The Science On Why Motivation Comes And Goes

WhyMotivationComesAndGoes

Do you find it difficult to gather the enthusiasm to start something? Perhaps you need to get going with a big work project, exercise regularly, or simply clean the house. Why does motivation come and go? This article will explain the science behind motivation. It will also list practical suggestions that will help you improve your productivity.

Why Does Motivation Come and Go?

What helps to keep us alert when performing a task?

It all starts when neurotransmitters spark messages that are carried throughout the brain. Motivation comes and goes due to the level of dopamine that is released to different parts of the brain.

It is often believed that dopamine is only associated with pleasure. But it actually goes far beyond that. Dopamine is the charge that gets us going before a reward is given. It is also present before pain and loss. 

Dopamine is what encourages us to act, no matter whether the outcome will be good or bad. This chemical helps to get us ready for situations with a negative result. It also prepares us to celebrate the good outcomes that come with finalizing tasks.

A Behavioural Brain Research study by scientist J.C. Horvitz noted the differences in dopamine levels in individuals. The study showed that people who felt motivated had higher levels of dopamine in the striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Why is this noteworthy? The striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex are the two locations of the brain that are known to impact motivation. In the study, people who didn’t feel motivated showed levels of dopamine in other parts of the brain that are associated with emotion and risk.

Tasks That Need Motivation

We are all so different. That’s why the things that you may need extra motivation to do are the things some people could get done in their sleep. You might struggle to find the motivation to do some of the following things:

  • Get started with a work project
  • Write an essay for school
  • Study for exams
  • Keep up with an exercise routine
  • Lose weight and stick to a diet
  • Keep on top of the housework

Do you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle against some of the above-mentioned tasks? Then don’t worry, you’re not alone! This article contains tips that will help you to stop procrastinating and get jobs done. It will also discuss what you can do to get motivated.

How To Stop Procrastinating

Procrastination is a huge problem that makes us waste masses of time. Do you often find yourself rushing to complete a task at the last minute? Now, is that because you weren’t given enough time to complete the job? Or is it more likely because you wasted the time you were given on non-essential activities?

Picture the following scenario and decide if it sounds familiar to you:

You’ve spent the last 20 minutes doing a little bit of everything, but nothing at the same time. You’ve checked all your social media accounts, twice. There aren’t any new notifications. You’ve answered that text message you’ve had pending for the past three days. You’ve deleted some promotional emails that were clogging up your email box. You’ve had a nose at the neighbor’s parcel delivery from your window. Oh and that job you were supposed to do this morning? Well, that hasn’t even had a look in.

There are more things in the world than ever before that have been designed to distract us. This may make it tough for us to give the important things our undivided attention. So, what can you do to stop procrastinating? Take a look at the following tips:

Go Offline

One of our biggest distractions from productivity is the internet. Don’t get me wrong, the internet is one of the most groundbreaking modern-day inventions. It has made life more convenient for everyone. But it is also our biggest time waster. 

It takes a lot of will-power to resist the urge to read and respond to incoming messages. What will help you to ignore the constant influx of notifications? Bear the following in mind:

  • Go into airplane mode. Keep your device switched on airplane mode while you’re doing important things. They say that if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. So don’t torture yourself! Simply take yourself out of the loop.
  • Set your phone to “Do not disturb”. Many popular social media accounts now have a “do not disturb feature”. This feature will put your social media notifications on silent. You can choose how long you want the feature to keep your notifications on silent. Unlike airplane mode, it will not block potentially important incoming calls.

Reward Yourself 

It might sound counterproductive for you to reward yourself to prevent procrastination. But you may find it useful to do so. Why? Because we sometimes procrastinate to make sure we have time to do the things we want to do. But, rewarding ourselves before we have finished a task often eats into a lot of our time. Try treating yourself to some “me time” after completing a task. Doing so may give you the incentive you need to get a job finished.

What can you do to keep your mind concentrated while working?

  • Make it your goal to complete 50 minutes of concentrated work. After every 50 minutes, reward yourself with 5 to 10 minutes of free time. You can use your free time for browsing the internet and social media, snacking, or just to get moving. Doing so will help to keep you alert for your next study session without eating too much into your work time. 

How To Get Motivated

Motivation comes and goes, so what can you do to keep your levels of enthusiasm on high? Take a look at a few practical steps that will help you to stay motivated for a variety of different tasks:

Work Projects

There are tonnes of things ready and waiting to distract you in your work environment. Chatting with your workmates, browsing the internet, organizing your desk. Before you know it, an hour has gone by and you haven’t even started working yet. 

A great way to get motivated for work projects is by setting mini goals. Break large projects into smaller milestones that you can tick off as you go. The greater the number of milestones the more you’ll find yourself striking jobs off of your list.  This will give you that awesome inner sense of accomplishment every time you do so! That feeling is somewhat addictive, so you’ll be on a roll. 

Another important way to get on track with work projects is to reduce distractions. Notice we say reduce, not eliminate. Why’s that? There will always be things that distract you from getting work done. What are some of the most common workplace distractions?

  • Meetings
  • Chatting with colleagues
  • Sorting through and answering emails

These things are guaranteed to eat into your time. So why not let these be your only distractions? How can you do that? Here’s a couple of ways:

  • Say no to social media and web browsing. Turn notifications for social media apps on silent while you are working. Avoid using your work computer for browsing the internet unnecessarily. 
  • Don’t be interrupted by non-urgent phone calls and text messages. If possible, keep your mobile device in a locker where it will not disturb you throughout the day. Provide your family with a work phone number that they can reach you on in case of emergencies. 
  • Organize your time responding to emails. Don’t allow pesky work emails to interrupt your flow of concentration. Dedicate a few minutes each day to replying to these emails and don’t respond to them outside this time. Only make an exception if the incoming email urgently requires your attention. 
  • Create timeouts. As far as possible, try to get your work done during normal working hours. If you spend a lot of time working outside your normal hours you’ll be exhausted for the next day. Avoid cramming in work late in the day and working into the evening. Doing so could interfere with your sleeping and rest patterns. As a result, you will be even less productive the next day.
  • Focus on the rewards. Focusing on the good that will come with finishing a task is also a great way of keeping motivated. The next time you feel overwhelmed by the task at hand, try the following:
    • Think about how the outcome of your work will affect your customers. Consider how your work will help you to build a better relationship with your clients. 
    • Think about how the outcome of your work will give you the chance to showcase your skills. These skills will be seen by your boss and coworkers. 

School Essays

Getting motivated to write a school essay could seem somewhat impossible. Why? There are so many things in your home environment that are just waiting to distract you. Watching TV, browsing social media, making a snack. There is an endless list of things that you could be doing instead of writing your essay.  

What’s the most tempting thing to do? Then you end up with no other choice but to get all your work finished late at night.  Or even worse, you finish it off on your way to school in the morning. 

How can you harness your energy to make the most of your time and produce the best quality work? Here are some tips:

  • Set reasonable goals. Ok, so in an ideal world, you would like to finish your essay in one sitting. But this may not be practical. Don’t create milestones that are disheartening and hard to reach, create mini ones. Don’t make it your goal to write the whole essay at once. Organize your time so that you can write a small section each day leading up to the deadline. 
  • Reward yourself. Life’s more interesting when there’s something to look forward to at the end of a hard task. Resist the urge to reward yourself before working. Instead, treat yourself to 10 minutes of “me time” after every 40 minutes of hard work. You could use that 10 minutes to:
    • Listen to music
    • Browse the internet
    • Check social media
    • Grab a snack
  • Don’t multitask. It may seem more relaxing to do work while listening to music or even while chatting to friends over the phone. But, you should resist the urge to do so. Multitasking makes it take longer for us to do things. It also makes our work more susceptible to errors. So why not get your essay complete in record time by giving it your undivided attention? You’ll then have more time for recreation when you’re finished. 
  • Turn your settings to “Do not disturb”. Many social media apps have a “Do not disturb” function. This function prevents social media notifications from appearing until you tell it to. It is all too tempting to respond to messages while you’re working. But you won’t be tempted to read messages if you haven’t received the notifications! 
  • Focus on the final outcome. Don’t focus on the essay itself, rather on where it will lead you. Think, will this essay:
    • Help you move up a grade?
    • Impress your teacher?
    • Improve your writing skills and enhance your knowledge?

Study for Exams

WhyMotivationComesAndGoes

I’m sure you would agree that it’s super difficult to get motivated to study for exams. Why? There are 101 other things you could be doing instead of studying such as: 

  • Browsing social media and chatting with your friends online 
  • Hanging out with friends
  • Watching TV
  • Playing sports
  • Spending time with your family 

And the list goes on! With all these things fighting for your attention, what can you do to stay motivated and get studying? Take a look at the following tips:

  • Make a realistic schedule. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to study for all your subjects every day. You’ll only set yourself up for disappointment making goals like that. Concentrate on the most upcoming and the most difficult exams you have to study for. Once you have done one exam, move on to study for the next upcoming exams. 
  • Reward yourself. Studying for exams is not easy and it’s tricky to make it enjoyable. But why not reward yourself at the end of a study session instead of before? You will feel so much better about doing so. Reward yourself at the end of a hard evening studying with an activity you like to do.
  • Make it enjoyable. Do you have a lot of facts that you have to commit to memory? Memorizing information can be boring and frustrating if the dates don’t seem to stick in your head. Why not try making up your own song and putting the facts to music? This could help you to remember them and will make studying more interesting.
  • Break up study sessions. It could be impractical to think that you will be able to concentrate for hours on end. Why not keep each study session short and reward yourself with a 5-minute break between sessions? Use this time to get moving – even if it’s only jogging on the spot in your bedroom! You could even use the time to listen to a song that will get you motivated for your next study session. 
  • Get rid of distractions. Find somewhere quiet to study where you will not be disturbed by others. Is your house or room too distracting? Go somewhere you know you will not be distracted such as in the garden or even a public library. Temporarily turn your social media notifications off. Let your family know that you are studying so that they will give you the space you need to concentrate on. 
  • Don’t multitask. Playing music in the background or chatting to a friend while reading is distracting. Our brains have been designed to only be able to fully concentrate on one thing at a time. If you multitask, it will take you longer to absorb the information. This means you will actually end up studying for longer than necessary. Now if that’s not an incentive to turn the music off then I don’t know what is!
  • Think past the exam. Although the exam may seem like a means to an end, thinking past your exams may help to motivate you to keep studying. Think about how doing well in this exam will help you to do the following:
    • Impress your parents
    • Impress your teachers
    • Feel proud of yourself
    • Open doors for you in the future and make it easier for you to get into the college or university of your choice. 

Exercise Routines

WhyMotivationComesAndGoes

Exercise routines are super easy to start but extremely complicated to maintain. Why’s that? Life gets in the way. A new job, a new TV series, new recipes, calling friends… pretty much anything can seem more important than an exercise routine. 

It’s easy to put off exercising. It’s dead simple for something that you were trying to do every day to turn into something you do just once a week. Then weekly exercise turns into biweekly exercise.  Before you know where you are, it’s been 3 months since the last time you even thought about your workout video.  

What can you do to stay motivated to stick with your workout routine? Take a look at the following tips:

  • Set reasonable goals. More often than not, we fail at keeping up with exercise routines because we set the bar too high. Although it would be great to do an hour of cardio each day followed by abs, arms, and a warm-down, it’s just not practical. Don’t put together a wild routine that you cannot keep up with. Focus on short sessions to begin with. Place breaks between your workout days so that you can get used to the routine gradually. Set your workout to a time when you feel the most energetic.
  • Make it enjoyable. If you are just starting up, choose a workout session that is not too hard nor too long. Play music that you enjoy in the background. This will help to keep you motivated. 
  • Log your progress. Remember how tired you felt and the little you could achieve after the first day of working out. Compare that with how you feel two weeks in. Recognizing your progress and your improved stamina will encourage you to keep going.
  • Reward yourself. Remember that thing you really wanted to do instead of working out? Make sure you treat yourself to it after a workout session! It doesn’t matter whether it’s going out with friends or even simply browsing social media. 

Losing Weight and Dieting

Here’s something you must be super motivated to do to stay on course. Losing weight and dieting. 

Why are these two things so hard? The world around us simply has not been designed to help us lose weight and stick to a diet. It seems like there’s a fast-food restaurant on every corner now. Not to mention all the sugar-filled snacks filling the aisles at the supermarket.

What can you do to get motivated to lose weight and stick to a healthy eating regime? Take a look at the following tips:

  • Set reasonable goals. There is nothing that will discourage you faster than an unrealistic weight goal. When setting your goal, make it a challenge, but also be flexible. Make allowance for those days when things won’t go as well as you’d have hoped. Don’t compare yourselves to others. Everyone loses weight at different rates depending on the makeup of our bodies.
  • Keep your reward in mind. Do you find it most tricky to stay on track with your exercise routine when you’re tired? Do you find it hard to gather the motivation to go for a run when the weather looks dreary? If so, then organize your day so that you do your exercises at a time when you will have the most energy. Have exercise activities planned that you can do from the comfort of your own home. That way you will not have to miss out even if you don’t feel like going outside. 
  • Track your progress. Keeping an eye on your progress will help you to stay motivated. Try weekly or biweekly weigh-ins. When you see how your diet starts to affect your weight you will be more inclined to stick with it. 
  • Avoid temptation. Are you frequently tempted by a drive-thru fast-food restaurant? Do you often feel the urge to stop and grab something unhealthy to eat when out and about and feeling hungry? Plan for those occasions! If you usually feel hungry when on the street, make sure you bring a healthy snack with you from home. This will save you from opting for an unhealthy meal from a fast-food restaurant. Take non-perishable snacks with you in the car so that you’re not tempted to stop off at a drive-thru on your way home.
  • Enjoy it! No one said that dieting has to be boring. Stick to the food alternatives that you enjoy that will help you to stick to your regime. If you’re not keen on a certain pulse, vegetable or cut of meat, omit it! Opt for the healthy food options that you know you will love.

Housework

WhyMotivationComesAndGoes

There are plenty of jobs around the home that we just don’t like doing. These would include:

  • Cleaning the toilet
  • Removing hair from the plughole
  • Ironing
  • Dusting
  • Cleaning the bath

Although we don’t enjoy doing these jobs, we have to do them so frequently that we learn to grin and bear them.

But some jobs are even more loathsome. These are those awkward, tiresome jobs that you only do once in a while. These jobs don’t come around often enough for us to learn to love them. But at the same time, they come around frequently enough to really get under our skin. 

What kind of jobs are we talking about?

  • Cleaning the windows
  • Cleaning the oven
  • Cleaning the fridge
  • Cleaning the microwave
  • Defrosting the freezer

How can you find the motivation to do these annoying jobs? Take a look at the following tips:

  • Make them enjoyable. Do jobs with your favorite music playing in the background! Put a playlist on with some awesome get up and go songs. 
  • Get chatting. Another way to get through jobs is to do them while talking to someone. Phone conversations are ideal. Why? If you’re talking on the phone you’ll still be able to concentrate your gaze on your chore.  Pop your Bluetooth headphones on and get cracking!
  • Rotate. Is there someone in the house that loves doing the jobs you hate? Then why not swap a chore with that person! Put jobs on a rotation system so that you can take it in turns doing different chores. Variety is the spice of life!
  • Reward yourself. You can get through any chore when you know there is a reward coming afterward. When you’re done, reward yourself with a treat to eat or a couple of hours lounging in front of your favorite TV series.