Motivation Ebbs and Flows

Motivation ebbs and flows, and I’m beginning to think that must be normal.

Do you know what I intended to do last night? Work on a very cool project that’s (almost!) ready to announce, make more progress on my upcoming podcast, and cross about 12 other things off my list.

Do you know what I actually did yesterday after I got home from work? Spent 3 hours looking at air miles travel options, trying to figure out how we could go on a trip somewhere interesting for free. Then I spent another hour doing who-knows-what before finally starting on the soon-to-be-announced cool project.

Typical ebb and flow

That’s a typical, late in the week, “ebb” for me. I start out the week all fired up, and get a ton of stuff done on Monday, and then it peters out from there. By Friday I feel vaguely anxious at all that’s left undone. So I start to make up for it over the weekend, and am really into things and optimistic on Monday.

I’ve noticed something similar with my money, although thankfully the ebbs don’t happen all that often. For example, I’ll get very fired up about getting our mortgage paid off, we’ll send in money, and I’ll stare at the numbers like crazy, and then…I’ll kind of just let it go for a little while. We still make progress, but I get sidetracked or just lack motivation, and it doesn’t go as fast as I’d like. Rinse and repeat.

Overall, there’s progress, but looks more like climbing hills and valleys while gradually rising in elevation than a rocket shooting for the stars.

So does the ebb and flow need to be addressed?

Maybe it really is normal, and not even something to be addressed. But like all things related to life and money, the more you’re aware of what’s going on, the more effective you’re going to be at getting to where you want to be.

Maybe the key is to just take advantage of the natural cycle, and/or to get cheerleaders to help you get back on track when you show signs of veering off.

What do you think? I’m hoping this will be a participatory post, since I sure don’t have the answer :)


  • I don’t really have an answer to this, Jackie. I myself got sidetracked this morning following some interesting links, and the follow-up to last night’s post went unwritten. I’m sure we all follow the same patterns and cycles. I do try to do have regular routines, but I find that having too many routine tasks is self-defeating. Then it’s time to pare down and simplify.

  • I definitely have the same kind of experiences with my financial goals. What I’ve found over time is that it’s almost a welcome relief that there is an ebb & flow, otherwise I may get too bogged down to actually enjoy my progress, etc. Also, it seems like when one thing falls a bit to the wayside, something else equally important pops up on the radar.

    As much as I’d like to be kicking a$$ & taking names with every single objective/goal I set, I’ve realized that balance means being flexible, understanding that things will inevitably change no matter how iron-clad my plan seems to be at its onset, and that I should just sit back & enjoy the ride (while of course tracking spending, making progress, and being fully aware of where my $$ is going…haha).

    Perhaps it’s our brain mandating that we take a break from time to time??

    • That could be it! For me it seems like it’s the equally important things popping up on the radar that displace the existing things. Well, except my hours of unproductive web searching :)

  • When it comes to something like the mortgage, I would recommend setting small goals along the way. The number you likely have in front of you is big, and even when you take a small chunk out of it, it’s probably not enough to really get you gassed about it. If you set interim goals along the way that you can hit on a more regular basis, it should hopefully keep you motivated.

    In terms of a to-do list, if there’s something that I really want to do (maybe the looking for free trips), I’ll create a numbered list with a couple of the ’12 things I should do this week’ list above that. If I really wanted to look up that free trip, it would force me into getting at least a couple of the other things done.

    Just a couple of thoughts anyways.

  • Does your ebb and flow interfere with getting things done? Find a strategy that will work with you to overcome the issue. For example, I use a list. It keeps me focused and motivated to check it off.

    • I think it just slows me down. I’m the queen of lists — the problem is that when I get into the “ebb” I just ignore them completely!

  • Nice post and enjoyed reading. But I don’t believe in following routine work.
    I think if there is enough motivation, it automatically drives one to his goal.Thanks.

  • How bad is your motivation drain Friday? If you get so ahead of the game on Monday maybe you’re fine by the end of the week?

    Otherwise – just like you would budget your money, you might want to budget your time. “1 hour writing a post”, “30 minutes commenting”, etc.

    • It’s often pretty bad. If I made a chart of my motivation, it’d start out fairly high on Sunday, shoot to the roof on Monday, start to decline, and then have a sharp dropoff on Thurs-Friday.

  • I know that I need to work first thing in the morning. If I put it off until the afternoon I will no longer be motivated to do it. Even knowing that I still put it off sometimes thinking this time willl be different.

  • I think that many of us get so fired up with our plans that we don’t account for these ebbs and flows of motivation and energy. I don’t see it as slacking in anyway, or missing out on something that could have been done. Often, we just need to disengage – be it work, side business, or even a hobby.

    • Yeah, maybe I shouldn’t beat myself up over the ebbs, and instead just view it as downtime. So long as that downtime doesn’t get out of hand!

  • I think it’s normal to have ebb & flow. If you’ve noticed an overall decline in energy you might want to ask your doctor. When I’m low on energy I make sure I’m getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night & I try to eat more super foods to boost my nutrition. My mom swears by vitamin B12 supplements for energy.

    Personally I think it’s probably good to have ebb & flow patterns. We get a rest from the big push that drains us. Working hard does use up energy. Taking a break helps us re-charge. You might want to eat fewer carbs and more protein & produce to amp up your energy. That’s important for snacks too.

    During the holiday season there is more stress and that saps energy too. Try not to worry about it & just realize January will be less full. On my to-do list I’m happy if I get done the top 3 items and sometimes just one item! Don’t be too hard on yourself!

    • Those are good points. During the past month or so, I’ve also traveled a couple of times for business/work, and been dragging a cough/shortness of breath around with me. Time to cut myself some slack.

  • Absolutely. Cut yourself some slack & get your health back on track. We all need some downtime. You can’t go all out 100% all of the time. The body won’t stand it. Even cheetahs have to rest!

  • Motivation totally ebbs and flows. Check out my most recent post at MMI, and you can read about how I was a total slacker in November!

  • I know how you feel. I’ll have a super productive day and think I can get the same amount done the next day and it rarely works out that way. I really need to improve my focusing over the next 12 months! -Sydney

  • Jacqueline

    I feel that ebb and flow consists in one’s daily life in general and is not just related to money, I think that in order to see where we’re going we have to always be consciously aware of where we’ve been in our lives whether it be finances, love, parenting work so on and so forth it’s kinds life’s way of letting us know that everything’s gonna be alright as long as one stays in the presn’t moment and is aware of our life’s lessons big or small! That’s my take on it.

  • Jacqueline

    *kinda I meant to type!

  • mtdlv1

    Just like the seasons, tides and weather ebb and flow is a natural thing we can learn to deal with, control to a small degree but learning to embrace and make it work for us is the best plan. Not that I have that figured out! I’m just saying! LOL