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Learning to Love Yourself
with Habiba Jessica Zaman, NCC, LPC

Zero Motivation? How To Knock Out Your To- Do List

Some days,  it is difficult to get motivated to start the day just because it is cold and I do not want to get out of my fortress of comfort, surrounded by my pillows and loved ones. I do not want to be productive; I just want to stay there and snuggle and be happy and cozy. It starts around the fall time, because there are seasonal changes, and we as humans do not really do well with change. The adjustment period feels like a brick tied around my ankle, making it more and more difficult to feel motivated and be industrious.

As a therapist, I am expected to teach clients how to find motivation and it is most unfortunate to share with you that… motivation just does not come. I do not suddenly wake up one day and just say “you know that stack of insurance claims that I have to bill, oh I feel so motivated to do that right now”. Or how I have knocked over an entire row of bins in the garage that are now scattered around the floor and think, “oh you know what? Right now, seems like the perfect time, I’m so excited and motivated to go organize and clean it”.

That just does not happen. Not when these tasks are not in alignment with my immediate and prioritized values or when these tasks are in opposition to my state of being. Are there miraculous moments now and then where I do wake up and I’ve had a great night’s sleep and I’ll say “you know what? I think I’m going to work out this morning”? Yes! Now and then it does happen. But for the most part, the magical fairy dusting of motivation and the drive to accomplish is not present, especially if it is something you do not enjoy doing. Most of the time we get bogged down with all of these things that we “should” be doing. We “should” be exercising, getting up on time, filing those insurance claims, doing the work.

For some of us, they become these overwhelming blocks that just pile on our shoulders one after another until it feels like we are carrying the world on our shoulders. It feels heavy. That heavy burden could lead to giving up all together, saying “I just can’t, it’s too much, I can’t right now, so I’m just going to put it off and act like it doesn’t exist”. For others, these “should’s” fuel us to achieve and prove that we are enough, we are competent, or we are worthy of recognition. We work great under pressure, sure, but to the point where we are always in crisis mode.

Neither extreme of responding to “should’s” are healthy. Today I want to recommend that you take a moment, just a moment, to find your bearings, feel grounded; feel stable again.

When things are kind of going crazy, that sense of feeling frazzled can certainly lead to anxiety that stays with you the rest of the day. It makes you irritable, despondent and expels a lot of emotional/mental energy for something for an outcome that is ineffective because nothing is getting done- or so much has been tackled that your body is in the brink of shutting down.

So, take a minute and ground yourself. Sit down on the ground, literally, and close your eyes. Take a couple deep breaths, figure out where you are, listen to the small things in the background.

Do you hear the clock ticking? Do you hear your intake of breath? Do you feel the breeze on your skin? Notice the little nuances that go on around you?

Bring yourself to the present, to the moment. Take a couple of deep breaths. Is this meditation taking no more than 2-3 minutes? I suppose that it could be because it is mindfulness.  I know a lot of us do not really have the time to set aside, but just for a moment, especially when things feel so overwhelming, you can feel some reprieve. You deserve that moment, one that is just yours, where you can say “okay I’m here, I’m present right now, I matter right now”.

Afterwards, I want you to make a list with 3 different categories.

These lists make me feel that I have some semblance of structure and that structure calms my chaotic world.

So, in these lists, I want you to categorize a “HAVE To” list, a “NEED To” list, and a “Want To” list. The “HAVE To” list comes first because it is the easiest thing to get to. There are so many things that can go in there. But there is a difference between “I need to” and “I want to” and “I have to”.

Have to, today for example, I have to feed the babies in the morning. I also have to get them to school, I have to get to work, and I have to do my sessions. The other things that are on my list, for example, crumbs on the floor from their breakfasts, I do not HAVE to vacuum them up right this moment. Would I like to? Yes, because it is messy and that drives me crazy, and last night I spent 2 hours cleaning the floors. So yes, I would definitely like to sweep them up and feel that its clean again, but I do not HAVE to do that right this minute.

Time is very restrictive in the mornings for us anyways. The other thing I do not have to do today is go grocery shopping. It certainly can wait until tomorrow. Do I want it to wait until tomorrow? Of course not. But it CAN wait. I need to go, we need food for the weekend, but we have food in the pantry/ freezer and my kids will be okay. That is not something that has to get done right this minute. It needs to happen, but it can wait. There are so many things like this that can fall into this category.

Anything on this “Have To” list is crucial. Must be done and must be taken care of. The “Need To” list is items that have a leeway of a few days.

Now the “Want To” list, that is the fun part. Yes, the fact that I knocked over those bins while trying to get the Halloween decorations down and now Christmas stuff is on the floor in my garage… do I absolutely want to get that taken care of? YES, it drives me bananas that my garage, or my kitchen, or my house is like that, but those are “want to’s”. I want to get them done.

When there is so much to take care of, we have to give ourselves the grace to let some things go.

I am a single mom, running a tiny universe that I have created for myself with my practice, kids and my books. I have so much on my plate, that it is no longer a plate- it is a platter. At this moment, my platter is overflowing, and things are falling off because I put so much on myself, willingly.

Instead of falling apart internally, mentally, emotionally, or physically, I can start to feel like I am in control of some of it just by starting to sort them and tackling them one at a time. One list at a time.

The most important lesson here is not “don’t put so much on your plate” (I mean I would love to do that, I would totally live by that advice, but I don’t) but “to give yourself some grace”.

You are not superhuman. As much as I would love to be wonder woman, I am not. I am human. AND THAT’S NORMAL. Let me repeat that. IT’S NORMAL.

It is normal to be human, to be tired, to not feel motivated, to just want to crawl under the covers and say, “I don’t want to deal with all of this today”. Give yourself some grace, give yourself a moment, and offer love to yourself for what you have managed for today.

Zero Motivation? How To Knock Out Your To- Do List

Habiba Jessica Zaman, NCC, LPC

Habiba Jessica Zaman LPC, has a master’s degree in professional counseling specializing in trauma, and is the therapist and owner of North Star of Georgia Counseling. With fifteen years of work experience in the counseling field including counseling, advocacy, guidance, and education, she believes that as awareness of one’s fears, perception, desires, and strengths increase, one can make successful life changes. Self-awareness by becoming more honest with oneself, can initiate the authenticity that often results in healing, transformation, and living a fuller life. Habiba has created the I.D ME Quiz (which is designed to evaluate your general level of identity and determine whether you need to work on your self-image. Self-Awareness is an integral part of personal happiness, fulfilling relationships and achievement. Take this quiz to find out your true sense of self. She has thirteen publications that started with a children’s book titled, But I am Just Playing published in 2012, followed by Beautifully Bare, Undeniably You, award-winning Dear Time, Amazon best-seller Dear Love and You’ve Got This, Mama series released in 2018. Habiba is of Bangladeshi and American descent. She has two children and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her family.

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APA Reference
Zaman, H. (2020). Zero Motivation? How To Knock Out Your To- Do List. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 Jun 2020
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