Productivity

Feeling Low? Ask These 2 Questions To Reenergize Yourself

Lacking motivation is a natural part of being human. The task may not be enjoyable or we are just tired, and procrastinating provides an attractive escape. 

But what if there was a way to reenergize yourself when you felt low? I recently stumbled upon such a method. And it’s so simple that you only need to ask two questions:

  1. How am I feeling?
  2. What do I need?  

I discovered these questions on a gloomy Monday evening. I was four weeks into a startup accelerator and I had a ton of work to prepare for a big pitch I would hold on Wednesday. And I was so overwhelmed I just wanted to check out and collapse on my sofa. I was unsure of what the product should be. I didn’t have a clear idea of how we would make money. And I had no idea how I would put together a pitch deck to convincingly answer these questions in just two days. 

In short, my energy was about as low as it could get. 

But then I paused to ask myself:

 

“How am I feeling?” 


The answers came immediately: Overwhelmed. Lost. And (what surprised me)… Lonely. I was actually feeling alone with no clear sense of direction. 

You might think that naming all these negative emotions would just make me even more depressed, but it actually turned everything around! Until now, I couldn’t climb out of the hole I was stuck in, because I didn’t realize where I was stuck. It was like trying to read a map not knowing where I was on it. Naming my emotions had two benefits: 

  • It helped me realize my “emotional location”, so I could begin navigating my way back. 
  • It took the power out of the negative emotions, because now I knew what I was dealing with. I had faced loneliness many times before. I would overcome it this time again. 

The second question that then popped into my head was:

 

“What do I need?”

 

After some thinking, the answers I came up with were: To have company. To be appreciated. To feel needed. The feeling I craved was actually to be of service for others. And the best way I could be of service to others would be by working on my startup. 

Once I realized this, my motivation to throw myself back into work was completely refueled! Just 5 minutes before, working on my startup had been the last thing I wanted to do. Now, I didn’t want to do anything else. I ended up brainstorming many new ideas for both the product and revenue model, and was able to put these new insights into a great pitch deck for the big event on Wednesday.

After this event, I have begun using the two questions: 

  1. How am I feeling?
  2. What do I need?

To recharge whenever I feel low on energy. The reason these questions work so well is that they give you a roadmap. “How am I feeling” helps you realize where you are. “Who do I need?” helps you realize where you want to be. Once you know both the start and the end point on the map, the journey between them becomes clear. 

The next time your motivation hits its bottom, try asking yourself these two questions. Until you know where you are starting from and where you want to go, it’s impossible to know what you should do to recharge. But once you have these two points in place, the path forward is clear. And most often, that clarity alone will be everything you need for your motivation to come roaring back.

 

Don’t Climb a Wall – Turn It Into a Staircase of Baby Steps How to stop procrastinating and finding the motivation to do things when you don’t “feel like it”

You know that agonizing feeling when you know you have something to do, but you just can’t find the energy to get started? Perhaps it was that big project report? Getting out of the sofa to mow the lawn? Or going to the gym when you really didn’t feel like it? 

I struggle a lot with this procrastination too. Just the other week I had a 7-page reflection paper to hand in for school, and I couldn’t find the motivation to get started. When I thought about sitting down to write 7 pages, the task felt way too big. How could I ever find the energy to start?

But then I found a hack: shrink the task. I decided to only create a new document and copy-paste the assignment questions into it. Then I could quit and do something more fun. 

Once I had sat down with my computer and created the document, I felt a bit more motivated. So I decided to write a few bullet points on the first question. Then, I could quit. 

Once I had written down some bullets, I decided to write a paragraph on the first question. Which then became two paragraphs. Then three paragraphs. And finally, I decided that I would finish the whole first question. 

Three hours later, and I had written the first 2 pages of the report, and had also begun writing bullet points on the other two questions. 

When I had previously thought of the task as one big 7-page report, it felt like trying to climb up a 100-feet wall. The task was way too much for what little motivation I had. So I kept postponing it.

But when I instead broke down the wall into many small tiny steps, those steps formed a staircase! I just had to find the motivation to take the next tiny step. And for each step I took, my motivation increased in altitude. Every step allowed me to climb another, even bigger, step. 

This lesson can be used for any big task you can’t find the motivation to do. When you think about the task as one big wall to climb, it’s only rational to procrastinate and hope you’ll have more energy tomorrow. When you instead break down the big task, you create a staircase where your only job is to take the next step. And if the next step seems to daunting, you can break that step down into an even smaller staircase with easier steps. 

This experience taught me that: 

 

Motivation  –  Task size  =  Action

 

If you can’t get yourself to start, you can either:

  1. Try to increase your motivation (and let’s face it, when did that ever work?!), or
  2. Break down the size of the task in front of you

Knowing how lazy I am, I now mostly go with the latter. But until now, I didn’t even realize that option existed.

Lesson: If you want to do something but don’t feel like it, shrink the task. Don’t climb the big wall in one go – turn the wall into a staircase instead and climb it one baby step at a time.