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How To Get Motivated and Stay Focused

Need tips to get motivated and stay focused on work, workouts or healthy eating? Get actionable tips in this post!

When you’ve worked in a traditional office setting and now have to adjust to working from home, getting motivated and staying focused can be pretty hard without the structure you had before. Or maybe work is going fine, but you’re having a hard time staying motivated to accomplish your health goals. For some it’s hard to get out the door to run without races on the calendar. For others, eating healthy is hard and cooking at home more than in the past is overwhelming. How do you stay focused when the external factors that used to help keep you motivated are no longer there? I’m sharing my tips in this post!

How To Get Motivated and Stay Focused

As it relates to work, I’ve worked in all sorts of environments. I started my career at Goldman Sachs, then worked for BB&T for 6 years and worked at Wells Fargo for 5 years before I quit to work for myself. Since then, I’ve worked in co-working spaces, on the road and in the air, in hotels, in coffee shops and from my home office (which has been in two different rooms in our house so far).

Over the years, I definitely learned some tricks to get motivated and stay focused even when my work environment changed. And my work has always had an impact on my fitness goals. Staying focused was KEY when I was working 80+ hours a week, gearing up to leave Corporate America, especially since I was also training for the Boston Marathon during that time. I knew my end goals – to work for myself and to run a great race – and I knew it would take some serious dedication to achieve both. And that required being VERY productive and intentional with my time.

How To Get Motivated and Stay Focused

Dress | Shoes

As it relates to working out and eating well, I’ve had this healthy living blog for nearly 12 years and another blog about recipes and running even before this one. (I started my first blog in 2004!) I’ve definitely learned how to stay motivated with healthy habits over the years! At first, when I started to improve my diet, it wasn’t easy to make healthy choices. Then, when I wanted to improve my running speed, it required some self-evaluation to figure out where I could improve. And then implementing that took hard work.

While I don’t think there is one thing that will make all the difference in achieving your goals, I do think all of the little things I’m sharing today will add up to help you get motivated and stay focused. And that combination will lead to productivity and success.

And remember, we’re all wired differently, so you’ll need to see what works best for you and then stick with it. Habits take about a month to become real habits, so stick with it!

Okay, let’s get to it!

How To Get Motivated and Stay Focused

How To Get Motivated and Stay Focused

Get Inspired

The first step to getting motivated and staying focused is to get inspired to make a change. You’ll only want to stick with a goal if you’re excited about the end. Figure out what you want to accomplish. Understand why. And identify people who will inspire you to get there.

One thing that is consistent among those I admire most is that they’re real and they also work REALLY hard. My husband. My parents and my brothers. Des Linden. Shalane Flanagen. Lexi. Kristen. I admire ALL of these people so much because I know they put in YEARS of work to get where they are. And that inspires me to keep going when I feel discouraged. I know their success wasn’t handed to them and my success has never been handed to me either.

So, identify what you want to accomplish and who will inspire you when it feels hard along the way. And if you can share your goal with any of those people, even better. They’ll help keep you motivated when you share your progress and struggles.

Plan

You’ve heard the saying “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”? Well, it’s 100% true. When I was planning to leave Corporate America, I talked to my accountant and financial planner 2 years before I quit so I knew, big picture, how things could change. Then, I made a 12 month plan to replace my salary. I mapped out how much I needed to make from other sources of income, what my schedule would look like each week to get all the work done, and consciously sacrificed a lot to meet my goal. It wasn’t always fun, but I was willing to sacrifice in the short term to get what I wanted in the long run: career flexibility and independence.

As it relates to fitness goals, when I was trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon for the first time, I treated my training differently than with other races. I was more thoughtful about my fueling and hitting my prescribed paces, even when they felt impossible. Then, when I ran Boston the first time, I knew I needed to be prepared for a harder course. So I planned for that one with a harder training plan. With my second Boston Marathon, I wanted to set a PR so I hired a coach to help me train in an even more focused manner, with more long runs and more intense workouts.

Meeting your goals typically doesn’t just happen by luck or wishing. You have to plan to reach them. Start with identifying your goal. Then identify the biggest hurdles to getting there. Then, figure out what you can do to overcome those hurdles.

How To Get Motivated and Stay Focused

Set short term goals

Long term change with big results is the goal, but the best way to getting to the long term goal is to set short term goals. Think of these like bite sized projects that are much more manageable. And your short term goals should help you set tangible tasks, the things you’ll do day in and day out, that get you closer to your long-term goal.

It obviously depends on your goals, but here’s how your long-term goals could translate to short-term goals.
  • Long term: Working for yourself. Short term: increase your income by $500 a month from a side hustle
  • Long term: Losing weight. Short term: make lunch every day rather than eating out.
  • Long term: Running your first marathon. Short term: Increase your weekly mileage.

Then, the tangible tasks to help reach those goals would perhaps include working an extra 5 hours each week on your side hustle, learning to make better lunches, and taking an online running course.

Next, map out when you’ll work on those things! The way I do this is to make a list at the beginning of the week of EVERYTHING I need and want to accomplish, both personally and professionally. Then, every single day, I look at that list and identify the top three things for that day. I use the Notes app on my computer to map out my day, literally hour by hour, detailing what I’m going to work on throughout the day. And then I do it all over again the next day, referencing my master list I made at the beginning of the week, and adding anything else that popped up.

This not only helps me stay focused, it helps me get realistic about how much time different tasks will takes. That, in turn, helps me get more realistic about when I can accomplish the goals I’m working towards.

Create structure and accountability

When you’re struggling with motivation, put structure in place that will encourage you to focus or stick to your plan.

If you want to eat healthy, but don’t grocery shop enough, try a meal delivery service. (Here’s a break down of the most popular ones!). For workout accountability, hire a personal trainer (many do virtual sessions) or download a fitness app that tracks progress and consistency. (If you particularly want motivation to run, I have an entire lesson on that topic in my running course.) For tips to wake up early to workout, read this post. If you really want to focus on improving your healthy habits, go through my Healthy Habits Lab.

If you can’t stay focused at work, try the Pomodoro Technique. When working from home, get dressed every day. And switch your workspace to a place that you use ONLY for work, i.e. not the couch. (I have an entire post about working from home here.)

Get Active

Endorphins from a workout can really make a difference in motivation.  After a run or Peloton ride, I’m much more productive and focused on the tasks I have planned for the day. If you’re stuck in a motivation rut, getting active is a great way to consciously get out of it.

Research shows that having a consistent workout routine will help you achieve other goals in your life. (It’s also considered a keystone habit, which I explain in my Healthy Habits lab.) And your workout doesn’t have to be anything super intense. Even a 20 minute morning walk will get those endorphins flowing, which will help you knock out your tasks that you mapped out.

Make the Decision 

If you wait until motivation shows up at your doorstep, you’ll never get anywhere. A lack of motivation will happen. Expect it. And since you never know how long it will take until you feel motivated, instead consciously make the decision to do something even if you don’t feel like it. Just GET STARTED.

My mom’s Crossfit gym, CrossFit Draper, posts a daily mindset quote with the WOD. I thought this was perfectly appropriate for today’s blog topic.

daily mindset

Bottom Line

Don’t wait until you feel motivated, since you never know when that will be! Instead, set short term goals that feel achievable and add things in as you go. You’ll start to see your new habits developing as a result of your hard work, which will help motivate you to keep going. Results are always great motivators. If you have other tips that work well in your life, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Cinnamon Vogue
    at

    You nailed it. Write it down. Plan. Despite all the technology from lap tops to apps on our cell phones what I find easier and far more practical is to keep a tiny paper notebook. On that I write down every little thing that needs to be done and cross it out when done. It seems so simple but it works. On this list I put even little things like floss teeth, call friend Joe, hit target BF%, renew driving license, build the birdcage etc. What is frustrating is people around me have become quite apathetic due to the Corona virus so I have gotten to giving them “to do list with due dates “ via apps and software, many of which are available for free. But what really works is pen and paper. No timeline. Just the task. Strangely you end up doing it. Fast. And keep coming back for more tasks. It becomes addictive. Of course it helps to have a master plan with goals too.

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