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How to kill your motivation in 4 easy steps

Nick Cinger
Programming evangelist. Technical Co-founder at Pathway. Developer for 9 years now.
・3 min read

Keeping your motivation in-check can be difficult, and while it seems like it's something that's totally out of our control, we can impact it in significant ways. Your motivation will swing up and down based on whatever your circumstances are, but let's talk about ways of keeping those pesky dopamine levels down.

Never say "No"

If you don't already have a soul-crushing task to work on, look no further than your immediate surroundings. People are brimming with ideas that they are 100% behind, as long as they don't have to do the work. And they're willing to give you lots of free exposure! I mean really, who could turn that sweet deal down?

What's more, these ideas are everywhere. To really get demotivated quick, take on 3 of these at once to make sure you have a steady supply of "when's this gonna be done?"'s, and "my nephew could have done it in one afternoon"'s. Nothing kills willpower more quickly than working on a project you don't care about, for people who don't care about you, while seeing 0 returns.

If you already have a paid gig, just remember to accept any project, idea or responsibility that the company throws your way. Saying "No" looks bad, you know? Even if it's something way out-of-left-field, I'm sure you can pick it up in a weekend. I mean, Marketing, Programming, SEO, Management, DevOps, Photoshop - these are interchangeable skillsets. And then, once your TODO list still says "MONDAY TASKS" and you're well into Thursday, you'll start to feel your motivation slip away.

Take on overambitious goals

A sure-fire way to get started on the path of moti-death, is to get yourself something unachievable to strive for. This might be more of a long-con thing as it will take you a while to get to the disappointment phase_ but trust me, you will get there.

There are a few important guidelines you need to follow for this to have it's full effect.

First of, avoid any planning or research before committing to a deadline. The only way to fail spectacularly is to not be aware of what you're getting yourself into. Just dive straight in! Or as we say in my native language: "Go throat-first into the strawberries". For bonus points, give an estimate 5 seconds after hearing the idea for the first time.

Even if it's something you could definitely see yourself doing, put yourself into a no-win situation by making and planning around unrealistic timelines. Even if you somehow manage to finish the task you'll finish it 200% over the promised deadline and this will take all the wind out of your sails.

And right on time to start that next project, which is already late due the lateness of the previous one! You're demotivated, and you haven't even started, kudos!

Allow all distractions

In the internet-era, this is the easiest thing ever. Be sure to allow all the notifications. Preferably with on-screen pop-ups and sound. Put the idea in your head that you need to see and respond to every message immediately. The phone must not go into "sleep" mode. Keep it within your view at all times. Every call might be urgent.

The point is to avoid being focussed. Focus leads to getting into the zone, and that leads to high levels of motivation - and we can't have that!

An easy way to accomplish this with zero effort is to work from home, or in an open-floor office, without setting any boundaries. Just let the natural flow of your surroundings generate the distractions for you. Remember to not put on your headphone either, can't have people thinking you're unapproachable.

Work over-time, get burned out

I mean obviously the only way you can even hope to meet those promises, right? Right!?

All the feel-good quotes tell you that if you just give it your all you're sure to succeed. BUZZZ WRONG. Giving it your all is just a fast-track to the double-motivation-dip, because now you've not only failed, but you failed spectacularly. You are left feeling exhausted with an overarching feeling of inadequacy.

Once you're properly burned out, your motivation will be in the negative numbers at this point. You won't be able to do any meaningful work for weeks probably, so you'll be safe from getting too motivated for some time to come! Just remember to always push yourself to the edge - and then right over that edge!

And remember kids: Treating yourself mean will scare away that Dopamine!

Discussion (3)

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deadcoder0904 profile image
Akshay Kadam (A2K)

I'll make it even shorter :)

How to kill your motivation in 1 easy step - Netflix & chill

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jwollner5 profile image
John 'BBQ' Wollner

Words cannot express how closely my life has paralleled/shadowed this exact scenario but I didn't see it really until I read this. That pop was my head leaving my inverse interface.

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nebojsac profile image
Nick Cinger Author

Glad to illuminate, and I hope you can make it better somehow!

I used this as an excersie, to remind me what to avoid, as I do keep falling in these traps from time to time.