Getting Going When We Have No Motivation To Do So

Depression can be a motivation-sucker and a half. When we want to do something, finding the motivation to do so can be hard enough.  But when we don’t even have the motivation to find our motivation, it becomes extremely difficult.

Getting Going When We Have No Motivation To Do So

Write It All Down

Trying to keep our entire to-do list in our head is often an impossible task. It can feel like trying to carry too many things and frequently dropping them all over the floor. If we write our jobs down in one place then we can work through them logically. It can feel more ordered and contained. We can then tick off any jobs that we’ve done which can help us to feel a sense of achievement, and to build our confidence.

Hold Onto Your Reasons

If we’re struggling to hold onto our reasons for doing things, it might help to write them down and to stick them somewhere obvious. Or to print an image or two that reminds us of our reasons and pop that up somewhere, or even as the background on our phone. Having our reasons for doing things at the forefront of our mind can be important when it comes to kick-starting our motivation.

Setting Goals

There is a bit of an art to setting goals. If we make them too difficult, we’ll feel as though we’ll never be able to do them so we don’t bother trying. On the other hand, if they’re too easy then they feel boring and uninteresting, so we don’t bother trying.

If we have a large goal, such as ‘clean the whole house’, then it can often feel overwhelmingly impossible which can leave us feeling useless and wanting to cry. But if we break it down into rooms, or bits of rooms, such as ‘wipe the sides in the kitchen’, then it can feel more doable.

When our goals are really vague and woolly, it can be difficult to attack them. For example, if our goal was to ‘read’, then what does that mean? What do we want to read? How much do we want to read? When do we want to read it by? It can be so vague that we just don’t do it because we can’t grab hold of what it is that we need to do.

Using the ‘SMART‘ acronym can be really helpful when setting goals. It stands for ‘Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Bound’. This can be a good tool for ensuring that our goals are appropriate for where we’re currently at and what we want to achieve.

Have One Goal

Many of us find that our thoughts can spiral. We start thinking about washing the kid’s football kit, then think about how we also need to clean the car that they kindly muddied for us, then when we look out of the window we realise we also need to mow the lawn, prune the hedge and do some weeding, then we might think about how we need to go to the shop to buy new hedge trimmers, and before we know it we have 10 or 15 things to do, we’re totally overwhelmed, so we get absolutely nothing done.

When we’re feeling low, we often get overwhelmed more easily than when we feel ‘okay’. It can often feel like our brain is fuzzy and slow. We might find it difficult to process information and to think things through.

Sticking to a single goal can help us to focus. When we then achieve that goal, it can help with our confidence and can give us something to build on.

Positive Motivation

When we’re trying to motivate ourselves, our motivation tools often fall into two categories; positive motivation and negative motivation.

Negative motivation is when we use fear to motivate ourselves. For example, we say to ourselves ‘if I don’t start unsubscribing from things then I’ll never clear my inbox and I’ll keep missing important stuff’. This might lead to us unsubscribing from the odd one or two that float to the top of our inbox, but it probably won’t leave us feeling great and might not help us to fully reach our goal and take the time to go through and unsubscribe from everything that we’re no longer interested in.

Positive motivation is about thinking of the positive benefits of doing something. For example, ‘if add a few vegetables into my diet I might start to feel a little healthier’. Focusing on the positive benefits of doing something is not only likely to lead to us feeling better about working towards our goals, but it can also help us to smash our goals and even exceed them.

Name Your Fears

Sometimes fear stops us from doing things. It can paralyse us. Our anxieties around doing certain things can not only stop us from doing the things we’re worried about, but it can leave us feeling quite physically poorly and can stop us from doing anything at all.

If we work out what our fears are, name them, and talk them over with our friends, family, or a professional, then we can start to rationalise them and work through them. Getting our fears out in the open can allow us to work on them, which can then help us to feel more motivated.

Make It Fun

When we have a job to do that we’re dreading, we often procrastinate it and have absolutely no motivation to get it done. If we can find a way to make it more fun, it can help us to feel more enthused about tackling it. We could pop on our favourite playlist while we do it, set ourselves a challenge or even ring a friend for a nice chat while we’re doing something. If we can find ways to make a boring task more interesting, it can help to build our motivation.

Tell A Friend

Our friends and family can be important when it comes to accountability. If there’s something that we want to do but we’re the only person who knows about it then we can very easily dismiss it, forget about it, or decide it’s too difficult and give up. However, if we make it public and tell one of our friends or family then they can hold us accountable.

Not only that, but they can also support us with what we’re trying to achieve. They might be able to do some things alongside us or helps us to problem solve when we run into difficulties, and they can celebrate our achievements with us and be a shoulder to lean on when things go wrong.

Don’t Be Scared Of Changing It Up

If something’s not working for us, there’s nothing wrong with changing it. Motivation, recovery, and life in general, can often involve a fair amount of trial and error.

When we try something and it doesn’t work for us, there’s no rule to say that we have to stick with it until the end of time.

If something’s not working, it can be helpful to try and work out why it’s not working. Perhaps we need a change of scenery. We might have set goals that are too hard. Our goals might not totally align with our values. They might be something that we feel like we ‘should’ do rather than things that we actually want to do.

There are lots of reasons why things might not be working out for us, and it can be helpful to talk it through with someone because they might be able to give us some new ideas or spot things that we haven’t noticed.

Plot Your Progress

It’s all well and good setting goals, but if we don’t plot our progress then we can still feel like we’re not doing enough or not really getting anywhere and what little motivation we have can dissolve very quickly.

We could have a list and tick things off as we do them, write a list at the end of each day with the things we’ve achieved, or even make ourselves a star chart (everybody loves a sticker!). One of the things that often hinders us when trying to motivate ourselves is our lack of self-belief. Plotting our progress can show us that we are able to achieve things and we’re not completely useless.


Rewarding ourselves can be an excellent form of motivation. For example, we could say ‘if I wrap my brother’s birthday present ready for the weekend then I can have half an hour drinking a cuppa and watching an episode of my favourite programme’. We’ll all have different things that we’d class as a reward. This can be a particularly useful tool when we’re right at the beginning of trying to motivate ourselves, or when we’re trying to motivate ourselves to do something that we need to do but don’t really want to do (like book a dentist appointment).

Rest Enough

Humans are not robots. We are not able to go go go all the time without ever taking a break. Depression can sap our energy, and not only that but it can also mean that it takes more energy to do things than it would if we didn’t have depression. We need to try and be kind to ourselves and not expect too much. Going from 0-100 in the space of half an hour is never going to work. It’s important to try and understand our limitations and to make sure that we’re resting enough as well as doing the things that we want to do. We will be much more successful and do a better job of things if we’re well-rested and have the energy and brain-power to tackle them properly.

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