maybe reward myself with some chocolate, but hey a slow start is none the less still a start. Thank you.

  4. Thanks for the article. Was feeling demotivated this morning and your power burst suggestion has got me started!

  5. well in my case, i work from 9:30 am till 8pm
    then i come home super tired, and i have 6 tests in a months that i need, not only to pass, but also to be inthe first 20 results to get into university
    and i have a really hard time getting motivated or getting the energy needed to study after work, knowing that i need to get up early the other day for work 🙁
    and i cant quit work

    1. You are doing a lot! No wonder you don’t feel motivated after a long workday.
      Your willpower reserves are depleted and your energy levels at an all time low.

      Here’s what I recommend: between work and study take a break to reset your brain/recharge your battery.
      Go do some exercise, have a shower, have something healthy to eat and then study in a short intense burst (15 – 20 minutes and then take another break).

      You are doing a lot so go easy on yourself.

      Baby steps is the way. Doing some study is better than no study.


  6. hey evry1 who has put this together….v helpful! i find that i tend to get very lazy when it comes to schoolwork and my first external exam is on wednesday – i am still kinda stressing heaps coz i havent done much revision for it at all:(:(….fingers crossed i get the mark i hope for BUT after reading this i cant wait to get my old exam (that i am doing for revision) done and dusted:):)
    Good luck to anyone else who is doing exams or tests or anything like that in the near future:):)

  7. What’s up,I check your blog regularly.Your story-telling style is witty. Keep up the good work!

  8. Hi! I really liked your tips, but I don’t know if they’ll work for me… They seem kind of time consuming. Do you happen to have any other ideas? This summer, I have my 13th birthday, but before the party, there is a huge service… I need to learn an 11 page, different language, chanting portion, in less than a month… I kind of need more than motivation. Thanks!

    1. Hi Worried Student,

      You need to practice, practice, practice those 11 pages!

      I’m in a similar position at the moment (I have two new one hour talks to learn in 3 weeks).

      Here’s what I recommend:

      1. Audio record it and listen back to it over and over again
      2. Can you draw it out? The fact it is in a different language makes this a little tricky but see what you can do.
      3. Force yourself to practice every day. Do what feels manageable. If you think you should practice for an hour but that seems overwhelming, then aim for just 10 minutes (note: you’ll probably end up doing more than 10 minutes).
      4. Break it down: Break up those 11 pages into small chunks. Then put each chunk on a flash card. Carry those cards around with you. When you have a spare 2 – 5 minutes, practice a chunk.

      And finally (perhaps most importantly), get off the Internet and start practising!

      Jane 🙂

      1. Thank you for your easy to follow and simple break-downs of work. So easy to forget when we have a huge, daunting or rather boring task ahead!

  9. Thank you!! I was waiting around for the right moment that would never come and felt miserable. I see now how silly that all was – I’ll get started on my assignments right away. Keep on doing amazing here. 😀 Cheers x

  10. Hi I work full time at airport and I’m studying to get my realators license. I have been working on this for three years. I gave up for a year because I didn’t pass exam 4 times. I passed the class but not state exam. I enrolled with a different school to retake and then ended up in hospital having to have blood transfusion. I M feeling a little better but need surgery in a month. I am having problems trying to get motivated again. Its been another 3 weeks since studying and now today is my first day trying to get back into it again. I get lazy and frustrated so I’m trying little steps but wont lie it’s tough. Any advice? I wont give up.

  11. Amazing tips, i very liked,And i know this tips will help me a lot,And i must work on it.

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