Enlightened State

The Creative Charge: My Secret for Getting Things Done... Every Day

Creativity, Career, InspirationMorgan Vanek2 Comments

Some days, I just can't do it.  I've done the work: I've figured out what kind of life I want to lead, I've broken my goals down into small, manageable, measurable steps, and I've spent a lot of hours working toward those goals.  But even though I've done so many of the right things, there are days and even weeks when I'm not motivated the way I know I should be.  Maybe it's simple laziness, or something else more serious.  Whatever the cause, it's something I've had to learn my way around in order to overcome it.

It's always difficult to pursue a goal - if it were easy, it wouldn't be something to strive for.  But whether the resistance is external or internal, eventually we all find ourselves unable to do what we know must be done.  We are unable to summon the willpower required for even our day-to-day routines.  And when it comes to longer-term goals? Forget about it. There isn't enough energy in the world for us to fight through to the other side, even though we know that what we want is worth fighting for. 

Usually, this is a temporary state, one that we can wait out or work through.  But sometimes the motivation leaves us permanently, in a big way, and it's a much bigger task to push ourselves over the hill, and even getting out of bed can seem like an insurmountable task.  We can call this what it is:  a depression. Anyone who has experienced depression knows what a challenge it is to defeat it. It's certainly possible to overcome it, but it is a difficult, daily process. 

It was in the throes of a depression that I first came across some life-changing advice.  I don't mean it was life-changing in a big, conceptual way; I mean that it literally changed the way that I live my life on a daily basis, and it continues to do so even now.  I was browsing Reddit and came across this now-famous post on r/GetDisciplined.  The whole post is great, and I highly recommend that you read it all, but the part that really stuck with me (and with many others, as well) is this:  No more zero days.

A zero day is one that passes by without any meaningful contribution to your life or goals.  It's a day when you are on auto-pilot, one that you won't remember after it's over.  Zero days are like poison to your dreams.  They send them into hibernation, and eventually those dreams die because they aren't being fed.  If you're struggling to find motivation, make a commitment that you will never spend another zero day wasting your life.  

I use a points system to accomplish this.  It's largely arbitrary, but I assign points to everything I do that brings me closer to my goal - some days I get 10,000 points, and others I may only get one. But the point is that I always get at least one, no matter what.  Just before bed, I sometimes discover that I'm about to finish a zero day. In these cases, I force myself to do something, anything, no matter how small, that will push me a little bit further along my path before I go to sleep.  

The things I give myself points for depend a lot on where I'm at mentally and emotionally.  Sometimes, I get points for getting up, taking a shower, and making it into work.  When things are really bad, these are tasks that I struggle to accomplish because they require a great deal of effort.  But most of the time, I don't get points for accomplishing my usual routine. I score points for the fun stuff, like educating myself, trying something new, and working diligently toward the things I really want.  When I write a blog post, learn how to install a search bar on my website, save money, or try a new recipe, I get points.  

This is an easy way for me to make sure that I am working toward the things that I want and need.  On days when I just can't get motivated, this is a great way for me to ensure I am always moving forward. When I am overwhelmed with all of the things I know I should do, I feel paralyzed with fear and anxiety.  But I can almost always commit myself to doing just one or two things, and once I've completed those tasks, it's already a "non-zero day."  And those small things can really boost my confidence, so that checking more things off my list the next day isn't so overwhelming. 

Success comes one step at a time.  Some of those steps are easy, and others feel like slogging through knee-deep mud.  But a step is a step, and eventually you'll find yourself walking up to claim your prize.  So keep walking!  I promise you'll get there eventually. 

What are some things you can do so that you never have a zero day again?  What are your favorite methods for accomplishing your goals?