6 Ways to Motivate Yourself

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Motivation is why we take action and do what we do. There are 2 types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Both are influenced by ADHD and can change (sometimes rapidly) with time.

Extrinsic motivation is when your behavior is driven by an external reward. This could be a good grade at school, a promotion, raise, a medal, a prize, etc.

Intrinsic motivation is internal and your behavior is driven by a personal interest in the activity itself.

Perhaps you love playing the piano, so practicing in between lessons is easy and enjoyable.

People with ADHD often struggle with motivation, particular for mundane tasks like housework and paperwork. However, it is possible to motivate yourself to do even the most boring tasks.


People with ADHD are very motivated by rewards. You can use that to your advantage and set up a reward system for all the important tasks that are hard to do. Rewards are most effective if you receive them straight away. This satisfies the need for immediate gratification that most people with ADHD have. For example, you do a load of laundry; then watch your favorite TV show. Not sure how to reward yourself? Think of the things you really love and use them as a reward. Drinking a cup tea, meeting up with a friend, a browse at a bookstore, some guilt-free computer time. Rewards don't need to be expensive or unhealthy.


Rewards and goals work hand in hand. Goal-setting is a great motivational tool. Nevertheless, when using extrinsic motivation to your advantage, there are a few things to keep in mind.  An ideal goal should be a stretch​, but still feel achievable to you; otherwise, you will find yourself feeling de-motivated, and then mentally switching off.

Break a big task down into smaller pieces and give yourself a reward every time you achieve a mini goal.


Competition increases your interest in a task and makes it more stimulating. You can create little competitions for yourself all day! For example, if you bike home from work, time yourself and see if you can get home faster than yesterday. If you have boxes of paperwork to sort through, how many boxes can you organize in 30 minutes? In the next 30 minutes, see if you can beat that number. The trick with competitions is not to compromise your safety or standard of work.


Adults with ADHD are motivated by the aspect of “new.” New feels exciting and fresh, which means your level of motivation and attention is high. When you are going about your day ask, 'How could I make this novel?'  You could change the environment you are doing the task or use a new gadget or tool to assist you. Keep your life interesting by embracing novelty.

Naturally interested

So far, we have been utilizing your extrinsic motivation.

 Though you can tap into your intrinsic motivation too. ‘What are you naturally interested in?  How can you use your natural interests to help you with your tasks? For example: if you love your new smartphone, you can use that to help you with a whole range of activities, from online banking, or exercise, etc.


Another way to use intrinsic motivation is to track your process. If you can see your effort and work is moving you forward, this is rewarding and you will want to keep going.

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