We’ve all been there. We have stuff to do but we just can’t seem to get started. When your motivation is low, it can feel impossible to overcome. However, behavior science can rescue you  from your inertia when you know how to boost your motivation when you feel stuck.

Make it easier

One of the best ways to boost your motivation is to make your desired behavior easier. BJ Fogg has coined the term “Motivation Wave” to explain how our motivation level naturally rises and falls. When motivation is low, you will only do what’s easy. When you need to boost your motivation, consider the task at hand and decide how you can make it simpler. For example, if your goal is to go for a daily walk and you are struggling to get on the treadmill, just put on your shoes. Make that step alone the daily goal. If you walk, great! But count it a win to have done what you committed to doing. You are more likely to feel a boost in your motivation the next time it’s time to walk. 

Improve your ability

Another part of BJ Fogg’s work is the formula he created to represent what is needed to complete a behavior. The formula looks like this: B = MAP (Behavior = Motivation, Ability, and Prompt). All three pieces of this formula need to be in place for you to successfully execute a behavior. Rather than trying to boost your motivation, you might need to increase your ability. If you aren’t confident in your ability or don’t have the skills to perform a behavior, you won’t. Know if the needed step to boost your motivation is actually the need to learn something new instead. As a result, you may naturally feel more motivated with boosted confidence.

Adjust your mindset

It’s easy to approach mundane tasks with a “have to” mindset instead of “I get to” or “I can.” You can boost your motivation by recognizing you have a choice about the task in front of you. Feeling more autonomous and in control of your choices makes it feel more like a privilege than a chore. This works for students as well as adults to help them overcome “I can’t” or “I’m bad at” statements with more empowering ones like “I can” or “I get to” statements. In both cases, the freedom to choose will often lead toward the completion of a task versus opting out of it. 

Create better systems

In James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, he states, “you don’t rise to the level of our goals, you fall to the level of your systems.” In other words, the more you create systems or structure in your day the more likely you are to reach your goals. When you create systems you reduce some of the choices in your day that require you to boost your motivation or willpower. You rely on habits instead to accomplish the things that matter most to you. The better your systems, the better the outcomes. 

Motivation will ebb and flow. It’s a natural part of the human experience. The next time you need to boost your motivation, consider if you can make it easier, improve your ability, adjust your mindset, or create better systems to move you forward.