how to get and stay motivated

Motivation is an important part of life, it’s one of the driving forces that helps us get things done.

Feeling motivated can make it easier to get up in the morning, work through tasks, and do the things that are important to us. The thing is though, no-one feels 100% motivated all the time – it can go up and down – and this can make it harder to live our lives the way we want to.  

Feeling unmotivated can be tough, but there are skills you can practise to help build your motivation and achieve your goals. 

Keep going to learn more.


Causes of low motivation

Motivation, like our mood or energy levels, can be high, low or in between.  

We all feel low motivation sometimes and it’s not always easy to figure out why. Lots of things can contribute so it’s a good idea to have a think about what’s going on for you. 

Have you noticed any of these?

  • feeling flat or sad
  • withdrawing from things you used to enjoy
  • feeling overwhelmed or stressed
  • feeling ill, tired or exhausted
  • not knowing where to start
  • not being interested or being bored
  • not feeling confident about what needs to be done
  • feeling worried that you don’t have the support


Having concerns, worries, and ups and downs are a normal part of life, however they can contribute to us feeling unmotivated and make it harder for us to get things done.

If they’ve been going on for a while though, your mood is low, and you’re experiencing negative thoughts, it’s a good idea to talk about it and get some support.


Low motivation is normal and expected after we experience big stressors or change in our lives like breakups, the death of someone close, or leaving or losing our jobs.


How to get motivated

It can be hard doing stuff if we’re feeling flat, down or worried, however not doing things can make us feel worse. We might feel like we're failing or falling behind – and this can make it even harder to get started. It can become a cycle. The best way to break this cycle is to take action.

As tough as it sounds, the key is to get started and focus on doing – even if you don’t feel like it and don’t want to. Starting can often be the most difficult part, but once we take those first steps, we can find it’s not as bad as we thought it might be.

Try starting with activities that are meaningful or purposeful to you, (e.g., catching up with friends, art, or being in nature) and reward yourself every step of the way. Rewarding yourself is super important – it can help motivate you to keep going.

Doing nice things (self-care!) and completing tasks can give us a sense of accomplishment, boost our mood and increase our energy levels.



Depression and motivation

For many people who experience depression, low motivation can be one of the first signs they notice when a depressive episode is about to begin. For example, tasks that were once easy to complete become much harder, or they might stop doing activities they usually enjoyed. Learning to identify when low motivation starts, and taking action can be really helpful.



So how can you get started? 

We’ve broken up our tips up into different categories, some of them cross over and can be used in all areas of our lives. Give them a try and see what works for you.

If you’re struggling to find the energy to get started, think about a gentle way to begin.



  • take time to reflect on your values and what is important to you

  • draw, write them down, or make yourself a story board

  • set goals that align with your values and prioritise them in your life

  • share them with people you trust

  • surround yourself with supportive and positive people who uplift you

  • look after yourself to help you feel your best

  • celebrate all your small wins along the way – how will you reward yourself?


Values are our personal compass that help us know what matters to us most. For example, kindness, honesty or respect, can be values that shape how we treat others and navigate our relationships.

Work and study

Try starting with one thing you know you can do or the smallest part of one of your tasks, then slowly add things in step-by-step. This can help you feel like you’re making progress and build your motivation and energy levels.



  • break down larger projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. For example, plan, gather resources, complete specific sections and review your work

  • find things that interest you in tasks you don’t like

  • try sandwiching tasks you don’t like between ones that you do

  • do something you enjoy when you complete a task or finish work

  • set clear and achievable goals

  • get to know your colleagues and build healthy relationships



  • create a study schedule, include breaks and time for self-care

  • focus on your current tasks rather than getting overwhelmed by every item on your to-do list

  • surround yourself with supportive family and friends

  • treat yourself to something you enjoy doing along the way

  • make a list of all the benefits of achieving your tasks and keep them handy


If you’re finding your work or study tasks challenging – ask for help. You could chat to your boss, a colleague, teacher, lecturer, or your family.


Staying active

When we’re feeling stressed or experiencing low moods, the last thing we might want to do is get active, but it’s super important for our mental health and wellbeing. You don’t need to go to the gym, just get your body moving and get out into nature if you can

  • choose activities that you enjoy and that fit your lifestyle

  • find a workout partner or join a group class

  • listen to music or podcasts

  • set some measurable goals

  • have a routine or schedule.   


Noticing how you feel before and after you do any tasks/activities can help with motivation, as we often feel less stressed, in a better mood, or more confident once they’re finished. What do you notice?

How to stay motivated

It’s normal for motivation to come and go in waves.

Some things that can help are:

  • think about the benefits of what you want or need to do
  • track your progress so you can see your accomplishments
  • reward yourself
  • adjust your goals – i.e., do you need to break them down further; do you need support?



What to do if you lose motivation

We all experience moments of low motivation. Take a step back and try some of these tips:

  • take a break: Taking a short break can help clear our minds. Can you go for a walk and get into nature?

  • talk about it: Sharing what’s going on for us with trusted family and friends can help us feel supported

    • be kind to yourself: being kind to ourselves can help build our confidence. Treat yourself the way you’d treat a friend

  • reassess your goals: Reassessing our goals can help make sure they’re still relevant, and remind us of what we want to achieve


We all have times when things don’t go as planned, when this happens, it’s important to think about the reasons for wanting to achieve something. This can help reinspire and motivate us to try again.


Looking after yourself

Looking after ourselves is always important, but it can be really helpful when we’re not feeling motivated. Self-care can reduce stress and help improve our energy levels. These are things like staying active, spending time with people we care about and doing the things we love. For some people, self-care can include connecting to their spiritual or faith-based practices.

Check out our 7 tips for a healthy headspace.


Getting support

Talking about what’s going on for you with someone you trust can help you feel supported and understood. You could talk to a trusted family member, friend, an Elder, or a teacher.


Professional support

We all need extra help from time to time. If you’ve tried some of our tips and you’re still not getting anything done, or your mood is low, it's a good idea to reach out for support.  You can reach out to your GP or contact us at eheadspace, our phone and online service, or your nearest headspace centre.

If you’re 15-25 and want some work and study support, you can get free and confidential help from the headspace Work and Study team and sign up for one-one-one support.


Find out more about headspace Work and Study 


Other useful resources


The headspace Content Reference Group oversee and approve resources made available on this website.

Last reviewed 13 June 2023.

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Centre for Clinical Interventions (2020). Procrastination self-help resources

Procrastination Self-Help Resources - Information Sheets & Workbooks (


Morris, L., Grehl, M., Rutter, S., Mehta, M., & Westwater, M. (2022). On what motivates us: A detailed review of intrinsic v. extrinsic motivation. Psychological Medicine, 52(10), 1801-1816. doi:10.1017/S0033291722001611

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Sheehan, R. B., Herring, M. P., & Campbell, M. J. (2019). Associations between motivation and mental health in sport: A test of the hierarchical model of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 31(3), 257-273. doi: 10.1080/10413200.2018.1507998

Frontiers | Associations Between Motivation and Mental Health in Sport: A Test of the Hierarchical Model of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation (


Tranquillo J, Stecker M. (2016). Using intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in continuing professional development

Using intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in continuing professional education.

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