Running on empty? Boost your self-motivation and get back on track!

By Kellie Tillyer

If you find you are lacking motivation and struggling to stay on task, don’t panic! Many of us, particularly in this uncertain time, are finding it difficult to muster the motivation needed to get through day-to-day tasks.

A lack of motivation can be a real energy sap and the power of motivation shouldn’t be underestimated. From helping you get out of bed on time on a chilly morning, to ensuring you meet those research deadlines; the ability to self-motivate is essential in helping us to achieve our goals.

In its way, self-motivation is a kind of superpower; helping us to push on through to achieve our goals – unfortunately, it can sometimes be elusive.

So, what do you do if your motivation deserts you? How do you motivate yourself when your brain is in full task avoidance mode?

Editor-in-Chief, Anatu Mahama Ph.D., shares her experience of digging deep and self-motivating when she needed it most…

“The idea for The Academic Woman had been in the back of my mind for some time. I had long since felt that women in academia were under-represented and lacked a space where they could share news, celebrate successes and reflect on what was happening within their chosen field.”

“With the idea brewing in my mind, it was, somewhat unfortunately, as the UK entered a national lockdown that I felt that this was my time to realise my ambitions! Now with two children at home in need of home schooling, I embarked on a massive challenge; to launch to the market a new magazine – in the middle of a global pandemic!”

“While excited by what I knew the magazine could be, I was also daunted; I didn’t have a support network of colleagues around me, or even deadlines to meet – so I knew if I was to stay motivated, I needed to get some structure into my days.”

“Finding structure was certainly a challenge! However, as the days and weeks passed, we settled into our ‘new normal’ as a family, and armed with my business plan and contacts, I set to work – creating and shaping The Academic Woman world.”

“Of course, some days were tougher than others. It was in these moments that I really had to rely on my self-motivation. To do so, I reminded myself on why I was doing this, I took a step back and focused on just one task at a time and I allowed myself to reflect on how far I’d come in just a few weeks. Together, these things helped me stay focused and topped up my reserves of motivation when I needed it most.”

Topping up your reserves
There are lots of reasons we can feel we lack motivation. Taking on so much that we become overwhelmed is a problem many of us are guilty of, as is being unsure of how to progress with a 
particular project or task, so much so, that we become deflated and don’t know where to begin. 

Recognising what is going on around you, and within you, and how these factors are impacting your self-motivation, is an important step in working through the sluggishness a lack of motivation can bring.

Here, Anatu gives her top tips for fostering a strong sense of self-motivation:

Just do it. It may sound all too easy, but simply getting started on a task is often the best way to get motivated. Got something you don’t want to do? Do it first, get it out of the way and move on – you’ll feel a sense of achievement and more motivated for the rest of the day.

Think about what drives you. It can be easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day and lose sight of the bigger picture. Take time to reflect on where you are, where you want to be and begin to fill in the blanks on how you will get there. Having an action plan can often be very motivating. 

Acknowledge what distracts you. Maybe it is online shopping, perhaps scrolling through social media or re-organising your files – whatever it is that takes you off task, acknowledge it and give yourself a set amount of time to do these things, before you move on.

Get active. Moving your body can help as useful reset for both body and mind. Aim to move around every 30 minutes or so to give your body a boost.

Be kind to yourself. We’re living and working in unprecedented times and there is no rule book of how you should feel. If you feel like you’re lacking in motivation – acknowledge it and reach out to a colleague, friend or family member. Talking things through is often helpful. 

Anatu is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Academic Woman, you can connect with her by emailing: