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It Always Seems Impossible Until

“It always seems impossible until it’s done”Nelson Mandela. 

Ever had one of those days (or weeks, or months) when your goals seem impossible? Like towering mountains. Obstinate obstacles that just won’t move. The days when you are just not motivated enough to take the baby steps necessary to move yourself towards them.

Oh, I hear you.  As motivated, determined and persistent as I am in general, there are some parts of one of my long term goals that are grueling, stressful and make me want to run away from it all.

Getting a PhD.

It seems that this endeavour always pops up with new, not-so-fun surprises. Like learning to program in Python and other software just to extract my data. Or lugging around hundreds and hundreds of dollars of equipment due to a lack of a linguistics laboratory. While these challenges seem amusing in retrospect, when they are staring you in the face, they are a struggle. Nelson Mandela’s words are a simple, but true, reminder that we can struggle through anything.

So, how on earth do you force yourself to be motivated on days when it’s just not natural?  Here are my 5 tips!


5 Strategies to Combate De-motivation


1. Schedule Your Time

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, or you know me in person, you know I love to schedule. Google Calendar is my absolute favourite tool because it’s easy, colourful and free!  I use a blaring red colour to schedule in time for goals that are super important, or goals I know I’m bound to procrastinate on.

When you have blaring red staring at you all week, it just pushes you to sit down and at least start to work on the project. Want to get the most out of Google’s features? I’ll be writing about Google’s free tools in a video tutorial coming soon!


2. Find Your Perfect Place(s)

Library Book of Kells

Book of Kells library, Dublin, 2013

So, you have the time. What about the place? You’ll need to find out what works for your personal style. A few of my PhD friends and I were discussing this a couple days ago!

  • Some of us have to be in the library to concentrate.  Personally, I like to switch it up a bit. A few hours in the library, a few at home, and a few in a cafe.  Find where you focus best and schedule the place, too  (in Google Calendar, of course!)
  • Get a study group!  If you can’t find one, create one on It’s great to have like-minded students around you for some positive peer pressure!


3. Find An Accountability Partner

I can tell you that I have one of these for my dreaded programming and statistics challenges!

What’s an accountability partner, you ask?

Easy! It’s someone who you tell what you are working on, and when it will be done by. Set a time to text or call them with your progress update.  When someone else is counting on you, you have more motivation to get it done. Now, there are some speakers like Derek Sivers who think that telling someone your goals makes you feel more productive before you even start, and defeats the purpose of setting goals, but I disagree.

Of course, I believe the feeling of letting not only yourself down, but your accountability partner, too, helps a bit.  Try it!


4. Take A Break

This one is super easy. Don’t do too much at once. I catch myself doing this all the time.  Slow down. Breathe. Take a break. Watch that ridiculously unintelligent TV show. Go to the gym. Exercise is super important and great for the brain, too!

Snuggle on the sofa with your Labrador (yes, these are personal examples) ?.

Kiara sleeping

Kiara cuddled up in a ball, February 2016

5. Reward Yourself!

This step is also super easy! All you have to do is choose a wonderful reward for yourself, and let yourself indulge after you’ve completed your work for the day and checked in with your accountability partner.

NO CHEATING.  I heard you thinking it!  That’s what your accountability partner is for.  Let them know what your reward is!


So, I hope this tips provide a little inspiration on days when staying motivated is difficult. I’m about to follow my own advice and head off to do the work I need to do before checking in with my accountability partner tonight.


Have you tried any of these strategies? Do any of them work best for you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Oh, and for those of you who are in school, uni, or grad school, or want to teach your students study skills-  stay tuned for my upcoming post on Study Tips! 


Have a lovely and productive Monday!


P.S. To my photography buffs, I took the photo for the main image in today’s post on Montserrat mountain in 2014. That’s right here in Catalunya, Spain.

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