I love autumn.
To me, this season is symbolic of both a beginning and ane end.
Just like spring, it is an in-between-season, heralding in a different state of being. Autumn gently announces the onset of winter, seeing off summer with a last round of sun rays, draping nature in its most beautiful colors one last time, before it all goes quiet. Spring and summer are seasons of activity, the agendas are filled with festival dates, the colors are bright, the nights are long. These seasons are exciting, adventurous, they are the periods in which we take our holidays. I love summer for all these reasons, but every year, the longer the sunny weeks and months stretch, the more I tend to dream of wool sweaters, of rainy Sundays on the couch, of a slower pace of life.
Towards the end of every summer, I am starting to look forward to the quiet after the storm. Just like spring, autumn marks a transition into something new. But unlike in spring, I find it increasingly difficult in autumn to get off my backside, to find the motivation to do what I need to do. Coming home from a relaxed vacation to get back to work, while the sun is still shining outside? So much easier said than done! And so every end of summer I find my energies sagging. I kind of just want to cuddle up somewhere. What I’d really need is space to honor and experience this transitional period gently. A safe space between summer and winter, between holidays and laptop. After all, with times changing and signs speaking of new things to come, it’s only natural that one would want to get reorganized, right?
Autumn is a time to push the reset button, to get ready for a new round. For all of you who experience this seasons the way I do, I have compiled 5 tips for how to regain motivation in this tricky time of the year.
1. Charge unpleasant tasks with positive energy
Let’s start with the worst: the little, unpleasant tasks that we just can’t escape from most days. You know, the tasks you really don’t feel like engaging with, even though you know you should and, frankly, really have to, but instead you keep putting them of. One strategy that helps me in these instances is to find ways to somehow charge these tasks with positivity. For example, if I have to write longer texts, I may do that outside, somewhere in the green. I use the unloved task as an excuse to change the scenery. I often manage to convince myself that this is really me-time, and an opportunity to choose a spot I really want to be at. I organize my bills once a month, and consciously use that time to listen to podcasts or what a series from the corner of my eye. This works so well, that I almost started looking forward to this monthly ritual. I choose the setting, it’s entirely up to me to embed the task in as comfortable an environment as possible. And the truth is: few things feel as good as crossing an unpleasant item off the to-do list. I love it!
2. Transform routine into rules
Some tasks will always suck, no matter how nice the setting, and sometimes it’s simply not possible to change much about the context or environment. Even worse when those are tasks that you are confronted with on a regular basis, without ever being able to motivate yourself to tackle them head-on. The nicest setup won’t help you in those instances. Exercise can fall into that category for me. I get off my butt and work out several times a week. While I frequently enjoy it, often enough I really don’t. One simple thought that really helps me her is to take choice out of the equation. I tell myself I simply HAVE to do it, whether I like it or not. There’s no way around it. Clench your teeth and get on with it.
The good news is: establishing a new routine is much easier than dropping long-established ways. In the beginning it’s tricky, like almost everything when you start out, and pressure, like a certain deadline, can be a useful facilitator. Having concrete dates in mind is useful to avoid procrastination. It compartmentalizes time, and helps you to enter a sort of contract with yourself. The irony is that ocne a routine is firmly established, you’ll long for it. To come back to my example, I can barely imagine a life without frequent exercise anymore, despite the fact that I often have to force myself to get going in the morning. It’s really crazy, but sometimes you just have to outsmart yourself to get what you want.
3. Change and variety are your friends
We all know the feeling: a test is coming up, you stay at home, lock yourself up in your room, and try to cram knowledge into your lazy brain. And how much of the info you’re trying to soak up actually sticks? Is this really the most efficient way to go about it? The answer can only be a resounding NO. Monotonous tasks need to be broken up. I, for my part, am incapable of focussing on a single task that needs all my attention for hours on end. Instead I try to take conscious breaks in sensible intervals, breaks that I fill with other useful activities. This approach is called time boxing. In practice it can look something like this: I reserve a hour to write a post (which requires a lot of concentration), then I set the next hour aside to clean up my flat or for some kind of meeting (little concentration required), then I get back to my text (a high concentration activity again). This approach works extremely well for me. It helps me to make the most of the time I set aside for any given time, without succumbing too much to distraction. Conscious breaks are an amazing way towards efficiency in life.
4. Set yourself clear goals
What can be more motivating than a clear, concrete goal? I set myself plenty of smaller goals every day, along with some larger ones. For example, I may set myself the goal to post two new images on Instagram, to answer 20 mails or to write an intro for a blog post. These are all small, manageable goals. Meanwhile, I make sure to direct energy towards larger weekly or monthly goals, larger projects that I’m starting, or bigger tasks like cleaning out the basement at long last.
I’m a fan of the SMART method, by the way: all goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. The more concrete you are in setting your goals, and the more concrete the steps are you take towards achieving them, the higher your chances are of reaching them, obviously.
5. Be grateful
Often we stare stubbornly ahead, without allowing ourselves a look back on the ground we have already covered. Too often, we are not grateful for what we have and where we are. We take many of our chances in life for granted, not thinking twice about how privileged we are that we can choose our professions and focus in life with comparative freedom. Sure, ambition is important, but it should not come at the expense of gratitude for the here and now. I often marvel at the good fortune I had to find a profession that is also my calling in life. This gratitude for what I have is my biggest source of motivation in life.
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