Reader question… “I was wondering if you could share some advice. How can I stay motivated when I have a lot to do or a large project ahead of me? You seem to accomplish so much. I always have lists of things that need to be done but I keep putting them off. I feel overwhelmed most of the time.” –Maria D.

The most important part of staying motivated, I think, is to actualy begin whatever it is that you have to do. This may sound like ridiculous advice, but it’s so easy to keep procrastinating… especially with things you really don’t want to do or projects that seem so overwhelming, you just don’t know where to begin. If you just jump in there and do SOMETHING, that first barrier of not knowing where or how to begin has already been broken. So that would be my first advice… do something to start the project.

It helps me if I break large projects into smaller projects and concentrate on only one part of what needs to be done at a time. The prospect of cleaning a totally messy house, for example… it’s overwhelming to think that the whole house needs to be cleaned, and it isn’t easy to feel motivated. It’s so much easier to focus on one room at a time, or even one part of a room. By tackling only one thing at a time, there is always steady, encouraging progress you can see. That progess by itself is motivating.


Musk-mallow (Malva moschata)

The same concept works with really big projects too. We found that out with the second pond we dug by hand. If we had looked only at the prospect of digging up such a large area, the work ahead of us would have seemed totally disheartening. But because we set reasonable goals and concentrated on only a small area each day, we were still able to see a steadily growing pond, and this huge job became totally manageable.

Be realistic and flexible in your plans and expectations of yourself. Sometimes it helps to set a time limit (anything is easier to do if there is a break in sight)… or reward yourself when you reach your stopping point. The secret to getting a lot of work done is to work at a project CONSISTENTLY, even if it is only for small periods of time each day.

You will find that the more progress you can actually see, the more motivated you will feel.

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Comments

Maria

Shirley, thanks. This is just what I needed. I’m going to try your advice. I think I am sometimes too hard on myself. Thanks for reminding me that my husband and children are my first priority.

Wil

Great advice — great post. The quickest way to discouragement is to ignore everything you said and try to tackle the whole job all at once. Thanks for the informative blog — photos are great too.

Camilia

Another great article. Your blog is the first one I read every morning. You have a wonderful way of simplifying life.

Ellie

Sometimes things get so overwhelming you don’t know where to begin. While this may sound simple to many, for those who have been in this situation, it’s a big help. Thanks for the reminder.

Andy

yes i needed to hear this again! off to the next one called “?How To Stop Procrastinating”. I am on a rool here!

Barbara

An old friend of mine used to say, “If you think you ought to do something, you should do it!” I don’t always follow this sage advice, but when I do I really start to accomplish things. Speaking of which, I think there are some things I should do!

JC

We just had 12 inches of snow dumped on us for the second time in just two weeks. The snow finally melted from the last storm and now it’s back again. I have cleaned everything in the house other than closets. I’m starting on those as soon as I stop typing this comment. I hate cleaning closets, so I will try to remember to stay focused to just get them done. Can’t wait to have good weather and get outside in the yard and garden again! Wish me luck.

Gillie

When I am writing and faced with a screen and a character stuck somewhere unexpected I set the kitchen timer for 40 minutes. I am not allowed to leave my seat (except in cases of emergency!) until the 40 minutes is up, even if I haven’t written a word. Usually I get going out of sheer boredom…. and then by the time the 40 minutes is up I am in full swing and writer’s block is overcome.