According to author and professor Juliet Schor, the average American works more hours and takes fewer vacation days than a medieval peasant. Living in a society and culture that moves faster than at any point in history, it can be difficult to stay motivated.
From work to family obligations and finding time for yourself, our schedules are busier than ever. Someone who understands how challenging it can be to find a work-life balance is Cardiac Electrophysiologist, Dr. Allen Amorn. Between spending quality time with family and attending to the needs of hundreds of patients, he knows how it feels to be overwhelmed and unmotivated. With years of practice; however, Allen Amorn has developed some key habits and techniques for keeping yourself motivated in the midst of a busy schedule.
Establish a Morning Routine
How you start your morning can dictate your entire day. If you spend your morning feeling motivated, you will spend your day feeling motivated. First things first: wake up early. Dr. Amorn suggests trying to schedule in at least an hour in the morning for yourself before you have to attend to your responsibilities. Waking up early allows you to have some much needed ‘me’ time, whether it is doing yoga, going for a walk, or meditating, connecting with yourself in the morning sets the tone for your whole day.
As a physician, Dr. Allen Amorn also recommends getting yourself moving, whether it is a quick walk around the block or a weighted HIIT routine; exercise releases dopamine which can significantly increase your motivation and energy throughout the day.
Plan Your Day
Once you have completed your morning routine, Allen Amorn suggests making a detailed to-do list. A lot of anxiety and stress comes from thinking about the sheer number of things we have to do, and making a to-do list of priorities can give you some relief. When you build a to-do list in the morning, start with the top three most important things you need to tackle, and break them down into smaller, more reasonable tasks. Psychologically speaking, it is also beneficial to tackle the most difficult and challenging task first thing in the morning.
The same part of the brain associated with memory is also associated with future projections; this means that the way we visualize the future can be as real to our brains as our lived past, making visualization a roadmap for the future. Dr. Amorn explains that you can either visualize a goal set in the future, or visualize having a positive, thoughtful, and motivated day ahead. If you’re visualizing a future goal, try engaging all of the senses: What does it look like? What sounds do you hear? What does it feel like?
All of these techniques will help you stay motivated towards achieving this goal. If you’re visualizing the day ahead, walk through your day, visualizing the people you will see how well your meeting is going to go, and everything in-between. This method of rehearsal is a great way to keep yourself focused on staying motivated, even when you are overwhelmed with dozens of tasks.
Despite having a well-calculated plan, sometimes your day can go sideways. Allen Amorn explains that as important as it is to have a strategy to manage your busy schedule, you also need to be flexible and prepared to change course. Sometimes a project may require immediate attention, you wake up and your child is sick, or your basement flooded—you cannot stress about the things that you cannot change. When you allow yourself to become overwhelmed and stressed out, higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol are released in your body, and this can lead to bad decision-making. Stay calm and take it as it comes.
Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
Lastly, Dr. Allen Amorn suggests eating a healthy and well-balanced diet. Motivation is as much about mindset as it is about energy, so if you’re eating Twinkies and Big Macs all day, you’re going to have difficulty staying motivated and driven.
While it may seem counterintuitive for someone with a busy schedule to meal-prep, it is actually a huge time saver when you consider how much effort it takes to cook a single meal. Steer away from highly processed foods and sugar, and focus on whole, plant-based options to keep your energy up. Try meal-prepping on the same day every week—one of the best ways to create and maintain a habit is to make its practice habitual.
Allen Amorn’s Final Thoughts
When we’re constantly rushing from one task to the next, it is easy to become unmotivated, as we may feel that we are simply going through the motions. It is important; however, to try and regain motivation. If we’re motivated, we can be more productive and meet our goals.
While Allen Amorn says that establishing a morning routine, planning your day, and eating a healthy diet have helped him, he notes that everyone’s source of motivation is different. He suggests thinking of what you enjoy doing, finding ways to incorporate these things into your schedule, and seeing how the process affects your motivation.