How to find motivation and be more productive

Woman writing list in morning at breakfast, to represent motivation. (Getty Images)
Working on both personal and work-related motivation and productivity at the same time helps to reinforce each other. (Getty Images)

Stuck in what seems like a never-ending sluggish cycle? While it's normal to lack motivation sometimes, it can be disheartening if it's more often than not, creating a vicious circle.

But the good news is, if you're sick of feeling like your goals (big or small) are taking a backseat to what feels like an unshakeable 'meh' feeling, there is something you can do about it.

Psychotherapist and mindset coach Ella McCrystal helps us to understand why you might feel like you've hit a brick wall in the first place, and how to overcome it.

Read more: 10 expert-approved ways to sleep better, as millions of adults complain of being 'tired all the time'

Why do we lack motivation?

There are many reasons why things might feel that bit harder to get done, depending on whether we're talking about work or home scenarios.

At work

Understanding why we lack motivation at work is key to improving things. "If we're not sure what we're working towards or what we're supposed to be achieving, it can be hard to feel motivated to put in effort," says McCrystal. "We need clear goals and direction."

Feeling appreciated also makes a difference. "If we feel like our contributions aren't valued or recognised by our colleagues or superiors, we may lose motivation to continue working hard," she adds.

As does a lack of autonomy. "If we feel like we have no say in how we do our work or that our ideas aren't taken seriously, it can be demotivating."

Stress can also cause us to become exhausted, burnt out and lose motivation, while boredom from repetitive monotonous work can leave us disengaged, according to McCrystal.

Man looking non-motivated at work. (Getty Images)
What can you change about your working life to feel more inspired? (Getty Images)

At home

Lack of motivation in our personal lives follows a similar pattern. "If we lack purpose or if we're not sure what we want to achieve and we don’t know what brings us fulfilment, it can be hard to find motivation to pursue our goals," explains McCrystal.

Meanwhile, on the flip side, "If we feel like we have too much to do, are overwhelmed or don't know where to start with our responsibilities, we may become paralysed and unmotivated."

Our mental and physical health can also play a part. "If we're struggling with depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, it can be hard to find motivation to do anything" and "if we're not taking care of our physical health and especially if we aren’t sleeping well, we may find ourselves lacking energy and motivation as a result."

Not having a strong support network can also leave us feeling isolated, and we may struggle to find the energy to tackle our everyday tasks.

"In both work and home scenarios, it's important to identify the root cause of our lack of motivation and take steps to address it," recommends McCrystal. "Setting clear goals, seeking support from others, practicing self-care, or making changes to our environment or routine are really good places to start exploring."

Read more: How to get over a break-up

Man looking sad out the window. (Getty Images)
Depression can cause a lack of motivation, along with many other factors. (Getty Images)

Who is most likely to struggle with low motivation?

While some personality types can be more prone to a lack of day-to-day energy, no one is immune from developing motivation issues. "It can be influenced by a variety of factors, such as life circumstances, personality traits and mental health status," says McCrystal.

"However, some research suggests that people who have a tendency towards procrastination, low-self esteem, or perfectionism may be more likely to struggle with motivation." Sound familiar?

And as mentioned, mental health can play a part. "It can be an underlying symptom of depression and low mood. In fact, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed is one of the hallmark symptoms of depression.

"People who are experiencing depression may also feel fatigued or lacking in energy, which can further contribute to a lack of motivation."

However, adds McCrystal, "It's important to note that not everyone who is experiencing a lack of motivation is necessarily experiencing depression, but it can be a red flag to seek further evaluation from a mental health professional."

Read more: Paddy McGuinness says his depression was spotted by ex-wife Christine: 'I wasn't aware of it'

How to be more productive

You can boost your motivation and achieve more both at work and at home by following some simple steps, as listed by McCrystal.

At work

Set deadlines: Make a to-do list each day and prioritise tasks based on importance and urgency. Set deadlines for each task to stay on track and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

Break up tasks into smaller chunks: Large tasks can be overwhelming and demotivating. Break them up into smaller, more manageable chunks to make them more approachable and easier to tackle.

Use positive self-talk: The way we 'speak' to ourselves can have a big impact on our motivation and productivity. Use positive self-talk and focus on what you've accomplished rather than what you haven't.

Prioritise self-care: Make sure to take breaks throughout the day, practice mindfulness, and make time for exercise and other forms of self-care.

Banish distractions: These can be a major obstacle to productivity. Turn off notifications, close unnecessary tabs on your computer, and try to create a quiet work environment that aids concentration.

Seek feedback and support: Asking for help from colleagues and supervisors when needed can help us stay motivated and make tasks seem less daunting. Don't be afraid to ask about ways you can improve at work too.

Close-up of woman writing to do list in notepad
Making a to-list means you can tick it off at the end of the day. (Getty Images)

At home

Set clear and specific goals: It's important to have a clear idea of what we want to achieve, and to break our goals down into smaller, manageable tasks. When we have a clear plan in place, we're more likely to feel motivated to take action and make progress.

Create a routine: Establishing a consistent routine can help us develop good habits and make it easier to get started on tasks. Whether it's a morning routine to start the day off well or a bedtime routine to wind down at night, this can help us stay on track.

Practise self-care: It's important to take breaks and prioritise self-care to avoid burnout in our personal lives too. Whether it's taking a walk outside, practicing mindfulness, or doing something we enjoy, taking time to recharge can help us feel more energised and motivated.

Celebrate small successes: Recognising and celebrating our progress, no matter how small, can help us stay motivated and build momentum. Whether it's treating ourselves to a small reward or simply acknowledging our progress, taking time to mark our successes can help us to keep going.

Use visual reminders: Having visual reminders of our goals and progress can help us stay motivated and focused. Whether it's a vision board, a to-do list, or a progress tracker, it can help keep them top of mind and motivate us to take action.

Read more: Feeling Tired All The Time (TATT)? Simple ways to boost your energy levels

Woman smiling at herself in the mirror. (Getty Images)
Speaking to yourself might not be as strange as you think... (Getty Images)

How to avoid toxic productivity

While working on the above can "help us create a more balanced and fulfilling life, where we feel motivated, productive, and energised in all aspects of our lives" – we need to be careful to not overdo it.

To avoid falling into the trap of doing too much, follow these top tips from McCrystal.

  • When setting goals, make sure they are realistic and achievable within a reasonable timeframe. Avoid setting overly ambitious goals that require you to work long hours or sacrifice your personal life.

  • Be aware of your own limits and don't push yourself too hard. Recognise when you need to take a step back, take breaks, delegate tasks, or ask for help.

  • Set boundaries around your work and personal time to ensure that you have a healthy balance. Avoid checking emails or doing work outside of designated work hours, and don't let work take over your personal time.

  • Focus on progress, not perfection... Remember that productivity isn't about being perfect or accomplishing everything all at once. Celebrate your progress, no matter how small, and avoid putting too much pressure on yourself to be perfect.

It's all about a healthy balance, after all.

Watch: How to save yourself from toxic productivity