When you’re struggling with motivation, use this awesome no-excuse planning trick

| August 31, 2014

stretchingmat-1

We all struggle with motivation from time to time, and when we’re on the fence it’s easy to talk ourselves out of doing something.

We may spend more time thinking about whether to do something, or exactly how we should do it, than we actually spend doing it. For example, if we’re thinking about going for a hike, we might get up early and then do some ruminating about exactly where to go and which route to take. After an hour of that, we might decide that we’ve now missed our early morning window for a hike so we do something easier instead.

In this article, we’ll look at a great technique for turning thinking about it into actually doing it. It involves pre-planning your activities so the decision-making is done ahead of time. Having the decisions already made lowers the barrier for doing the activity. And, no matter how little time you have, there will always be something that you can do.

It works like this.

Step 1

Write a list of some fitness activities that you can do in 10 minutes.

Step 2

Go back over your list and make each one very specific. So, instead of writing, "Do some stretching" write, "Do two sets of the 10-stretch routine from my stretching book".

It’s really important to make each one very specific because that eliminates any decision-making before you can do the activity.

Here’s how you would write your list of activities.

In 10 minutes I can:

  • Do three sets of push-ups and ab crunches
  • Do two sets of the 10-stretch routine from my stretching book while listening to streaming relaxation music
  • Do three 3-minute sets of Jump roping in the backyard

Step 3

Repeat this for different amounts of available time. If you do this, no matter how much time you have, there will always be something on the list that you can do. For example:

In 30 minutes I can:

  • Run this route around my neighborhood: Daley St – Chestnut Drive – Sierra Street – Courtould Road – Surrey Street
  • Follow the floor workout in this YouTube video <URL of video>
  • Bike to the local coffee shop on Tuesday to meet my friends instead of driving

In 1 hour I can…

  • Use the gym at work and do two sets of the exercises on page 47 of my  Basic Conditioning  book

In 2 hours I can…

  • Take the cardio class at Pete’s Gym (Mon, Wed, Thur 7pm)
  • Load my mountain bike into the car, drive to Gossamer Trail, ride the 10 mile loop around Fig Reservoir, drive home

In 4 hours I can…

  • Drive to Castle State Park, hike the Sunset Peak Loop Trail, drive home

In 8 hours I can…

  • Drive to Henry Fir Park, cross-country ski from Sitka Lodge to Pine Ridge and back, drive home

Step 4

For each item on your list, break down the entry barrier to doing the activity by identifying and eliminating any dependencies.

For example, if you really need your yoga mat before you can stretch, but it’s in the garage and needs to be cleaned, take 10 minutes to get it out of the garage, wipe it down, and put it near where you’d do the stretching. Then find your stretching book and put it next to the mat. You could even put a timer there set for 10 minutes. You’re not actually going to do the exercise today so you don’t have to deal with the fear of doing the exercise. But now, the barrier for actually doing it is very low and tomorrow it’ll be a lot easier to walk over to the mat, hit the timer button, and go.

You can prepare for a 4-hour hike the same way. Pick a destination, write down your route and put it in your backpack. Load everything else that you would need into your pack, including food and water. The next time you have a spare 4 hours, there’s no excuse. All you have to do is pick up your backpack and go.

By pre-planning a variety of activities when you’re not feeling very motivated to actually do them, it will help you lower your resistance to getting started. Then, like magic, the more you get out there and the more positive feedback you get from your results, the easier it will be keep doing it.

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Photo credits: Mark Beresford

Category: Get Out There

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