I was feeling pretty stuck the other day.

Since arriving in Japan last year, I’ve been so privileged to be able to spend a lot of time doing some of my favourite activites - travelling, taking photos, practicing language skills and meeting new people.

There’s been lots of photos and videos to edit, songs to practice, new friends to text back, words and characters to memorize.

It feels great when we have lots of exciting activities going on, but as someone who suffers from ADHD, finding effective strategies to keep motivation up without dropping any important tasks is always important. Prioritization can be a real struggle.

It can start feeling overwhelming, and without giving myself a clear place to start, I can easily end up procrastinating on these important things as tasks pile up.

It’s especially hard to know when it’s the “right time” to attempt a task. Whether it’s time to perservere or take it easy. Whether I should try and go to bed early and wake up rested to continue work, or whether I should stay up late and burn the midnight oil getting something important done. I want to remember that right now is all we have so we need to use it wisely! As a famous scripture says, “you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow”.

“Avoidance” procrastination (trying to avoid overwhelming tasks), or “justifiable” procrastination (finding a reason to delay getting started by researching for endless hours) can take over.

Replying to messages can be a challenge! How can we have the proper expectation of ourselves to reply to people with some degree of promptness, but not burn ourselves out by making ourselves available to reply at all hours? Not to mention, replying in a second language requires more brainpower!

Often if I don’t address a task right away, it can fall off the radar and soon weeks have passed…

I recently listened to a really terrific episode from TED Talks Daily called “4 proven ways to kick your procrastination habit” featuring Ayelet Fishbach who is a professor studying Behavioral Science and Marketing at the University of Chicago.

Here are some notes I took on the podcast:

She recommends a goal system, rather than endless to-do lists! A goal system should list all the important things you are working towards right now.

I’ve used an app called Todoist on-and-off over the past year, and at times I’ve found it really helpful, and other times I completely forget that it exists. The Todoist blog has a great post on how to use Todoist for establishing a Goal System with their app, so I’m going to give that a shot.

Is accomplishing our goals simply a matter of having enough willpower? Dr. Fishbach says that “motivation depends on our situation and outlook RATHER than our personality”.

She recommended 4 ideas for staying motivated:

  • Look back at our achievements - seeing how far you’ve come can be very motivating.
  • If possible, cut out the middle of a task - motivation tends to drop off in the middle of a goal. Find ways to keep tasks and goals short term, like setting a weekly exercise goal rather than a monthly one.
  • Giving advice to others struggling with the same problem as you - I’m doing that right now by writing this blog post! It means I’m more likely to stick to these solutions since I wrote them all down, so really I’m benefiting the mos
  • Do something for the sake of doing it - i.e. intrinsic motivation. “Why do I do it? Well, because I like doing it.” we all tend to underestimate how much we each care about intrinsic motivation. It’s so important to choose projects that feel like “the goal” themselves.

What if we feel like we’re not making progress on our goals? Fishbach said that “If we’re disappointed, we can decide how to frame the disappointment” - as a progress issue (good - just work harder), or a commitment issue (bad).

If we’re feeling like we CAN’T make progress, that’s no good. “I might not have it in me, maybe I will never be the person I want to be” is not a healthy mindset.

She believes that we should try and have a healthier relationship with setbacks, remembering that there are lessons in failures. Don’t avoid failure, embrace it!

Thanks for reading!