How to deal with lack of motivation

I just want to start off with apologising for the long hiatus from blogging. The last 2 months have been hectic. I finished off my labwork, I am almost done with my thesis, I presented my research at the European Symposium on Organic Chemistry and I am applying for jobs. I also had a two-week vacation to visit my family in Italy because I needed a break from everything so badly.

How I managed to keep it all together? I didn’t. I was and I still am overwhelmingly tired and my motivation is at my lowest. I have been literally dragging myself out of bed every day, forcing myself to dress up, coming to work and going through daily activities. It’s also emotionally a very delicate period. My anxiety, that has been under control for a while, came back again. This is because my relationship with my medications has been problematic. I gained a significant amount of weight over the last year and this badly affected my daily life.

How I managed to keep it all together? I didn’t.

Medications also have a mild to strong sedative effect. I have to spend loads of time resting and sleeping. Is this a problem? It shouldn’t be but not going out is a problem for me as I have social anxiety and my social life has never been amazing. I lost count of all the times I made plans to go out socially and found myself without energy at night. I have plans to go out this week too but let’s see if I can commit to drag myself out of the house.

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Keep myself motivated has been a huge challenge, above all writing my thesis! First of all, I KEPT MY EXPECTATIONS REALISTIC. There’s no point in setting crazy goals that are hard to achieve. If you are tired, have loads of commitments or just you can’t be bothered, start with small tasks. I personally set the goal of writing half a day either morning or afternoon and don’t stress myself to work any longer than my body and mind can take. THIS IS NOT PROCRASTINATION. I REPEAT, YOU DON’T PROCRASTINATE IF YOU ALLOW YOURSELF THE TIME TO REST. Rather, congratulate yourself for anything you did and going through your daily activities so well. For more specific advice on how to optimize you writing up time check my old article How I Wrote 10000 Words of my Thesis in 10 Days.

Learn how to work smart not hard!

If you have to do lab work, I think the same principles apply. Everyone performs at their best at different times of the day. Personally speaking, I prefer to get my job done before lunch and slow down in the afternoon. Other people perform better later in the afternoon. Try to get your work done during the time you perform at your best. 3/4 hours of focused and efficient work can be more productive than an 8-hour work schedule!

Lastly but not least important, DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF YOUR MINDSET. You will not get any work done if you start with the negative idea “I will never do that!”. Having a positive mindset about a new task, a new challenge, a new day is key. Just try how it feels to start the day by saying “I will do my best, I will approach this new task and do the best I can!” And the best you can doesn’t have to be giving yourself 100% every day. Some days are 80%, others are 40% and some days you will give 130%. All numbers are equally valid. Progress doesn’t have to run at 100 Km/h every day, slow progress is still progress! There is loads of research about the power of a positive mindset and high achievers, but I think I will cut it short here. I congratulate myself for writing this article despite it took 2 hours and had to stop several times to get through it!

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