We’re 3 weeks into the new year. Hopefully it’s been as productive as you thought it would be. Hopefully that goal planning session you did at the end of last year got you motivated and headed in the right direction. Hopefully you’re keeping your eye on the prize and cruising full steam ahead with the same gusto and passion you had on January 1. Hopefully…

But that’s all easier said than done, isn’t it? We head into the new year with so much inspiration and conviction that this is the year we’re going to do things differently – this is the year we break toxic patterns and metamorphose into a beautiful ass-kicking butterfly. But a few weeks in, you’ve still got a few stragglers from last year’s to do list buzzing around your head. You still have many of the same obligations, bills, triggers, and habits. So you find yourself repeating some of those (possibly self-sabotaging) patterns you vowed to break. Any of this sound familiar?

Yeah?! Guess what – me too! You’re not alone. “New Year, New Me” is rousing until you’re muttering it to yourself while lying on the couch eating granola out of the bag, binge watching reruns of Big Bang Theory while you have 47 tabs open of work that needs to get done, empty meal-planning templates, and a list of friends and family you’re still meaning to call. OK oK, so maybe the beginning of the year hasn’t gone exactly according to your very ambitious plan. But you know what, THAT’S OK. Give yourself a freaking break. You haven’t missed your opportunity for a New You, or even just a slightly upgraded you. It’s STILL the new year and every day is a new day. All you have to do is get that motivation and momentum back and you’ll be cookin’ with fire in no time, annihilating your goals with such superhuman speed and precision they’ll call you Buffy (New Year, Old Reference).

“But, Gabi, the couch is so comfortable and Kaley Cuoco is an absolute delight to watch – how to I recapture the motivational magic of a fresh start!?”

Fantastic question. As someone who frequently has to battle some self-sabotaging tendencies, particularly one that I call Overwhelm Paralysis (a.k.a. I-Have-Too-Much-To-Do-So-I-Will-Do-None-Of-It-itis), here are some of my most effective and HIGHLY COUNTERINTUITIVE motivation medications.

1. Ask yourself “What’s the point?”

When I do goal-planning sessions, I get really jazzed and start adding things to my list all willy-nilly. What starts as “What I want to accomplish this year,” turns into “Everything that might be cool to accomplish over the course of my entire life.” And before I know it, a manageable vision for the year becomes a vague plan for becoming a 65 year old yoga teacher who sells pottery at farmer’s markets and wears statement jewelry hand-made by single mothers in Ghana. All of a sudden my list is full of things I’m not sure I even give a shit about anymore but at the time sounded a little cool, making me feel overwhelmed and my actual, meaningful goals muddled and convoluted.

So now, when listing out your goals or to do’s, get it ALL out on paper then ask yourself of each one, “What’s the point?” If you can come up with a clear answer of WHY you want or need to do something, keep it. If not, cross that shit out. It’s taking up valuable space and energy. But this isn’t just important for weeding out clutter, it’s actually essential for sticking to your goals as well. If you’re chasing a goal but don’t have a greater purpose behind it, you likely won’t have the motivation to keep going when times get tough.

Fill in the blanks: “I want to ____________, so that I can _________.” (And make it good!)

2. Procrastinate.

Here’s the truth: unless it’s urgent, I’m probably not going to do it. Because there are usually other things I’d rather be doing and the less-fun thing can probably wait. I live by deadlines, but in order to do that, I need to be aware and honest about how long something is going to take me and when it REALLY needs to be done. Then I plan accordingly. I go do the fun things and don’t waste or ruin my time worrying about doing that less-fun thing until I actually need to.

This is partially about understanding your work flow and speed, partially about being honest with yourself, and partially about knowing the circumstances under which you best work. For me, it’s when I’m under pressure. So I procrastinate. But I do it to the fullest – I don’t spend my precious procrastination time thinking, “Jeez, I really should be doing X, Y, and Z.”

Perhaps for you it’s the opposite. Maybe you can’t have fun until the work is done. So in that case, get it the F done, and when you’re out having fun as the deadline approaches and your finished work is just waiting at home, don’t you DARE think, “I wonder if it’s good enough… should I give it another look? Maybe it should have taken me longer…” NO, YOU’RE DONE. Move on and have fun!

Fill in the blanks: I actually NEED to _________ by __________.

3. Do as little work as possible.

This one’s all about working smarter, not harder. It’s also a habit shift a lot of us (including myself) struggle with. After you’ve had your fun procrastinating to the absolute best of your ability, there does come a point when you’ve got to buckle down and get shit done. BUT that buckling down could look like 20 minutes or 2 hours… it could even look like 10 hours, but that’s really just 2 hours spread out over 5 days OR 1 long day with your nose to the grindstone. Take a look at your list and be really realistic about how much time a task will take you. Then ask yourself how long you can actually work without screwing around, scrolling, texting, watching videos, getting a snack, etc.

We’re trying to minimize the time you spend doing things you might not love doing, so you have way more time giving all your energy to what you do love. So get to know your habits, your workflow, and your attention span – and remember there’s no one right way to work as long as you get it done. And commit to your schedule so that when the work time’s up, you DON’T think about work for the rest of that day or week. You can rest easy knowing you put in your time.

PRO TIP: I have no qualms being both Pavlov and his dog. When you face a particularly daunting task, promise yourself a reward at the end (preferably something your body will thank you for!). Believe it or not, you can actually start to train yourself to get stuff done more efficiently when you know there’s dark chocolate or an episode of your fave show at the end of the tunnel.

Fill in the blanks: If I actually focus, _________ will take _________ hours. And when I finish, I get to _________.

4. Pour yourself a glass.

They always say, “Ducks or swans or some other waterfowl always look really chill just floating around, but actually they’re kicking and splish-splashing like crazy below the surface with their little bird feet.” Well… they say something along those lines. But what they mean is “Work hard but look cool, calm, and collected doing it.” I think they say that so other people will think you’ve got it handled, but honestly the same psychology works on yourself. If you’re about to tackle some big, looming task, go put on your comfies, pour yourself a glass of something, and essentially trick your anxious procrastinator brain into thinking you’re settling in to do something fun and easy. Your mind will say, “Oooooh it’s Pinterest and wine time! Let’s get to it!” when really it’s taxes and wine time… tricky tricky! It’s all about setting a vibe for yourself to combat whatever triggers your stress, overwhelm, or anxiety.

Fill in the blanks: I’m just going to pour myself a little glas of ________, put on some tunes and stretchy pants, and finish _________. No biggie!

And that’s it, sounds fun doesn’t it? Now get to work… or don’t!


gabi defosse

Copy Director

Bali, Indonesia

After several years working in film packaging and comedy talent management in Los Angeles, then somehow transitioning into a role as a Client Executive at IBM, Gabi took over a year off, met the love of her life, traveled the world, and moved to Bali. There she met a woman who liked her extensive vocabulary and bizarre sense of humor. Now she’s a writer. Building Wildernest has given her a platform to help other women who may have taken a similarly circuitous route to figure out their true callings.

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