How To Do Everything You Want To Do (Without Needing Motivation)

how to find the time and motivation to do everything you want to do

Do you ever feel like there just isn’t enough time in the day to do everything you want to do?

Are you constantly stressed out and overwhelmed with all there is to do?

If so, you are not alone.

I’ve gotten hundreds of emails from people struggling with this same problem…

  • “I have so many interests that I would like to either learn about or work on, but there’s just not enough time.”
  • “I tend to have this huge surge of motivation and have an incredibly productive day. However, in the following days, I tend to slip and then be super lazy.”
  • “I feel like I just lack the energy to summon up the willpower to achieve my goals.”

The overwhelm and unsteady levels of motivation were huge problems for me when I was in college, but over the last few years I’ve learned a few tricks that have helped me feel significantly less stressed out while being significantly more productive. Even on the days when I feel a complete lack of motivation (and trust me, there’s a lot of those days).

And now that I’m working from home (ever since I started working on this blog full-time a few months ago), I’ve also had to learn how to avoid the incredible urge to take naps in the middle of the day. Or to watch “just one more” YouTube video or to check Facebook “just one more time.” Since I have no boss, I can do whatever the hell I want everyday and no one would know.

And yet, these last two months have probably been the most productive months of my life. In the last 60 days…

  • I’ve built and sold my Create Your Passion Pilot Course (the “beta” version of my first online course. Registration is currently closed — planning to re-open in July).
  • I’ve written 6 blog posts (5 posts here on Collegetopia and one guest post on DeepExistence).
  • And I finally got around to updating the “Start Here” page (I’m happy to say that it now provides a much more accurate overview of what Collegetopia is all about — check it out if you haven’t already!).

How’d I manage to find the time to do all of this, despite the temptation of a nice, comfy bed—conveniently located just a couple feet away from my desk—calling my name everyday?

"home office"
My “home office” AKA my room. Distance between comfy bed and desk = ~2 ft.

Well, it’s not because I have crazy amounts of willpower or self-discipline.

It’s because I’ve learned how to implement a few simple strategies and psychological principles to maximize my motivation while simultaneously reducing my reliance on motivation.

Because at the end of the day, if the only time you ever do your work is when you’re feeling motivated, you’re never going to get shit done.

So, how can you increase your motivation while simultaneously reducing your reliance on it in order to get more done?

It all comes down to learning how to do two things.

1. Do LESS

The biggest problem that ambitious people face, myself included, is that we want to do EVERYTHING. We want to do it ALL.

But it’s just not possible.

You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

Trying to do it all is how you end up stressed out, overwhelmed, burnt out, and then disappointed in yourself for not being able to keep it all up.

Don’t do that to yourself.

You’re much better off focusing your attention on fewer things, and doing those fewer things extremely well, than trying to do a million things, and doing everything poorly.

“Most people aren’t failing because of their potential. They’re failing because their potential is spread in too many directions… pulling yourself in too many directions is the single quickest way to ensure failure. And putting your all into a single direction is the quickest way to ensure success.”
Oliver Emberton

You need to identify the few things that are MOST IMPORTANT to you and then focus on that, and nothing else.

Learn how to say no to ALL distractions.

This includes the obvious distractions like TV and social media, but it also includes the less obvious distractions and things that you might even consider “second priority items”—things that you normally wouldn’t even recognize as distractions in the first place. But if they’re not the MOST important things, that’s exactly what they are—distractions.

Anything that’s not directly helping you achieve your MOST important goals is preventing you from achieving those goals.

Stop doing things just because they “sound nice” or because you think you it’s something you “should” be doing.

Go through each of your commitments and analyze why you’re doing each one. Ask yourself how it supports what you believe in and why it’s so important to you.

I know this stuff might sound obvious, but the truth is that while most people know what they do and how they do it, very few have good reasons for why they do what they do. Don’t be like most people.

You need a powerful “why” for everything that you do. 

The stronger your “why” is for doing something, the more willing you will be to do it (and therefore, the more likely you will actually do it).

As explained by Simon Sinek in one of my all-time favorite TED talks, spending the time to clearly define the “why” behind your actions triggers a response in the limbic brain, which is the part of the brain that controls all of human behavior and decision-making.

Which is what makes this so powerful.

If you want to maximize your motivation and take greater control over your behavior, start by focusing your attention on fewer things and then spending the time to clearly define the reasons for why they’re so important to you.

2. FORCE Yourself

Even though having a powerful “why” for doing something will increase your motivation to do it, no matter how big and inspiring your “why” is, there will still always be days when you “just don’t feel like it.”

No one is motivated 100% of the time. Which is why you have to stop relying on motivation.

You have to learn how to force yourself to take action even when you don’t feel motivated. You have to learn to take action no matter how you feel.

It’s important to understand that motivation is an emotion. Which means that it comes and goes, just like all other emotions. Knowing this, you can’t let your emotions dictate your actions.

Instead of asking, “how can I stay more motivated?” you should be asking, “how can I force myself to take action even when I don’t feel motivated?”

That’s the better question.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Create Leverage.

    Instead of relying solely on your limited amount of willpower, create external pressures that will force you to take action.

    For example, if you wanted to set up a blog by the end of the month, you could tell a friend that you’ll pay them $100 if you don’t follow through. With a little bit of money in the game, you will create massive leverage on yourself to ensure that you take action.

    Here's another example of leverage in action. Last year I wanted to try waking up super early at 5:30 AM every morning so that I could work on my blog before going to work. I forced myself to wake up by scheduling this tweet to go out if I didn't.
    Another ex. of leverage in action: last year I wanted to try waking up at 5:30 AM every morning so that I could work on my blog before going to work. I forced myself to wake up by scheduling this automated tweet to go out if I didn’t (I stole this idea from my friend Thomas Frank).

    This type of external accountability will take you a lot further than sheer willpower. It requires a small amount of willpower in the short-term, but will greatly reduce the amount of willpower needed over the long-term because you’re no longer relying on willpower alone anymore. You’re basically giving yourself no choice but to follow through.

  • Work in time blocks.

    Block off chunks of time on your calendar dedicated to specific, individual tasks. Doing this prevents any wasted time thinking about what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it, because you’ve already made these decisions beforehand. Also, psychology studies have shown that the simple act of putting time on your calendar makes it more likely you’ll follow through.

    Then, when you actually sit down to do your work, set an alarm on your phone. This is such a simple thing to do, yet it’s one of the most powerful productivity tips I know of. Seeing the countdown of the timer will force you to stay focused.

    As you begin working, tell yourself, “I am going to work on this for [X amount of time]. For the next [X amount of time] this is my whole world.” Make sure to put your phone on airplane mode, close all tabs you don’t need, and use apps like Strict Workflow.

  • Remember the 40% rule.

    Navy Seals are known for being the toughest soldiers on the planet and one of the mental frameworks they live by is known as the 40% rule. This scientifically proven mental framework states the following:

    When your mind is telling you that you’re done and you’ve reached your limit, you’re actually only 40% done.

    In other words, when you think you’re tired and you think you’re done, you still have another 60% left in your reserve tank.

    I love this because it confirms what I’ve always believed–that we are all capable of doing so much more than we think we can. But you have to learn to ignore that little voice inside your head and force yourself to take action. As Mel Robbins once said, “your job is to make yourself do the crap you don’t want to do, so that you can be everything that you’re supposed to be.”

Stop Complaining…

If you feel like you don’t have enough time or motivation to do everything you want to do, chances are 1) you’re trying to do too much or 2) you just need to sack up and force yourself to do the crap you don’t want to do.

Stop complaining and do something about it. Start with this:

  1. Pick one of the two steps that you think you’re currently struggling with the most.
  2. Leave a comment below telling me exactly what you’re going to do to address it.

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About Stefano

Stefano Ganddini

Hey there! I'm the creator of Collegetopia and the guy who writes all these articles. I'm here to help you live BIG, do EPIC shit, & be HAPPY. Click here to read more.

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  • Dr. Feelgood

    Damn, I definitely have a problem with trying to do too much. What I’ve been trying to do recently is identify what my most important task is for each day and make sure I get THAT done, if nothing else. So far, it’s been proving to be a useful strategy.

    • Yup, that’s a very useful strategy! I only talked about identifying your most important commitments in this post, but the same idea should definitely be applied to identifying your most important tasks. Focusing on completing just ONE very important task (usually the most difficult and uncomfortable task) every day will take you a lot further than doing a million less important (and usually easier) tasks.

  • Alemarya

    I’m doing way too much. I’m going to pare down to two or three goals that I’m most passionate about and put my energy toward those. I’ll stop being so enamored with the idea of being like a Renaissance man :)

    • Good plan :) I had the exact same problem back in college — I loved the idea of being a “Renaissance man.” Took me forever to finally give up on it, but I’m so happy that I did. I’d much rather be GREAT at a select few things than mediocre (or “good” at best) at many things.

  • Love the 40% rule. Gonna steal that. Thanks Stefano! Now the difficulty is to remember that rule when I feel like quitting.

    • You’re welcome my man. Write it on a post-it and put it on your desk/wall!

  • What happens when for me, ‘doing too much’ is way less than what other people are doing? I thought I was doing good, but I tried to end my life some weeks ago. So much energy is going now towards taking care of my mental health, trying to fight off depression and the bit of anxiety that now seemed to come with it, that I’ve had to drop lots of stuff and it makes me feel worse, because I feel useless when compared to everyone else. The world doesn’t stop for you when you’re sick. I need life to go by at a slower pace, but that isn’t happening. Should I trust that I did the right thing, or really I should step up my game and try to do the average things everyone else is doing?

    • Hi Isho,

      Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone is on their own journey, just focus on doing YOUR best. Please take care of yourself, and don’t ever give up on yourself. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend checking out this article from Tim Ferriss:

      http://fourhourworkweek.com/2015/05/06/how-to-commit-suicide/

      If there’s ever anything I can do to help, or if you ever just want to talk, feel free to email me at [email protected].

      -Stefano

  • Winfred

    My biggest issue is with forcing myself. I noticed this on weekends during the school year and even more now that summer has started. Almost every day I make plans to be productive by applying to scholarships and learning Turkish for an ROTC scholarship program but I keep failing to be productive. Although both of these tasks would bring me great benefits and I would consider myself fairly motivated and ambitious I struggle to force myself to write an application essay or work on studying Turkish every day. I’m considering using time boxing and creating a system in the hopes that it’ll make make me more productive and proactive.

    • Yep, it’s always hard when there are no external pressures… which is why you have to CREATE your own external pressures. Time blocking is always helpful, but also make sure to give yourself deadlines and create some consequences for not meeting those deadlines. Give yourself no choice but to follow through! :)

      • Winfred

        Thanks for your reply. I’ve actually never created an actual consequence for myself whenever I miss my self imposed deadlines which probably explains why I can’t force myself effectively . The only thing now is thinking of effective consequences as I don’t really have money to wager. Any thoughts?

        • Well, if you don’t have money to wager, then that would be a VERY effective consequence, now wouldn’t it? :)

          If money is completely out of the question, try this:
          1) Give yourself a deadline.
          2) Make plans to do something fun, ideally with other people, the day after your deadline.
          3) Don’t allow yourself to attend said plans UNLESS you meet your deadline.

          This has proven to be very effective for me because it’s a combination of creating a reward (if you do follow through) AND a consequence (if you don’t).

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