Make it fun and you’ll be motivated

Last week’s article was about wasting time to get back into a project that you’ve been procrastinating on. Say you’re writing an essay and the words just aren’t coming together. You’re staring at that blank screen and nothing’s coming to you. So, take a few minutes and scroll your feed. Just a few minutes. Then come back and chances are you’ll be able to write coherently. On the other hand, if you know exactly what you have to do but don’t want to do it – like exercise for me – make it fun and you’ll be motivated to do it.

Get motivated to exercise

There are more exercise programs out there than anyone can count. There’s bound to be one that you like and will look forward to doing. It’s important for your healthy aging to be consistent in your exercise routine. If you like dance, there are loads of dance-based beginner workouts on YouTube, available when you search. Check them out, and note the instructors you like – their voice, the moves and the music they use. And see if there are more episodes. The more of something you like, the better! Same with other types of workouts. If you like yoga, or Pilates, there are lots of those out there as well. Or put your favorite music on for 45 minutes a day and move! That’s loads of fun, you’ll get your heart up, and get plenty sweaty!

The fun was not in the exercise

The author of a recent article in Psychology Today had a little bit of a different take on the issue. Elizabeth Roper Marcus is 77 now, and several years ago decided that she should exercise. She started walking with a friend and that worked for a while, until she realized that the entire reason she was doing it was because it was with that friend. Marcus’ exercise habit was totally dependent on that friend. What happened if the friend couldn’t exercise with her? Then she wouldn’t exercise.

So she took an unused closet, put a treadmill and a TV in there, and watched movies and her favorite shows while she walked. Over time she was able to increase her speed and the treadmill incline. She got stronger and more fit. She found the secret, to make it fun. Of course, walking does not address all the recommendations of the CDC for strength training in addition to the cardio work, so Marcus goes with her husband for that at a gym a couple of times a week. She says that’s not as much fun, but she’s with her husband which makes it better.

My fun in exercise is different

For me, I’ve found a workout program that I like, and do that one or two times a week. I do Pilates-based workouts a couple other days a week, and I run on the treadmill a couple more times a week. I do not like to run (I’ve said that before). But, I enjoy listening to audiobooks, especially mysteries or thrillers, while I run. And that’s what keeps me running, following Marcus’ lead on that one.

As I’ve said before, if you don’t enjoy something, and it’s not absolutely required, you won’t do it. But make it fun and you’ll be motivated.

Waste time to get motivated

So this morning I woke up early, thinking I could write maybe a thousand words in my novel. I was at a crucial point, but a couple of days ago, the last time I tackled this document, I got stuck. I’m at a crucial plot point, and I couldn’t figure out how to resolve the issue. So today, after I got back from the bathroom and made sure the dogs were still sleeping soundly, I turned on my keyboard, got my phone, and was immediately distracted by a news story. Funny, now, I don’t even remember what that story was. I must have wasted ten minutes scrolling the news after reading that story.

Then I shook myself (mentally) and told myself to get to work. Opened the Google Doc and started banging the keyboard. No breaks for about a half hour, until I had to get up and start the day. I didn’t quite make it to a thousand words, but came close. It turns out that it’s actually a proven productivity method: waste time to get motivated.

Scroll social media?

In fact, Joi Foley of the Rockwood Leadership Institute, advocates scrolling social media as a way to get away from the pressure you put on yourself when you’re stuck. If you’re working on a project and are stymied on where to take it, chances are your path will become clear after a break. And scrolling your social media accounts for a few minutes can provide that break. Thinking about a great bread pudding recipe, for example, can let your mind solve that other, totally unrelated, problem. The key here is to get back on track after a few minutes. If you like this solution to problem-solving, you may want to use an app to get you back to your task after a set time period.

Do nothing

Another way Foley can waste time to get motivated is to do nothing. Just sit and breathe. I’ve advocated meditation myself. It’s sometimes hard to get the noises out of your head, though, to meditate properly. Perhaps a short guided meditation can help you focus on something else.

Work for 5 minutes

So another time-waster Foley suggests is to just work for 5 minutes. Goodness knows, sometimes those 5 minutes can seem like forever when I’m working on a project I wasn’t looking forward to. So after those 5 minutes are up, do something else. Chances are, you’ll start thinking about the project you left and get the urge to start working on it again.

Take a walk

I also advocate a change of scenery. Take a short walk. That often helps me clear my head and want to dive into a project when I get back. Taking a walk not only helps productivity but also contributes to your happiness.

All this time-wasting is contributing to your productivity. By strategically doing other things, and thinking about other stuff, you’re actually doing more to get the stuff you really want to get done, done. And that will make you happier, more optimistic, and more resilient. It contributes to your healthy aging and you’ll get the urge to get even more stuff done.

Outside factors do affect your motivation

In a perfect world, you’d wake up in the morning, fired up to work out, run all your errands, and knock three things off your Goal-Setting Go-Getter To-Do List by 11. And you’d still have time to get a good start on saving the world by lunch. But, we know things don’t work that way. The way my day started: the alarm went off, I rolled over to turn it off. Put my feet into my slippers and hobbled into the bathroom because my back and hip let me know that it would be a bursitis day. Wandered back into the bedroom to get dressed. Turned the light on to find that my old dog had thrown up on the towel he sleeps on, on the bed. (Thank goodness it was on the bed!) Hurriedly got dressed, gathered up the dirty towel, picked up the old guy, and ushered the others outside. Motivation for the rest of the day: shot. So, outside factors do affect your motivation. For sure.

Overcoming outside factors affecting our plans

So how do we deal with that? How do we overcome those outside factors that affect our plans for every day?

Outside factors (like dealing with a sick dog) do affect your motivation

Of course, we have to deal with things that come up that require immediate attention – like cleaning up the old dog and putting the towel in the laundry room for the next load. But we just have to deal with the other things that stick around that affect our plans. Like the chronic pain of bursitis. Some of you may have chronic back or knee pain. It’s not fun, and every so often it’s more acute than others. But it’s something that’s not going away. So we deal with it.

Is it possible to maintain positive momentum then?

But to maintain our motivation to move forward with our plans, remaining in that mindset of having to deal with external factors is not going to work. We have to actually change our mindset and decide that we’re not going to settle for just cleaning up dog vomit. Once we tend to the immediate problem, it’s time to get going.

Achieving a growth mindset

It may be time to cross those little niggly things off the To Do List – ones that don’t take a lot of brain power but just need to get done. You’ve accepted the fact that you may not get some really deep thinking done today to make great strides toward your ultimate goal, but you can do some of the little things that will inch your way forward. This encourages your growth mindset – your ability to change and grow, become more resilient and positively impact your mental state. So, settle the dog in a nice bed by your workstation, take a deep breath, and check off some boxes. 

Yes, outside factors do affect your motivation, but that doesn’t mean that they rule your actions. Decide to move forward.

For more tips on maintaining your momentum, grab the “Get It Done” Guide.

Just one more!

I don’t know too many people who are excited to exercise. I’m not. I do it because the benefits I get from exercise allow me to do the things I actually want to do. But I know that in order for the exercise to keep giving me those benefits, I have to keep challenging myself. You probably know that many days I do my workouts with a pre-recorded program. I pick up my weights and follow along. As the years have gone by, I’ve increased the intensity and the weights I use. I’ve gotten stronger, and the old weights were no longer challenging. I also want to be able to do more regular push-ups because I want to get stronger. To motivate myself, I tell myself, “Just one more!”

The key to motivation

And that’s the key to motivation. “Just one more” can be your watchword, your spark, for anything you’ve got in your sights. One more pound to lift. Run another tenth of a mile. Walk one more block. Write another chapter. Knit another row. The sky’s the limit when you tell yourself, “Just one more!”

Stagnation is the worst thing

I believe that the worst thing we can do is stagnate. If we don’t grow, if we don’t evolve, then I think we can just dig a hole and get comfortable there. By growing and developing new talents we learn more about ourselves and the world.

Develop a “growth mindset”

And in challenging ourselves, we develop what’s known as a “growth mindset.” We aren’t satisfied with the way things are now, with ourselves. We know that we can be better. We can become more fit, for ourselves and the people who love us. And we can explore more things. We’re not satisfied with our current knowledge base. Sometimes that’s scary. But by learning more about the things that scare us they lose the aspects that we fear. We can bounce back and become more resilient as fewer things scare us. Sure, there are other scary things out there, but we may have to look harder for them.

When we can do “Just one more,” then perhaps we can do two more, and conquer the world that much faster.