We’re now four weeks into 2021 and I’ve noticed that the post-Christmas lull is lingering way longer than usual! I don’t know about anyone else, but I didn’t even bother making any New Year’s resolutions this year. Motivation has been at rock bottom!!! It’s not just me that’s been feeling this way, all around me, there seems to be a general despondency and malaise. Hardly surprising, given that we’re living through a global pandemic, in our third national lockdown and the Covid stats are climbing higher every day!
This lockdown has hit harder than the previous two, with the uncertainty around when it will end and the fact that we are in the middle of Winter! It’s cold, wet and windy and the dark nights draw in early! It makes it so hard to feel inspired to get outside! It makes the feelings of cabin fever and isolation even more pronounced! I am fortunate that my young daughter can still have a change of scene and attend nursery each week! Whilst I know she has a fantastic time when she’s there, I’m saddened too, that I have not actually seen her play with another child since last Summer!
Testing and Vaccines
There is a glimmer of hope with the ramping up of the vaccination programme. Symptom-free test sites have also popped up – I took the opportunity to visit my local one and was pleasantly surprised at the ‘buzz’ in the large open space! There was an extraordinary feeling of positive energy; loud music playing, army staff running the operation and a lovely long queue of people socially distancing….I won’t lie, I definitely had a little toe tap and pretended I was out somewhere more exciting than the COVID-19 testing site!
Business and Financial Strain
But even with this good news, there is still so much uncertainty. Every day businesses are having to shut their doors, people are losing their jobs and food bank usage has shot up to record highs. Families are being put under enormous strain, with the return of home-schooling. It’s an unprecedented situation. However, protecting the NHS so more lives can be saved has been the core reason for our sacrifice. I would find it hard to believe that there is anyone out there that does not know someone who has had COVID-19 or heard of someone who has lost their fight to it.
This is Temporary
So, the context within which I write is particularly gloomy! No wonder motivation is low! However, as with everything in life, this is temporary and at some point, we will begin moving forward again. We will see some sense of normality returning and finally be able to take that dream holiday or see those friends and family we have so dearly missed. The celebrations we missed will be celebrated. The little days out and adventures that we had to cancel will take place! It’s a case of when and not if!
How Have We Filled Our Time?
It’s these joys in life, that I would find typically very motivating. The point of working so hard is so we can enjoy the pleasures in life! Whether it’s working in our jobs, working on our homes, or working on ourselves! Instead, we have had to find pleasure in the little things in life and this past year has given us a fantastic opportunity to get out and explore our local areas, get creative and take up new hobbies!
In lockdown one, my social media timelines were constantly filled with inspiring images of what others had been doing to fill their time. Given that the only way to connect with everyone was via our screens, we also saw the enormous increase in tech usage! This has become a stealth “hobby” that seems to have ingrained itself into normal life! But, I firmly believe this rise in tech usage is an important reason, why there is a collective feeling of despondency here in lockdown three! Looking at my timelines now, there are far fewer posts about creativity, the outdoors and family life. We have become collectively unmotivated.
Why?! Well let me explain!
We need to look at the way the mind works! We are rewarded with a hormone called Dopamine, whenever we achieve something or complete tasks. This is the chemical that motivates us to get things done and makes us feel good. Modern life causes our brains to constantly release small doses of Dopamine as we are constantly exposed to stimuli that triggers this reward hormone! Our smartphones and other tech are probably the biggest culprit for this overexposure, with instant access to Social Media, games, entertainment and global information at our fingertips! Never have we been so connected!
During the first lockdown, social platforms like TikTok saw a surge of new users. In fact, there was a 34% increase in downloads for the week commencing 23rd March 2020, when lockdown was originally introduced, according to The Guardian. Zoom also saw an extraordinary increase of 2000%, from 659,000 users in January 2020 compared to 13 million users by April 2020, as more and more people opted to connect with the world via their screens!
So, what does this all mean for us now?!
In 2017, David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, wrote an article entitled “How evil is tech?” – he identified that “Tech companies understand what causes dopamine surges in the brain and they lace their products with ‘hijacking techniques’ that lure us in and create ‘compulsion loops’.” Receiving likes on a post, gaining followers, increasing a Snapchat score, getting positive comments, going viral, receiving information as soon as it enters the public domain – these are the type of hijacking techniques they use!
I would argue that the massive rise in screen usage, in particular, the apps and games designed to make us feel more connected, are a primary reason for the decline of feelings of motivation that we are feeling now! If we want to start feeling motivated again, we need to start hacking our minds and begin cutting out the things that give us this constant stream of Dopamine!
Having a constant supply of Dopamine from tech means that you will be less inclined to go and do things that will give you the same affect for something far more productive and beneficial to your life!
1. Reduce Your Screen Time!
You’ll find as you do this you will naturally start seeking tasks in your everyday life that give a sense of achievement making you immediately more productive!
A useful way of reducing tech usage, other than locking away your phones and tablets, is to make use of the built-in tools. Apple’s, Screen Time, allows a user to set limits for different apps and schedule downtime for example!
2. Start the day as you mean to go on!
Get up, get yourself straight and you will be ready to face the world and to get things done!
“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another”.Admiral William McRaven
3. Have a plan and write things down!
Whether it’s small, short term tasks or longer projects and goals! By doing this you will cement your thinking and it will give you a physical tool to check off as you complete tasks! A sense of achievement and reward will come from this and give you a healthy dose of Dopamine!
4. Have a conversation with someone about your achievements!
If you have done something you feel particularly proud of, take the opportunity to reflect on this with work colleagues, friends, or family! By sharing this, you will inspire yourself to do more and inspire others around you with your positive energy! They will want to feel like you! Motivation is catching!
5. Write down your ‘why’!
Remembering why you set out to do something is probably the single most important thing you can do to maintain momentum! This is something you can go back to as you wade through a project and feel uninspired to carry on. For example, weight loss! In 2020 I lost 2 stone in weight! I aim to lose another 2 stone this year! However, my motivation and focus went out of the window over the Christmas break! I have now returned to my why and I feel inspired to continue – I want to be the healthiest and happiest version of myself when normal life resumes!
6. Emulate those who motivate and inspire you!
We all have idols and role models who we aspire to be like! But take a moment to really consider what it is they do that impacts on your life so positively. Think about a time when you have had a really good boss versus a time when you have had a really terrible one! What made the good one good and what made the bad one bad? To get motivated start replicating things the good one did and you can start basking in the positive reaction you get from those around you! There is nothing more motivating than being around other positive people – even better if you are the reason for that positivity!
Try to do something each day that gets your body moving. It will give you a release of endorphins and give you a sense of achievement. It will also give you the chance to think clearly without the interruption of tech!
If you have enjoyed reading this post, please feel free to comment below and let me know how your 2021 has started! What techniques you have been using to get motivated? Have you stopped using Social Media and has this helped?