Stuck In a Rut? Here Are 15 Ways to Pull Yourself Out of a Bad Situation.
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
Self-indulgence and pity parties are not suitable for your business. The good news is that there are always options to regain your motivation and passion. Here are 15 of my favorite techniques.
1. Focus only on your main goal.
As an entrepreneur, you have plenty of things to do and a million ideas going through your head. That’s just part of the job. Most of us thrive in this type of environment. At the same time, this can drain both your energy and motivation.
As Leo Babauta correctly writes, “You cannot maintain energy and focus (the two most important things in accomplishing a goal) if you are trying to do two or more goals at once.” The solution? Pick “one goal, for now, and focus on it completely.”
Personally, I would start with your meatiest goal and save the rest for later. If you’re deciding between several different options, zone in on the one that relates to your top priorities and make sure that it’s a SMART goal. Once you choose to focus on that goal, put the goal in writing and develop a realistic action plan with steps to achieve it.
2. Find out how you’re spending your time.
From my experience, if you want to manage your time more effectively, then you need to find out you’re spending your time. You can do so by writing down all of your work and non-work activities for at least a week. Take note of how long each entry takes you to complete so you have a better idea of where your time is going. You can also use time tracking apps to assist you.
What exactly does checking the time have to do with motivation? If you notice that you spend too much time on unproductive activities, like watching TV or browsing your social channels, when do you have time to reach your goal? For example, if you wanted to improve your writing skills because you eventually want to author a book, then wasting your time on TV won’t motivate you to reach this goal.
Instead, you can reduce the amount of TV you watch and spend that time on things that will motivate you. Write, read, talk to other writers or create a more optimal workspace.
3. Come on, get happy.
“Motivation happens when your dopamine spikes, because you anticipate something important, is about to happen,” says Kevan Lee, VP of Marketing at Buffer. The good news is that the “brain can be trained to feed off of bursts of dopamine sparked by rewarding experiences,” such as setting incremental goals.
You can also hack your brain to get dopamine following by:
- Recording small accomplishments.
- Sharing results with others like your team or family.
- Establishing micro-deadlines to keep you on track.
- Eating foods like yogurt, almonds, fruits and vegetables, eggs, and salmon.
- Taking a 10-minute nap.
- Making the right brain/left brain switch.
- Moving, even if it’s just a short walk, midday.
4. Strike a pose.
As Amy Cuddy, a professor at the Harvard School of Business, explained during a TED Talk in 2012, body language can shape who we are. For example, when we’re in a low-power pose, such as slouching or bunching up, we feel powerless. On the flip side, a high-power pose like stretching out and making a V with your arms does the opposite.
The reason is that the pose increases testosterone, which boosts confidence. It also lowers cortisol, which is associated with stress. So, the next time you need a shot in the arm, strike a power pose. Of course, if you don’t want to feel embarrassed, do this when you’re alone.
5. Develop a pre-game routine.
James Clear, who played baseball for 17 years, developed a pre-game routine “that allowed me to perform well, regardless of whether I was motivated or not.”
Here’s what his pre-game routine looked like:
Grab a baseball and my glove. Jog out to the outfield foul pole. Jog across along the outfield wall. Stop at the opposite foul pole. Stretch hips and hamstrings. Jog back along the outfield wall. Toss lightly, working back to 75 feet or so. Head to the bullpen. Stand one step behind the mound and toss three or four times from there to the catcher. Step up onto the mound. Toss a few pitches without going into the full windup. Start throwing from the windup for 10 pitches or so. Throw from the stretch for 10 pitches or so. Finish with one of each pitch (change up, curveball, fastball in, fastball out). Walk to the dugout.
This routine took no more than 25 minutes. Besides getting him physically warmed up, it also got him in “the correct mental state to compete at a high level.” You can use a similar technique as well whenever you need to get motivated. The first step is to make sure that the routine is incredibly easy to start so that there are no excuses.
If you are headed into a workout, fill-up your water bottle before you start. The next step is to make sure that the routine pushes you closer to a goal. And, the third step is to stick with the same pattern every time you need the motivation quickly. Don't delay when you feel yourself slipping.
What can you do for yourself to put yourself back in the motivation-mood? What has helped you before? If you are struggling, make a list of what has helped you before and keep it with you. What will you take and form as part of a personal-pick-me-up-routine when you feel low? Never let a slump stick and remember that it's easier to stay up than to pick yourself up.
6. Set the bar low.
When you feel so unmotivated that you're anxious or overwhelmed, don't allow yourself to become paralyzed. Sometimes, setting small and specific goals can get you out of your little funk. Instead of focusing on your book, write a sentence, and then another. If that’s all you do, then it's enough. Small is better than nothing.
But, you may be surprised that just jotting down a couple of words encourages you to keep on writing.
7. Overcome your fear(s).
You may try to put on a strong facade, but we all have fears. Sometimes personal dismay is so severe that it can stun our motivation. So, how can you overcome your fears? First, you need to identify your concern and give it a name. A name is beneficial to get whatever is bothering you out in the open. Next, question this fear. You may notice that it’s ridiculous or something that can be easily conquered.
Most importantly, take a small risk to squash it. For instance, if you’re afraid of your business failing, don’t overreact by quitting your job and investing all of your savings into your new venture. Work on your new venture on the side to see if it’s profitable; then, you can take that more significant leap. If not, then at least you didn’t lose everything. Always take a close look when you are feeling uncomfortable.
8. Reward yourself.
As written in The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People, “Researchers find that perceived self-interest, the rewards one believes are at stake, is the most significant factor in predicting dedication and satisfaction toward work. It accounts for about 75 percent of personal motivation toward accomplishment.” So, go ahead and treat yourself whenever you cross something off your to-do-list or reached a milestone. Eventually, these small wins lead to a winning streak where we want to re-experience how great it felt to succeed.
Related: Why Our Brains Like Short-Term Goals
9. Practice positive self-talk.
“Positive self-talk is a surefire way to boost your confidence levels quickly,” writes Rose Leadem in an article for Calendar. “However, how you positively self-talk matters too.”
According to one study, “people who talk to themselves positively in the second person (using 'you') reported higher levels of motivation and confidence than people who spoke to themselves in the first person ('I').” Researchers believe that “this is because addressing yourself in the second person, makes it feel like you are receiving external appreciation and confirmation.”
10. The fresh start effect.
According to "the fresh-start effect," people are more likely to take action toward a goal after temporal landmarks that represent new beginnings. Psychologists believe this works because these special occasions or temporal landmarks force us to reflect on the big picture. As a result, it inspires us to take action -- specifically set goals and change our behavior.
The thing is, you don’t have to wait until January 1 for a fresh start. You can have a new beginning at any time, any day, and any minute. For example, if you want to write more, then you could compose a note explaining why you want to write more and the baby step, you need to take to make this a reality.
11. Have someone hold you accountable.
At the end of the day, you need to be accountable for your own actions. But sometimes, you can use a little nudge to regain your motivation. For example, I used to go to the gym with a friend. As our schedules changed, we could no longer exercise at the same time. Without someone to push me, I stopped going. Now, I have a new partner in crime.
Whenever I don’t feel like it, he encourages me to get off my butt and get to the gym. I also return the favor when he’s not motivated. If you don't have that person, keep looking for someone to help you with your goals. Sometimes getting to the gym is where you will find someone to be a workout partner. Ask individuals at work or other groups you are involved with, but don't stop reaching out.
12. Focus on positive outcomes.
As opposed to obsessing about what may go wrong or how hard it is to complete a goal, write down at least three positive outcomes of achieving your goal. It may sound simple, but it’s an excellent way for you to focus on what you enjoy doing and how it will be beneficial in the end.
13. Tap into your bigger purpose.
When you look at the bigger picture, something amazing happens. You realize that whatever you’re working on is more important than you. Take your business as an example. It’s helping your community by providing jobs, as well as solving a pain point for customers. If you’re giving back, it may even make the world just a slightly better place. We all have to make sense of the bigger picture and our bigger purpose
14. Get some more green into your life.
Various colors impact our psychology. For example, red is associated with passion, strength and danger. Blue sends off authentic and peaceful vibes. But, if you want to spark creativity, motivation, and energy, surround yourself with the color green.
I wouldn’t recommend painting the walls of your office green. But, you could go outside and walk in a nearby park when you’re in a slump. Researchers believe this is because it makes us think of growth. Think plants and surround yourself with many live and growing things at home and in the office. Hanging photos of outdoor beauty can make a big difference, as well.
15. Find inspiration daily.
No matter how intrinsically motivated you are, there will be times when you need some outside help. Support can be through quotes, books, TED Talks, or advice from a trusted and supportive friend. Sometimes benefit and comfort will come from getting out of your comfort zone and having new experiences. Often, merely changing your environment will change the outcome of emotions you'd rather not (or can't) deal with right now.
Make it a point to seek out inspiration every day. Not only will daily efforts keep you motivated, but daily power-intention will also help you learn and grow as a person.