Sometimes we may not even realize that we are getting burned out. But the warning signs are there — our productivity is slipping, our minds are wandering, and we find it difficult to stay focused on the task at hand.
You might think that the answer is to use self discipline to buckle down and work harder, but the opposite is often true. Often, what we really need is a mini-vacation, a short one day outing that is a break from our ordinary routines.
This happened to me recently. I had been pushing myself to get my most recent app finished, but there were many little details that still needed attention. I would find myself floundering, allowing myself to get distracted rather than focus on the task.
Valentine’s Day came, and my husband suggested an outing to the beach (yeah, I know, Southern California in February). My first thought was — “But I really need to get this app released!” Then I realized that a break might be just what I needed. So off we went.
The day was such an enormous break from my normal activities. But the following day was when I felt the change. I was refreshed and reenergized, and ready to wrap up my app.
Here are five tips for refreshing yourself and rekindling your motivation through taking a mini-vacation:
1. Go someplace different
Think about the places you have been in the last month. Have you mostly been confined to the city? Mostly indoors?
It is time to make a change and go someplace fresh that will blow out the cobwebs. Think of places that take you away from your normal surroundings and pursuits. How about a visit to a museum, or a bike ride, or cross country skiing?
If at all possible choose a destination where you haven’t been before. But if you have a favorite place to get away from it all and want to go back, just make sure to view it with fresh eyes, and leave your troubles at home.
If you can’t get away from home, do something really different at home. How about eating brownies by the fire while you learn a new musical instrument?
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber
2. Choose your partner in crime
Who you go with on the mini-vacation is an important choice. Often it will be with your significant other. But you could go with a friend, or a family member, or go by yourself to a meet-up where you will meet new people.
As you go forth on your mini-vacation make sure that both you and your companion are caught up in the spirit of adventure. If one person is worrying about work or home it can ruin the mini-vacation for both. Make a promise to each other that the problems at home can wait. This is a day to get away from it all.
3. Don’t think about your goals
While you are on a mini-vacation, it is important to not think and plan and figure ways to get ahead. Your mind needs a break.
Our best ideas often come when we aren’t actively thinking about a problem. Our brains churn away, unnoticed, while we are doing something else. New sights and experiences can trigger new thoughts, and we can come back with new, innovative ideas.
Keep your mind in the present, really savoring the unique experiences of the day.
4. Pay attention to your body
It is hard to relax and enjoy if you are too hot, or too cold, or tired, or hungry. Pay attention to what your body needs, and work that into the mini-vacation. Nobody said that if you go to a museum that you have to push yourself to see every exhibit. Take your time, sit and think a little, take a break and go to the coffee shop. Go ahead and leave when you are tired. You will enjoy the whole experience more.
With a little forethought you can choose your mini-vacation to rejuvenate your body. You can sleep on the sand at the beach if you are overtired. You can go for a hike to get tired and hungry, then truly enjoy a nice meal at a restaurant afterward. Find a cooler area if it is hot at home (in southern California we are blessed with the beach and the mountains). Find someplace warm if it is cold. Nothing beats sitting next to a fire on a cold and rainy day.
If you are like most people these days you might feel tired, but actually need more exercise. Going for a bike ride or hike can do wonders to elevate your spirits.
“Laughter is an instant vacation.” – Milton Berle
5. Be in the present moment
Most of all, to get the greatest benefits from your mini-vacation, you need to be in the present moment. Pay attention to your surroundings. Watch people, and see what you can understand about their lives from the way they act. Take a deep breath of fresh air, and smell the grasses, trees, ocean, or snow.
When you come back from your mini-vacation you may not be able to pick up exactly where you left off, because you will be in a different frame of mind. But you will benefit from the fresh ideas and perspective you gain from the experience.
Where will you go today? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below!
How to Stay Motivated to Achieve Your Goals
Time is the raw material of our lives. How we choose to spend it, shapes our life accordingly. So having the motivation to spend it on achieving goals is crucial to creating a life we want.
What is Motivation?
The Oxford dictionary defines motivation as the desire or willingness to do something – our drive to take action.
Scientifically, motivation has its roots in the dopamine pathways of our brains. When we do something that feels good, that’s dopamine kicking in. Our actions are driven by the desire for that reward (the good feeling).
Author Steven Pressfield describes motivation more practically. He says we hit a point where the pain of not doing something becomes greater than the pain of doing it. He sees motivation as crossing the threshold where it’s easier to take action than it is to be idle. Like choosing to feel awkward while making sales calls over feeling disappointed about a diminishing bank account.
However you choose to think about it, we all want to harness motivation to achieve our goals.
How to Get Motivated
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says that most people misunderstand motivation. They think that motivation is what gets us to take action. In reality, motivation is often the result of action, not the cause of it. Once we start a task, it’s easier to continue making progress. Like Isaac Newton’s first law: objects in motion stay in motion.
This means most of the resistance when working on your goals comes right before we start. Since motivation naturally occurs after we start, we need to focus on making starting easier.
4 Ways to Make Starting Easier
1. Schedule it
One reason people can’t get started on things is that they haven’t planned when to do it.
When things aren’t scheduled it’s easier for them to fall by the wayside. You’ll end up hoping motivation falls in your lap or hoping that you’ll muster enough willpower to get it done.
An article in the Guardian said, “If you waste resources trying to decide when or where to work, you’ll impede your capacity to do the work.”
2. Measure something
It’s easy to feel uninspired when you don’t know if you’re making progress or what you’re even working towards. That’s why you need to make your success measurable in some way. Starting is easy when you know exactly how much closer your current actions will bring you to achieving your goal.
3. Extrinsic motivation
This type of motivation is from external factors. It can be either positive or negative. Positive motivation consists of incentives like money, prizes, and grades. Negative motivation consists of deterrents like being fired, having a fight, or being fined. Extrinsic motivation doesn’t work effectively long-term, but it can work well in the short term to get you started on something.
4. Make it public
Keep yourself accountable by telling friends and family your goals, or even sharing them on social media. This makes it easier to start something because you’re pressured to not let others down.
How to Stay Motivated Long Term
When we say we want to feel motivated to do something, we don’t want to be pushed or guilted into doing a task. We want to be so attracted and drawn to the idea that we can’t resist not taking action. That’s why it’s important to build a foundation that will set you up for consistency.
These are 5 techniques that will help you do just that:
1. Stay in your goldilocks zone
The goldilocks zone is when a task is the perfect level of difficulty—not too hard and not too easy. In this zone, we reach peak motivation and focus.
For example, let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against a 4-year-old. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become bored and not want to play. Now let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against Serena Williams. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become demotivated because the match is too challenging.
The Goldilocks zone is in the middle of that spectrum. You want to face someone with equal skill as you. That way you have a chance to win, but you have to focus and try for it. Adjusting your workload and goals over time to stay within your Goldilocks zone keeps you engaged and motivated long-term.
2. Pursue intrinsically motivated goals
Being intrinsically motivated to achieve a goal is when you want to achieve it for what it is. There are no external factors like a reward or the risk of being fired. The drive behind your actions is coming from within.
For most intrinsic goals we pursue them because they will enrich our lives or bring us closer to fulfillment. That makes these goals extremely sustainable long-term because they directly affect our quality of life and the things we care about.
3. Use “chunking”
Chunking is the technique of breaking down a goal into smaller short-term targets. By doing this you achieve multiple successes in your pursuit of the main goal. This triggers the brain’s reward system and drives you to keep going.
Traditionally, you may set a goal that you expect to achieve in one year. That’s a long time to commit without seeing any results along the way. By chunking your goals into monthly or quarterly targets, you get the consistent positive reinforcement you need to stay motivated long-term.
For example, instead of trying to lose 50 pounds in one year, try to lose 4 pounds every month for 12 months.
4. Be flexible
We’re all victims of circumstance. Things happen along our journey that we can either adjust to or quit because of. That’s why it’s important to have leeway and flexibility when you’re pursuing a goal. If you expect everything to go perfectly, the inevitable failure can make you disengaged and desireless. When you plan for things to go wrong, you make sure you can keep up for the long haul.
5. Pursue your goals in a sustainable fashion
Don’t lose hope when you’re not an overnight success. Overnight successes are the 1%—for the most part, they don’t exist. What we see as an “overnight success” is actually countless hours of work behind the scenes finally hitting a tipping point. Pursuing goals is a story of patience, persistence, and unseen effort.
Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is a recipe for a drop in self-confidence and satisfaction. It also cultivates a mindset where you think you haven’t done enough. As a result, you may raise your expectations and put more pressure on yourself.
This is pointless because things worth achieving take time. So we obviously won’t compare to the things around us when starting.
Mastering motivation is a superpower. With that ability at your fingertips, you can accomplish your goals and shape a life you want to live in.
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