I used to quite famously turn up to year 8 maths class with a chewed pencil and snapped 30cm ruler in my torn primark bag. My idea of motivation would be dying my hair to try and look like other girls. My version of productivity would be purposefully putting random answers on my homework, so it looked like I had actually tried to do the work, but just got wrong answers – therefore wouldn’t be told off for being a lazy shit and spending every night on tumblr or watching youtube videos. Teenage me was not productive in the slightest, and most days I didn’t know what month we were in.
From the age of 16 I started to pick up and sort my life out. Over the last 8 or so years, I’ve had lapses in my productivity, but overall maintained a very good mindset in working hard, achieving my goals and ensuring I am using my potential appropriately. I know what works for me and helps me stay on track.
I often get questions from people asking something along the lines of “how do you stay so motivated?” “how do you find the time” “how can you be arsed” – or any other variation.
I’m writing this blog post to share how I have got myself into a very good lifestyle that works well for my physical health, mental health, finances, studies, relationships/friendships and future goals.
But before starting, I’d like to squash the idea that there is a secret to “staying motivated”. There is no way of hacking your brain to be motivated.
Setting a picture of a skinny girl as your lock screen won’t motivate you to go the gym – it will just remind you that you don’t look like the girl in the image, and further enforce your beliefs that you’re unfit and not a “gym person”. Meal prepping all your food won’t motivate you to eat it, it will just make you feel more guilty about the bland salad you left in your Tupperware, as you tuck into your big mac at 11:50am on a Tuesday.
Setting up a new savings account won’t make you save money, it will just becoming a middle man that you transfer your money into and then straight back out of a week later. Writing a revision timetable won’t make you get better grades, it will just make you stare at the same page of a textbook at a scheduled time each day.
Everything listed above is a tool to aid your goals and mission, but none of the things above are ways of actively giving you motivation. Motivation comes from your internal desire to do something, and this cannot be purchased from a shop or downloaded off google. Motivation is something completely different to everyone – we all have different reasons for exercising, saving money and waking up on time etc. You have to develop your own reasons, because otherwise you’re just setting your alarm for 6am and expecting it to physically rip the covers off your bed and make you get up.
An average day for me looks like the following:
6:00-6:40AM: wake up, make coffee and spend some time journalling/planning my day
7:00-8:00AM: Either do a yoga class at the gym, or my own gym session or sometimes go for a run
8:00-9:00AM: shower, get ready for the day, eat my breakfast and reply to texts/messages etc
9:00AM-5:00PM: Differs day to day, but I’m either at university or at work. If I’m at university I’ll attend timetabled sessions and then spend freetime running errands, catching up on work, or at placement. If I’m at work then I’m just doing whatever I’m told to…
5:00PM-8:00PM: Have dinner, prepare my meals for tomorrow (lunch/breakfast), pack my bag for the next day, do any boring things like laundry or tidying my bedroom etc
9:00PM-10:30PM: Be in bed, put phone away 30 mins before sleep
Obviously that was a very basic description of my day. My plans vary completely day to day, and sometimes I have more work than others. If I’m going on a night out, then I usually just get everything out of the way by 3pm. If I’ve got loads of meetings etc, then I find it hard to plan (I am the queen of overbooking myself).
So when people ask how I stay motivated, I can’t really answer – because my motivation for different aspects of my life are completely personal and have been developed over years. But the overwhelming motivation for my life is the fact that I feel more like myself when I am productive. Here are the steps that have aided me in my productivity:
Finding my reason why
As explained above, the most important thing to keep me productive is to establish why I want to do it. I go to the gym because I like the feeling of progression and the gym environment is completely unlike any other. I don’t exclusively go to the gym for weight/image based reasons, but of course it is part of the reason.
I’ve recently got into yoga, and it has completely altered my mindset and approach towards difficult things. I am about as flexible as a tree trunk, but yoga helps me to work on my physical and mental flexibility.
I like having a part time job because I like to know that I’m earning money and helping myself for the future. I attend university because I’ve had the experience of skipping classes/sessions, and it resulted in shit grades and a shit mindset. I eat well because it makes me feel better. I wake up early and go to bed early because I know I am the most energetic and efficient in the morning.
Having time off
Whilst I like to be aiming towards something everyday, I have recently realized how important it is to have time off. I am more of a creative thinker, and I need time to recharge and realign with myself in order to work at my best. I have no passion and energy towards things if I am constantly on the go. Therefore I’ll give myself an early night, or I’ll do the opposite and get stupidly drunk on a night out. Having time to completely just switch your brain off and not be constantly #on #the #grind is important in helping you to appreciate why you do what you do.
Additionally, if you don’t allow yourself to take time off, then your body does it for you with a weakened immune system, hitting rock bottom and forcing you to crash.
Something about turning 22 turned me into a middle aged woman, and I now have a perfectly color co-ordinated google calendar. This helps me to plan my days accordingly – so I know where I am at what time, and what I need to bring with me. This started as a way of me making sure that I had my university timetable and work rota on hand, but escalated into me planning everything. This is because I have the memory of a sieve, and will often agree to things and forget about it. Furthermore; having things written down means that I am more likely to do it, as I’ve had it planned for days.
Surrounding myself with similar people
I’m fortunate enough that the people who I hold closest to me are people who are also on a very similar wavelength to me. Being around people who also have the same lifestyle as me makes it easier to stay “on track”. I’ve obviously got lots of different friends, and don’t select my friendship group based on their alarm clock or future plans. But I naturally gravitate towards people who share my values, and I find it harder to relate to and engage with people who are the complete opposites of me.
Finding people similar to yourself also helps, as others are more encouraging and supportive of your successes, as they understand the importance of your goals
Not caring about what other people think
I used to bring a packed lunch to college and hide in the corner of the library eating it, because I though it was weird to eat a prepared lunch whilst everyone ate takeaways. I felt too concerned about sticking out and spend so much time and energy trying to fit in. I used to skip the gym because I thought it was weird to go early in the morning. I downplayed my goals and successes because I worried that I didn’t fit in or others wouldn’t understand. As with above, I’ve learned to only care about the opinions from those who are important to me. Everyone has different values. Most of the time, the people who judge or alienate you are the ones who are too lazy to make their own positive steps forward, therefore mocking you makes them feel better about their (lack of) choices.
Learning how my mind and body respond to certain things
I like running, but I am not someone who can run every single day at 7am. I like eating healthy, but also love to steal most of my boyfriend’s chips. I like the gym but struggle immensely with barbell squats. Overtime I have learned to adapt my lifestyle in a way that makes me feel the best. I always ensure I am pushing myself to the limit that is appropriate and staying true to my own character. I can’t revise for 4 hour straight, but I can revise all day with 30min-1hr breaks.
Those are just a handful of the ways I stay productive. The most important thing is to stay consistent and don’t throw everything out of the window based off one or two bad days.