Stuck in a slump? You’re not alone. If you’re in law school, you might be experiencing that mid-semester lull where you're sick of reading and outlining, and yet finals still feel really far away. If you’re a lawyer, you might be sick of working from home and practicing law from behind a computer screen. Even if there’s nothing that's going particularly “wrong,” everyone suffers from a lack of motivation from time to time. Here are seven quick tips that can help you get out of a slump when you're lacking the inspiration to stay focused on your work.
Take a day off.
The worst feeling is when you’re stuck in that “in between” place where you know you should be working, so you try to keep going, but what you really need is a break, so you’re not actually accomplishing anything—and all you do is end up wasting time. If this is you, it could be a sign you need a full, no-strings-attached day off—so take one. On your day off, set a strict “no work” rule. No studying allowed. No checking your email every 10 minutes. Put up an out-of-office auto-reply and separate yourself from your responsibilities for one day. You’ll come back with a clearer mind, better prepared to tackle your to-do list.
Meet with a mentor.
Sometimes, you need someone a few steps ahead of you on the road to your goals to remind you that you can do it too. Reach out to a mentor or inspirational colleague for a quick check-in, even a brief phone call or coffee break. Talking to a trusted mentor who has “been there, done that” can help ground you in your goals and remind you of how achievable they are. It can also be helpful to hear from another person that they have had periods of lackluster levels of motivation too. You could also ask this person to help hold you accountable—see if you can schedule a future check-in to make sure you’ve followed through on next steps toward accomplishing your goals.
Set an intermediate goal.
Lack of motivation can be a symptom that you’re trying to bite off more than you can chew. It’s hard to be inspired when the task ahead feels impossible. If you have some big goals set for yourself, it might be time to break them down into more achievable pieces. Don’t think of your work in terms of a full outline or a full brief; instead, set mini-goals such as “draft three pages by Friday.” This sets you up for success; when you are actually able to check something off your to-do list, you’re more likely to keep that momentum going to achieve the next step, and the next, and the next.
Pop quiz yourself.
Sometimes, fear really is the best motivator. For example, if you’re in school and stuck in a rut, a pop quiz can be a cold, hard reminder of why you can’t throw in the towel now. Taking a practice exam, completing a few flashcards, or trying a sample essay can all serve as reminders that you have a lot to learn and can’t give up now. While this technique is a “negative” motivator, sometimes this is the type of reality check you need to get moving again.
Take care of yourself—physically.
When you’re tired, not eating right, and not getting any physical activity, you’re likely to be short on inspiration. Before you can do anything that law school or your employer demands of you, stop and assess whether you’re taking care of your most basic needs. Try to incorporate healthy meals and some exercise into your daily routine. Even a small goal of stretching for five minutes or eating a serving of a leafy green vegetable can go a long way—it will feel good that you’ve made a healthy choice for yourself, and that mood boost can go a long way in sparking motivation.
Think about a hero.
Think about someone you really admire, whether it’s someone in your personal life or a celebrity figure, and remind yourself of their achievements and what challenges they had to overcome to get there. Hearing the story of someone who inspires you can boost your own levels of motivation—and the challenges they faced might help put yours in perspective. For example, watching the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary might remind you of why you entered the legal profession in the first place, and it just might be the inspiration you need to get through the last few pages of your brief.
Play your motivational theme song.
Sometimes the right song is all you need to ignite your fire. Pick out a song that inspires confidence, makes you feel energized, and reminds you of how awesome you are and how much you’ve already accomplished. (Personal disclosure: Demi Lovato’s “Confidence” is my go-to for this purpose—how can you not feel energized after blasting that song?) You might even try making an entire playlist of your favorite inspirational songs so that when you’re feeling the “blahs,” you can push play for a quick boost.
When you’re feeling low on motivation, remember that it happens to everyone and you’ll be on the upswing soon. (Although if you’re in a slump that just won’t go away, it could be worth a visit to a mental health professional.) When you’re in a funk, the right song, conversation, or piece of inspiration can be all you need to get the wheels in motion again.
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