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Mr Motivator

Whenever I advertise my availability to take on people’s problems on this blog, one subject comes up more consistently than any other. In a word, it’s motivation. It was all right in the nineties, when we had a strange lycra-clad man to supervise motivation (if you’re too young to know what I’m talking about, do a google search for the name of this blog. But I hope you’re not). These days, a lot of people find it difficult to get – as they say – their shit together sufficiently to revise for exams, start writing that book that’s crying out to be brought into the world, eat dinner, and so on.

Now, this is one of the few problems I feel in some way qualified to comment upon (not that a lack of qualifications has ever stopped me commenting on everything else). If there’s one thing I am noted for, it’s effort. Effort has been the key to my career so far; it’s kind of my equivalent of talent. I throw myself into things, often a lot of things at once, with no real consideration of how I and my loved ones will be inconvenienced. I attempt far more than I can ever accomplish. I am often deterred from doing things by a breakdown in confidence, but never by not bothering. So I’m going to suggest a few motivational tips, for the benefit of all those who have asked for them.

START WORKING! – Odd, even stupid as it sounds, one of the best tips anyone ever gave me was: ‘the best way to start working is to start working’. In other words, people find a lot of ways of shuffling around the task in hand. You can always send some emails, tidy the room, reorganise your desk, make a work timetable and so on. When it comes down to it, none of this is as good as just bloody doing the actual work. Even a few lines written feels like a huge success compared with a lot of petty tasks. So try and force yourself to do something, anything, that actually takes you closer to finishing the job. Make yourself write something down or learn a couple of definite things. You’ll feel so much better. Nothing’s ever as intimidating as it seems before you start.

TRICK YOURSELF – …on that note, if you’re writing an essay, use a big font. Write a pointlessly long introduction which you won’t actually use. Leave gaps. Do anything, in other  words, to con y0urself into feeling that you’ve actually made progress. Even though it’s you tricking yourself, it still kind of works. A blank page will always discourage you. Fill it with anything.

FEAR FACTOR – We all know the extraordinary amount that can be achieved when you’re scared, i.e. 48 hours before an exam. Try to produce this (positive) fear before it actually gets to the critical stage. Imagine what it would be like going into the exam now-this-minute. Maybe look at a past paper and embrace the terrible feeling that you can hardly do any of it. Too much fear will de-motivate you, but a little is a good idea.

COLLEAGUES OF A KIND – Some people love working with a friend, others find it impossible. I always found it impossible; you can’t concentrate properly. But you can be aware of what other people are doing, and try to keep pace with them. For example if you have a friend you talk to every day, let yourself be psyched out by what they’re doing; try and match it. Be competitive. It’s one of the most powerful impulses making you do things. It may not be entirely positive but it is so powerful.

REMEMBER IN THE END IT’S YOUR LIFE – This is the toughest tip of all, but it’s worth saying nonetheless. Ultimately, it’s your responsibility how much you make of your own opportunities. Life tends to be quite unforgiving when it comes to excuses. No-one really cares how great things COULD have been if you’d done this or this. No one is too bothered about ‘potential’ when it’s too late to fulfil it. If you don’t make the most of things, you will tend to be trampled by those who do, even if in other ways they’re less deserving.

IT’LL BE FINE – I can’t really leave it on that note, though, so just to finish off: remember, things will be OK. Hard work doesn’t always bring the rewards it deserves, but more often not it will. Most often, making the effort will pay off, even if perhaps it pays off in ways that you weren’t expecting. Back yourself. Go for it.

40 Responses

  1. DeborahF says:

    I always find reward as a good motivator as well. If you need to motivate yourself for a task then plan something to do once it’s complete (and only when it’s complete). Make it something you enjoy whether it’s half an hour with a good book, an evening out with friends or that cupcake that’s sitting in the cake tin :)

  2. DeborahF says:

    Oh and I forgot to mention I am old enough to remember Mr Motivator and now I can’t get that Lycra clad image out of my mind (sometimes I curse my visual imagination). Thanks for that Mark :(

  3. Maddie says:

    Thankyou Mark, oddly enough this was exactly what I needed to hear at this precise moment in time. (And I mean that as in now,right this very second, while I’m putting off writing my essay).

    I’m off to write some words.


  4. Carl says:

    A friend’s mum has a picture of her standing next to Mr Motivator, both clenching their fists and growling, in her lounge. It’s amazing! But she also says him staring at her while she just sits and watches TV encourages her to get up and do. I did that at Uni. Having pictures of loved ones, or people you admire, just looking at you with their successful eyes when you can’t be arsed is GOOD motivation.

    Solid advice as ever, Mark. You are splendid.

  5. Sam says:

    This is really useful for me at the moment. Thank you.
    Although whilst saying that is nice, it is also rather dull so I shall add more to this comment.
    Namely what I am adding is an embarrassing reminiscence. I remember Mr Motivator (that’s not the embarrassing part) although I was very young and about seven or eight. At this time me and my friend Josh decided to play a game of imagination where one of us played Mr Motivator, and the other played who we believed to be his sidekick who was the weedy man from the flash adverts. I played the weedy man despite being a chubby child, and Josh played Mr Motivator despite being the second palest child in school (I was the palest). Thus no one knew who we were being, and it was just my friend running round in a multicoloured lycra suit which was too big for him which he stole from his mum, and me following him in floppy rubber gloves and safety goggles that encompassed most of my face.

  6. LIzzy says:

    “I throw myself into things, often a lot of things at once”
    … and we love you for it.

  7. Gareth says:

    As someone who hasn’t moaned to you about motivation but is nevertheless periodically in dire need of it, thank you for the advice and encouragement. I will attempt to adopt some of your strategies and keep in mind that by September this damnable exam and mound of coursework will presumably somehow be out of the way. If all else fails, the memories of Mr Motivator will see me through.

  8. Marie says:

    This actually could not have come at a better time. Thank you!

  9. Kate W says:

    Having spent the last two and a bit hours watching Doctor Who, I’m pinning that penultimate paragraph above my desk.

  10. Natalie-Helen says:

    I have the slightly unfortunate habit of getting motivated at times when it is not feasible to do anything.
    Like at 3am I get fabulous ideas and a great desire to work but know that in the long run I have to go to bed.
    Perhaps it is a perverted form of procrastination. Knowing subconsciously that I can’t do anything about it now means I have an excuse to why I have nothing done. “I was well up for writing the essay but it was 4am and I had lectures in the morning”.
    Getting motivated is hardest for me when I am even slightly depressed. Its when I feel tired and sluggish all the time and without the ability to do anything. Its hardest then to use any of the “get started” “its your life you’re fucking up” and “OMF it’s tomorow” work triggers as everything seems futile!
    Thanks though Mark, I seem to respect and pay attention to what you say in your blogs more than my parents, lecturers and careers advisors combined. Not to put you under too much pressure.

  11. lex says:

    Printed. Sticky taped. Up on the wall.
    Now assignmenting.
    Cheers Mark :)

  12. Emmy says:

    ‘Go for it’

    I really needed to hear that. Mark, you must be psychic. :)

  13. Dawn says:

    Thankyou for today’s words which are very significant for me. This morning I have to attend a meeting with my Assistant Manager to Appeal against a Written Warning I received last week for sickness absence.
    Three weeks ago I was sent home by Sainsbury’s Pharmacist because I was having dizzy spells and after telling her I had been on medication for high blood pressure, she took my blood pressure three times and it was dangerously high. She said if I ignored her advice and stayed at work I was in danger of collapsing!
    The next day I visited my Doctor who doubled the stength of my medication and told me to “do nothing” for a few days to try to lower my blood pressure.
    Unfortunately last December I had got a verbal warning because I had been off twice in the last six months with severe chest infections (I’m Asthmatic)
    So I automatically got a Written Warning this time with no regard to the fact that a fully qualified pharmacist had sent me home!
    I’m not the most assertive person so I’m dreading this morning’s meeting
    and I know I’m will get a red blotchy face cos of nerves, however I will think of today’s Blog and try to stand up for myself:-)

  14. Alex says:

    I’m going to the library in a minute. It’s 8:09am. I am officially motivated.

  15. Emily says:

    Whilst this will be useful to me for my next exam, I really shouldn’t have read this an hour before an exam I am absolutely not ready for. I didn’t have the fear before, which was why I have slacked in revision, which is why I’m not ready, but I have the fear now and it’s too late. I do like the last paragraph though, my life motto, roughly, everything always turns out OK in the end, even if it’s a bit shit along the way. I am known for repeating “It will all be fine” over and over before exams. Thanks for the tips (for next time), I’m off to see how much I can cram in an hour (actually 45 mins now, ARGH!)

  16. cailin says:

    I’ve also printed this and stuck it up on my wall. Now let’s go be motivated to study for my linguistics exam tomorrow..

    Thanks Mark. :)

  17. misha says:

    Mr Motivator no, Richard Simmons yes. I wasn’t born til ’92 though.
    And now to actually take this advice and gett on with some work.

  18. david says:

    also has a linguistics exam today…?!?!!?

  19. Hal says:

    Ha, was on Twitter instead of working…very timely.

    Am now going to crack on with my actual job!

  20. Anji says:

    The scary thing about Mr Motivator? I’m sure in the last few years he actually came back and had his grandson doing it all with him! To remember him twice and not be 30 yet has to
    be wrong.

    Wise words Mr Watson. And already proving to be useful.

  21. Henr says:

    I’m writing my dissertations (yes, plural dissertations).

    Thanks Mark. Any chance you know anything on political corruption?

  22. Claire says:

    Dude.. you are my saviour. (This comment equates to more than I’ve actually written in my essay… hmmm)

  23. clara81 says:

    Great advice Mark!

    I used to reward myself with a sweet or something at the end of every paragraph when I was writing french essays. Great for the essay, not so good for my waistline. But who cares!

  24. Ciara says:

    Starting my second year pharmacy exams in a few hours – having done next to no study, I was feeling particularly demotivated, but having read this, even if the first exam is a guaranteed fail, I’m gonna pull up my socks for the rest and give them my best shot. Much needed, Watson. Cheers! :)

  25. Ben says:

    i like how some people will love a couple of these, while someone else will love completely different ones. there’s something for everybody.

    my favourites:

  26. Ryan Thomas says:

    Ha, started reading this instead of studying chemistry. Decided to ‘start working’ as suggested and never finished the article! Wide words, Mr W, wise words. PS: I’m old enough to remember Mr Motivator, Mad Lizzie and The Green Goddess. Bad times…

  27. Rachael says:

    Thanks Mark, i’ll go finish that research proposal now.

    P.S. I used to love watching Mr Motivator.

  28. Tasha says:

    Thanks, this came at the right moment for me, have been moping about for ages wanting to work for myself, moaning about other people who have done it, it’s so true when I look back on my life I don’t want to still be moaning on about what I could have done blah blah. It’s given me a good kick up the arse today x

  29. Kelly says:

    excelent blog, im on study leave for my exams and my history one is on friday, im pretty nervous but havent actually revised yet. Blog came at the perfect moment

  30. Amanda says:


    Wise words there! :) Ive been off work sick for the last 6 weeks so have been moping around for the last while! However I was informed today that I have 4 months to finish my psychology course as I am starting a course for work in September! So well times words!! :) Cheers!

    PS: Will be printing out and sticking on my wall!

  31. Anisa says:

    I have a Spanish oral exam on Tuesday, and having not yet acquired ‘The Fear,’ I’m being a lazy bum by closing my mind off from the thought of how scary said exam will be, thus can’t kick my arse into gear and get work going. Have you ever had to do this? It feels like this blog should be the key to getting me on my way, but my lethargic, in-denial mind won’t bloody listen. Sadface.

  32. Sarah says:

    This post could not have come at a better time. Hopefully i’ll be able to get through my finals now! Thanks mark!

  33. Laura says:

    I had to motivate myself pretty hard for my driving lessons; I hated them with a passion and would barely sleep because of it. All paid off today, though, as I passed my test. A few years later than my friends owing to my sheer lack of confidence but I got there in the end.

    Very wise advice, Mark.

  34. chris says:

    and on that, i might just stop arsing about online and get back to my revision.

    cheers mark!

  35. Anji says:

    Well done Laura! As a 27 yr old who can’t drive I admire you!
    I started to learn last year, hated it a little less than I thought I would, gave up but plan on taking it back up soon-ish!
    Enjoy the fact it’s done and be proud you did it!

  36. Lally says:

    Thank you! This is solid gold.
    The idea that ‘the best way to start working is to start working’ is especially resonant, and I’m seeing it in my small ways.
    Additional thanks to you inspiring and valuable commenters/TYSIC forum-ers.
    I love what you have done/are building here, and can’t help being tickled for my own selfish benefit as well …

  37. Laura says:

    Thanks, Anji! Ooh, it is a nice community, this.

  38. [...] Watson: Mr Motivator I don’t really like motivational advice, but when it’s coming from somebody like the [...]

  39. Knox says:

    Despite the fact it’s from so long ago, I’d like to think this blog is a gentle reminder to get my ass into gear, and get on with the figures I have to have ready for my manager by tomorrow!! So, off the blog, and onto the remote server…*sigh*

    Thanks for the tips though – I always find, no matter how many times I read about ways to stop procrastinating, it’s always handy to have a refresher.

    Right – service spec!

  40. Knox says:

    Sam’s comment just made me laugh so much I started coughing – ah, such a brilliant image of you and your friend rushing around the school playground!

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