Tackling a to-do list when you lack motivation is not impossible. Read that again.
Do you ever feel “a little bit sick” with overwhelm when you have too many things you don’t want to do on your plate? Like maybe it’s a good day to crawl back under the covers? Does an item become harder to do, the further back it falls on your list?
There’s a good reason: spending your days trying to complete tasks you are not motivated to do makes you feel bad. It takes a lot of energy and can feel physically painful. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
If you are reading this blog post from on the couch or under the covers, here’s your inspiration to let the sun shine in, get up, and try again!
First, know that you are not alone. Executive Function weakness or not, lack of motivation is a normal consequence of low sleep and a full to-do list. Executive Function weakness makes the task-list even harder; you know what to do but lack the motivation to do it. You may lose steam, lose focus 1/2 way through the steps, or simply have trouble getting started.
In article written by my ADHD Life Coach Trainer, Laurie Dupar, featured in ADDitude Magazine, Laurie explains that her client wrote to her:
“I know that I’m supposed to do the things on my to-do list each day, but I don’t. I have no motivation — and I feel down on myself because of the mistakes and missteps I have made due to my attention deficit disorder (ADHD) symptoms.” Laurie’s client asks, “How do I get motivated to do what I’m supposed to do when I’m not feeling good about myself and my abilities?”
The following strategies combine Laurie’s ideas and mine in shaking hands with your to-do list. Read on!
You Can Conquer Your Lack of Motivation – Here’s How:
A big part of the stuck feelings that keep us from getting started are: negative feelings resulting from negative self-talk that saps your energy before you even start. These negative feelings can be especially powerful if a task seems trivial, has a low-degree of impact, or is connected with a negative experience.
How can you overcome the negative feelings? How can you get motivated?
What gets your juices flowing so you can get up and do what you want or need to do? Start HERE: Do something that feels good or inspiring to you. An ADHD difficulty transforms into a superpower when you learn to tap into the meaning or importance of the task at hand.
6 Expert Strategies for Overcoming Lack of Motivation
Motivation Hack #1: Celebrate Small Successes
First, change your mindset. Tackle the negative thought patterns by doing something that feels rewarding to you several times a day. “This is not an option. It is essential,” writes Laurie Dupar. She suggests that doing something rewarding is like recharging your battery or making sure you have your oxygen mask on first before putting on someone else’s.
Maybe you’d enjoy listening to upbeat music, talking to a friend, going outside, spending 15 minutes working on a hobby, or writing about an inspirational affirmation on an app you’ve set up. Make a list of 10 things you enjoy,and refer to it when you are feeling down. Make sure you have little successes AND TRACK THEM no matter how small, every day.
Motivation Hack #2: Remove the “Shoulds” or “Supposed tos” in Your Life
You will notice that you use these words only when you are trying to do something that someone else considers important. “Should” and “supposed to” are motivation killers. You can minimize “shoulds” by turning them into “wants.” Think about the “un-motivating” task before you. Ask yourself, “What, if anything, about this task is OK with me? What piece of it might I enjoy?”
Laurie explains that a common “should” is doing the laundry. Seeing this tedious chore as a “want” might mean noticing how you enjoy the scent of your favorite detergent as you put it in the washer. You don’t look forward to doing the laundry, but you like the smell of the fabric softener sheet or your favorite detergent. Or maybe you enjoy the warmth of the laundry coming out of the dryer. Or maybe you love that sense of accomplishment when the laundry baskets are momentarily empty. Focusing on the “want to” changes the “should” into “I want to do the laundry because I like the way it smells right out of the dryer!”
Motivation Hack #3: Tap into Your Creativity
When you face a difficult task, tap into your creative ADHD brain for inspiration. Ask yourself: Is this something I have to do…or is there someone else who could do this easier, or who would actually find it rewarding? This could even mean that you find an accountability buddy to help you stick to your list. Maybe you send them your weekly plan to check in each week, or you meet them at the gym or the park to make sure you move your body.
Motivation Hack #4: Give Yourself Permission to Delegate
Another person might actually enjoy doing a task you find dreary. Give yourself permission to let go of what you don’t do well, and let someone else do the chore or task. For instance, dry cleaners are brilliant at doing laundry, and grocery shopping can be turned into a new experience when done online or completed by a spouse, teen, or neighbor in exchange for your doing something for them that they don’t enjoy and that you do. This can be especially helpful when students trade tutoring lessons or strengths and weaknesses in study groups.
Motivation Hack #5: Tailor Tasks to Your Interests
If the task cannot be eliminated as a “should,” and you are the only person who can complete it, make it more bearable by asking, “How can I do this in a way that works for me? What might make it feel worthwhile?” People with ADHD do things differently. Going grocery shopping with a friend would be fun if you get to spend time socializing. Shopping late at night, when there are fewer people, minimizes the agony of waiting in lines. Shopping at a different store might turn picking up groceries into an adventure. People with ADHD are famously, consistently inconsistent. What works for you one week may not work for you the next; give yourself permission to switch up your schedule to keep the task interesting.
Motivation Hack #6: Turn Your Boring Tasks Exciting Games
Ask, “How can I make this boring task fun or rewarding for me?” Make it into a new game: Challenge yourself to get the best deal by using coupons; time yourself to get in and out of the store in under 30 minutes. Treat yourself to a new fruit, bakery item, bouquet of flowers, or beverage when you are done. Use your ADHD imagination. One of the questions I coach my students (this is Cara writing) is to ask, “What do I need to be successful?” And find a creative way to get it.
Feeling unmotivated is a big obstacle for humans with ADHD. You can’t change that by trying harder or “just doing it.” We don’t work that way. You would not tell someone with dyslexia simply to “read more.” The same goes for ADHD and motivation. But an ADHD super-power is turning obstacles into opportunities by using our creative problem-solving abilities!
A Final Word
A final bonus-word about harnessing the power of positivity to gain motivation: Keep Track! We improve the things we track. Figure out a way to keep a calendar, journal, record – make it happen. Keep track. When you persist, time after time, in figuring out what works for you, you give yourself the best gift: you show up for yourself.
Yours in the Journey,