I used to be the absolute worst for losing motivation and letting myself self-doubt consume me. I was so afraid of failing, I didn’t even want to try. There’s an actual thing called the 3 P’s which describes my problem: Perfection Procrastination Paralysis. For half of my life I have suffered from anxiety which manifests as a fear of things not being done ‘the right way’. It has really held me back, because if I didn’t feel able to do something to the ridiculously high standard I had set myself, I just didn’t do it at all. I know I am not alone in feeling like this.
While I won’t get too deep into the mental health aspect of anxiety and compulsive negative thought patterns, it is not normal to feel this way. Basically, if you constantly feel like a worthless failure – speak to your GP.
Anyway, here are some of the practical ways I have started to conquer those dark thoughts and not allow myself to be paralysed or overwhelmed.
Real talk: sometimes the only way I can alleviate that feeling of dread is to Get On With It. I make a list of everything I need to do, from small tasks such as washing the dishes, to larger undertakings such as writing x words of my dissertation. It’s important to keep your goals measurable and realistic, so including things such as word counts or setting time limits is helpful. Checking the New In section of ASOS is part of my daily routine, so by including it on my To Do List, I don’t feel guilty about it, and scoring it off gets it out of the way.
One of the things that helps me stop procrastinating is an app on my iPhone called Forest. Basically you plant a seed, and if you leave your phone alone for half an hour (which is harder than you’d imagine) it grows into a tree. It sounds kind of silly, but it’s a nice way of visualising a small victory.
Pomodoro One is a free OSX app that I use when working: it’s a timer application that runs in 25 minute cycles ie. a pomodoro. After that pomodoro is complete, you have five minutes to potter around on the internet or make a cup of tea, then the next pomodoro begins. It’s quite an intense way of working, but it’s manageable, and doing 50 minutes of actual high quality work in the space of each hour is pretty good going.
I find that tweaking my routine has overhauled my attitude to work in a big way. I have found that if I get up at 6am, I am on fire until about 4pm. The same cannot be said for if I get up at 8am and work until 6pm. I’m the world’s most reluctant early bird, but that little shift in my routine works.
Changing my workspace is also effective in that it renews my enthusiasm for the task at hand. I move around the house; sometimes I’ll turn my bedroom windowsill into a desk, or sometimes I’ll just stand at the kitchen counter stuffing grapes into my mouth while typing one-handed. Surround yourself with pictures and objects that inspire you but do not distract you.
When I am feeling unmotivated and demoralised, it helps me to visualise my end goal. I think about the pride I’ll feel when I am awarded my degree, or when Violet tries on my mortarboard. I think about how proud my family will be when I graduate, and how delicious that first sip of well-deserved champagne will be at my graduation meal. I’ve picked my graduation shoes! I really want to wear them. I also fantasise about what I’ll say to my family and friends to express my gratitude for their support during this.
I also visualise my long term goals. A ‘life goals’ Pinterest board is a good place to keep inspirational pictures to energise and motivate when activity has ground to a halt. You can create private boards on Pinterest now, so no one but you needs to know that a big motivator for you is the idea of having a dining table to eat around every evening.
This sounds really cheesy in a self-help kind of way, but it has helped me to make a moodboard of all the things I want in the future. I want a house with a garden, and several dogs and cats and to take Violet to India, and be able to do the Great American Road Trip with a really handsome man. I know I won’t get any closer to those things by lying in bed, vacillating between Cruel Intentions and Bring It On.
Having said that, sometimes the only thing to do is to take a step back and sack it off for a while. Take a nap. Everything seems better after a nap. Give yourself permission to do what pleases you, and you won’t resent getting back to the grind so much.
Born this way,