Sometimes Giving Up is the Best Way to Stay Motivated
Some days it’s difficult to summon the motivation to do anything, much less tackle the big projects and major to-dos on your list. To boot, every trick or hack you try to get motivated backfires and feels like you’re patronizing yourself. On those days, 99u says, it’s just best to give up, walk away, and come back later when you’re ready.
Sometimes all of the productivity hacks and motivation tips just don’t really help, and wind up making you more frustrated than they make you productive. This kind of self sabotage has actually been studied: this study, published in the Annual Review of Psychology, explains that sometimes those efforts to self-motivate can frequently backfire:
Resolve to get “psyched” about some unappealing task, and it’s all too easy to end up fixating on the gap between the emotion you feel and the one you wish you were feeling. Visualizing your goals can backfire, as can repeating slogans to yourself. By internalizing the idea that you need to “get motivated”, you’ve inadvertently placed an additional hurdle between where you are and where you want to be. Now you don’t merely have to accomplish certain tasks. You’ve set yourself the much harder task of feeling like doing them, too.
Ultimately, 99U suggests that you don’t wait until you feel ready to tackle a project or an item on your to-do list, and don’t spend time trying to psych yourself up for it: just get started and do it. It’s a good tip, and their core message is that sometimes you should give up trying to be motivated and instead just do things. We agree, but there’s another takeaway as well: Sometimes forcing yourself to work when you’re just not ready to do it will yield subpar results. It may be better to walk away, switch tasks to something easier to handle, or take a break.
We’ve talked about how real breaks can help you stay creative and even more productive, but it’s worth a reminder that on those days when absolutely nothing seems to work, maybe you should instead focus on those small wins, or just go take a walk.