Getting motivated to start is often the hardest part, but it’s a lot easier if you plan ahead. Try these tips, and watch yourself move forward.


The word “motivate” is a tricky one. In some instances, it sounds like a dressed-up “should” that carries with it a sense of dread and obligation. 

I need to motivate myself to go jogging.

I need to motivate myself to do homework.

Let’s get motivated to clean the house. 

On the other hand, motivation can be viewed as simply identifying a place to begin. 

This can be in the form of a list of items to stay organized which includes not only what needs doing in the day, but also making space for things that you want to do and the ways to take care of yourself.  

That sounds a lot more motivating, doesn’t it? Here’s how to get started with your own list to get your life moving.

1. Make your list.

To begin a motivating morning list-making practice, allot a few minutes at the beginning of each day. 

First, list out everything that you need to do. Now, list out everything that you’d like to do, but perhaps often don’t allow enough time for. Then organize things in terms of these 4 categories:

  • Must-do activities (going to work, attending to appointments)
  • Activities that take care of you (moving your body, cooking yourself a delicious dinner)
  • Activities that take care of others (cleaning up the house, caring for your family)
  • Restorative activities (like a yoga class, a meditation break, a phone call with a friend, etc.)

Of course, there may be some overlap between the categories, but the objective here is to reach for balance.

2. Prioritize.

Often times, what you probably think you need to complete in a day is more than is actually necessary. Pare it down, and see what happens.

Put a star next to the activities that absolutely must get done today. Now, try to prioritize a smaller number of activities (try limiting it to 4) that you can actually comfortably achieve within one day while allowing the rest to fall to tomorrow. 

What you’ll start to recognize is that most activities on your list are not world-ending-if-not-completed. By paring down your expectations of how many things you need to actually do, it will feel more achievable. And more amazingly, nothing has fallen apart.

3. Mix and match.

Try to create a schedule that includes a mix of activities from each category on your list. If you’re on the magical 4-activities-per-day plan, that can look like one activity from each category. If your list leans too heavily in any category, or lacks another completely, take a moment to consider what changes, if any, might be beneficial. 

If you find your list is exclusively Must-Do Activities, consider if you may be over-scheduling yourself. Are you working all day, every day, like so many of us are? If so, are there any changes that can be made to create space for other things? 

Similarly, if your list lacks any Restorative Activities, is it possible to add in one tiny activity just for you today, and see how it turns out? Again, pay attention to what must be completed, versus what can be moved to tomorrow’s list without much consequence. If you must make the choice between vacuuming the house and giving yourself a 15-minute restorative reading break at the close of a long workday – my vote’s on the reading break, every time.

Practice making this list either at the start of your day or week as a touchstone to “get motivated”. Listen closely to see what information it gives you about how much you are actually doing in a day and what types of activities you typically prioritize.

And by being more intentional, you can set yourself with a motivated schedule that is mindful and balanced.

Adapted from the original post.

Dana Belletiere, LICSW, MSEd, is a licensed therapist serving clients in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, in person and virtually. In her practice, she focuses on helping clients to shape their own narratives, accept and love all parts of themselves, and cultivate an authentic and meaningful life. When she’s not with clients, you can find her writing or reading in a local coffee shop. Learn more about Dana’s work and visit her at www.DanaLICSW.com