If you’re feeling slow to get moving this year, here are some simple tips to find motivation and clarity.
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I’m finally back in Cairo after a long Christmas break with family in the states, and I’m finally back at my laptop too. Though I can’t exactly say I’m back at work. The withering out of a few freelance projects I’d been looking forward to means I’m starting off 2020 slowly – full of disappointment with a sprinkle of self-doubt.
But it’s not because I don’t have other plans.. Even over Christmas break I couldn’t stop from constantly wondering, brainstorming and dreaming up future plans. It’s just that there’s so much. Aspirations and resolutions. So much I want to accomplish during seemingly shorter and shorter days.
This overwhelm leaves me not knowing where to start. So for awhile I stood still and got frustrated that I wasn’t doing enough.
But this week I’ve finally pulled out my old notebooks. I jotted down a sloppy to-do list for my first tentative week back.
And I’ve made a few realisations that have helped me get going. So if you’re also feeling stuck and slow to start this year, I hope they help you find motivation and clarity.
Here are 4 simple ways to find your motivation:
1. Looking back is as important as looking forward.
I made my way through Susannah Conway’s brilliant (and free) workbook Unravel before I finalised any plans, and I realised much of it was dedicated to looking back and reflecting on 2019. When we step back and understand what our strengths and weaknesses were last year, we can make more focused and realistic goals going forward.
2. Start with conquering your email inbox.
This is often flooded when we return from break and a frequent source of stress every morning. I unsubscribed from newsletters I never read, for starters. I also timed how long it takes me to reply to those “difficult” emails that I’ve postponed. In most cases, emails that have sat in my inbox for days haven’t taken more than 10 minutes to check off. The “difficulty” wasn’t in how long they take, but in how “difficult” they were for me mentally.
3. Small and consistent effort is worth more than big goals.
I recently launched an Instagram page called @BaladiKitties to highlight the plight of street kittens here in Egypt. I got some amazing feedback in just a few days after launching the account. And that quickly had me scheming content calendars and big campaign ideas. Then as other things came up, I thought about abandoning the page entirely because I’d never do my grandiose plans justice.
Later I asked myself: can I commit to just making a single post every weekend? And what an amazing impact that could make after a few months! Making a small but consistent effort is infinitely more productive than dreaming up big goals that leave you feeling overwhelmed.
4. Cross the non-essentials off your to-do list.
Don’t be afraid to turn people away or turn things down that aren’t essential to your moving forward. If your to-do list feels overwhelming and stressful, then it’s not always because you’re not working hard enough. Take time at the end of the day to review just how much you’ve accomplished. Whenever I do this, I’m surprised my day didn’t go nearly as bad as I imagined.
Read more about simplifying your routine and setting priorities – to get more done in less time – in my post What is Slow Work?