5 Tricks I Use To Keep Myself Motivated

Monday, February 8, 2016

As an ADHD-riddled person with a crippling procrastination addiction, I think I'm somewhat qualified to speak on the topic of staying motivated.

Writer friends: we've all been there. That idea that seemed so amazing, so new, so- I can't resist- novel, is now starting to feel more like some ever- present school assignment that hangs over you and spoils your spring break.

I wish I could enjoy this kegger, we think to ourselves, but I have a paper that's worth most of my grade come Monday. This makes kegstands a little less fun than they could be.

I'm speaking metaphorically, of course. I don't think I've ever actually been to a kegger?

Anyway, over the years I've collected a handful of tricks that I use to try and keep myself on track whenever I'm tempted to wander off. Here, in reverse order of effectiveness, are 5 of them:

5. Read About People I Look Up To

Sometimes, when I'm feeling down or a little stuck, I find it helpful to read things about people who are living the kind of life I want to be living. This could be browsing an author's social media or blog, reading an article about a person I admire, and so on. However.

Use this one carefully, my friends. 

It's very easy to get caught up in social media and tell yourself "But I'm actually working!" This is why I try to engage with this kind of stuff when I'm not actually about to work. Instead, I save it for my downtime, like waiting at checkout or reading in bed. This helps keep me in the mindset of working for what I want.

4. Tea

Is relying on caffeine a crutch? Perhaps. But it helps me feel nice an energized in the morning, and ups my enthusiasm and focus for whatever I'm about to do. Plus, the act of preparing it is a kind of ritual that helps prime my brain for my project.

3. Playlists

Like every writer on earth these days, I also have a playlist of the novels I'm working on. If the project I'm tackling that day is my novel, I'll load up the playlist to help get me in the mood. If it's something else, then I may listen to my "Girlboss Hustling" playlist (let me know if you'd be interested in a post on this!) or a ton of early European music. IDK what the deal is with the last one; there's just something about lutes, harpsichords, and strings that makes me warm and gooey inside. It's the music I like to listen to whenever I daydream about my future, so if nothing else is working, this gives me the extra kick in the pants I need to get to work.

2. Making Work An Event To Enjoy

When I write novels, I find that it's better for me if I do the first draft longhand (I know, okay? I know). My first novel's first draft was written in a composition book with a ballpoint pen. However, for this novel, I decided to go ahead and invest in a quality journal and a fountain pen. Why?

Because using them gives me joy.

I fell in love with fountain pens the moment I used one, and using a fountain pen with paper made for it is such a lovely, tactile experience. For me, there is actual joy in gliding the ink across thick paper and watching the slants and curve of my handwriting dry. If I'm going to be working this way, I want to do it in a manner that is satisfying to my senses.

Once I extended this to other aspects of my office supplies, I was surprised to see how much my motivation to work went up. For me, it's worth it to invest in paper, calendars, journal, stationary, etc. that are beautiful and fun to use, because using them is something I look forward to. And of course, I can't use them unless I work...

I've used this principle with my desk as well. I'm currently overhauling it with contact paper and office supplies. I used to loathe working at my desk, because it was built in to the wall and truly ugly. Once I began customizing it and making it a clean, beautiful place to work, I simply couldn't wait to go sit there. Now instead of hanging out in bed, I sit at my desk more often, and enjoy working there more.

I hadn't realized until then just how much I'm influenced by my environment. I'm someone who responds to good design and beauty, so I find it worth my while to invest my money in things that help foster this kind of environment. 

And now, finally, the one tip I've found the most helpful...


This Lifehacker article on the Akrasia Effect literally changed my productivity. Specifically, there is one line that had a profound impact on me:
"Time inconsistency refers to the tendency of the human brain to value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards."
I know, it's not exactly the stunning wisdom of the ages that you were expecting, right? Kind of dry. Not really pithy.


Ever since I read that, I've repeated a modified version of that quote to myself hundreds of times. Whenever I'm tempted to lie in bed "just 5 more minutes" or click on another link, or recheck Twitter instead of doing what I need to, I repeat the following mantra to myself: 
"The human brain values immediate rewards over future plans."
What this does is enable me to take a step back and see what I'm doing. I might think that it'll be just one more article, one more tweet, but you know and I know the truth: it's never just one more. Instead of falling into that trap, this enables me to recognize that the reason I want to click that link is because of this cognitive bias. It's not inherently a bad thing! It's just one of the things of being human.

 To me, however, one of the coolest things about being a human being is that we are able to observe ourselves and evaluate whether whatever we're thinking or doing is good or bad for us. This is such a cool quality, I cannot overstate this enough. Do you know how amazingly lucky we are as a species to be able to do this? Let's use this power for good!

What about you? Do you have any tricks for staying motivated? I'd love to hear them!


  1. Awesome list. I love tea!

    S .x

    1. omggggg I love tea so much. It's pretty much the best.

      Thank you for your lovely compliment!