There is lots of concern about teachers motivating their students, but I sometimes find I need to motivate myself first.

Being motivated and staying motivated is difficult. Now that we're in the new year and back to work, I'm finding that I have endless energy and bags of enthusiasm, which is in stark contrast to the holiday mode of the end of last year when I struggled to even think about putting pen to paper, let alone deal with pesky students. Amazing the difference a few weeks make.

Then I started to wonder why this happens every year and a whole lot of times in between. I seem to struggle with bouts of extreme energy and motivation on the one hand and deep, dark pits of lethargy and boredom on the other. Working as a freelancer this can be quite costly, adding even more stress to an already-fragile situation. So what exactly is it that separates the sparkles from the darkness?

Well, I gave it some thought and here are a few ideas which I will bear in mind throughout the rest of the year in the hope that I will be able to channel my creativity better and more productively. And without so much coffee.

1. Accept that not every day is going to be a great workday. I will have off-days: not-amazing lessons, writer's block. That's ok; it happens. There's always tomorrow.

2. Accomplish at least one thing every day. If I'm having a mental-block day, do at least one thing on my list. If I'm struggling to write, do some reading, research my next article, write a quick blog post, clear out my inbox. Just do something; it will give you a sense of accomplishment, which is way better than the feeling of frustration of not doing anything.

3. Step away from the computer. (A bit more difficult if you have lessons to teach, but still appropriate when it comes to things like lesson planning). If things aren't flowing, I can get so frustrated with myself. Instead I should run away to the gym or grab a coffee with a friend - do anything for an hour or so, then come back fresh.

4. Don't think so hard. Some days I can spend ages plotting and planning, without actually making a decision or doing anything. Stop chasing perfection; satisfaction only comes on the third or fourth attempt anyway. If I just do it, it'll get done.

5. Take time off. Take a day off every week or so when I do absolutely nothing related to work - no reading, no blogging, no nothing. A 1-day holiday. Both your head and your heart will appreciate it.

So there: 5 ways to keep those motivation levels above zero for the new year. Hopefully they will work for you too, regardless of if you are a teacher, writer or just general EFL magician.

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