How do you motivate yourself

I struggle with staying on task and motivated. Struggling with ADHD with a strong ‘novelty-seeking’ personality makes it difficult to focus my interests on things even when I know I want to do them.

Do you have any tips for staying motivated and on task?

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I find it hard to read the same book for hours. I soon lose concentration and it becomes a grind. But if I read one chapter then switch to another book and read one chapter (scale up to ten books if you have hours) I keep getting the novelty buzz so I can keep concentration. Plus after reading a chapter from each book, the suspense for the first book builds up so I can do the cycle again.

In one IF project you could try alternating different activities like designing, writing, programming, testing. Start off switching every 10 minutes and try to go longer over time.

I wrote an article about this last week!

(And now I feel very pleased with my timing.)

Obvious disclaimer: no technique will work for everyone. This is what has worked for me. (And I should by no means be taken as a model of self-motivation, so there’s that.)

What has helped me in the past, though, has been starting small. My usual pattern is to come up with an idea that is ridiculously large - the sort of thing that I could, in theory, create, but only if I worked consistently on it for several years - then get discouraged when there’s not much palpable progress. Starting out by making very small games - the kind you can produce in a few hours, or a weekend - helped me to get something actually finished, and knowing that you can produce something finished and playable is a big confidence boost. (Not to mention that finishing a game requires a different set of skills to starting one - it’s important to train both.)

It can also provide some motivation to take part in a game-jam, minicomp or similar small event: this gives you a deadline, and usually the expectation that you’ll have at least some audience at the end of it, and that they’ll be grading on a curve.

Change your work environment up. Invisible Parties has a bunch of coffee-shops and bars listed in the credits for a very good reason. People talk about reducing distractions, and that’s part of it, but honestly I could still waste time on Twitter or whatever in any of those places; but it helps for me to say that I’m in a place for a specific purpose.

This is a great article, and things that I haven’t tried before. Thanks! Also, your hair is very blue.

Thanks for the other suggestions as well from other posters.

Thanks to merlinfire for starting this thread, and to everyone that’s offered suggestions!

(I don’t have any suggestions to offer, but I know that feeling of losing all motivation.)

@cvaneseltine I’ve got that post bookmarked!

Apparently very badly as of late.

I can’t do coffee shops. I have to lock myself away where there are no other people, and preferably not even any sounds. Definitely no music. Even having plans for later in the afternoon/evening can throw me off, because then I think ahead about when I’ll have to start wrapping up to get ready to go out.

Basically, I write best when I’m isolated. Then there aren’t any distractions. Just me and the computer. If you aren’t getting anything done in that situation, you just feel the time wasting away and it snaps you back to business.

Of course sometimes you have to take a break. Go for a walk. Etc.

Another thing: I’m much less motivated to write when I haven’t read a good book in a while. Reading a good book is like throwing more wood onto the fire. It doesn’t matter whether the book is related to whatever project I’m working on. It just has to be good. If I’ve been reading a string of mediocre or bad books, my enthusiasm fades.

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I found Carolyn’s article on motivation useful, and maybe it has help me finally finish something for IF Comp. I started to learn Inform 7 and published my first game three years later. I was motivated primarily by two things: The game was for ShuffleComp 2014, and I felt obligated to finish the work because there was a chance someone would be writing a game based on a song I submitted. I also think starting out with a short working period helped because my ideas for the game didn’t have time to go stale.

So, as people have pointed out, being accountable to someone and writing short works may help keep you motivated.


I’ll probably get some kind of necromancy badge for resuscitating such an old thread but motivation is something with which I have really struggled in my quest to create my first parser-based text-only game (I used to love them as a kid, so why not start with creating one?) I have a project that was going really well, did all the paper-based design, started coding, and then just ran out steam. It’s a project that’s been gathering dust ever since.

I’m not sure whether I’m just venting with this post as a circuitous way of seeking validation that “it’s OK to take a break for 6 months” or looking for some new advice on how to approach returning to a project.

Most likely, it is just a rhetorical post that’s helping me by giving me an outlet for my frustration to (hopefully) a sympathetic and empathetic audience. A form of therapy, if you will :slightly_smiling_face:.

Thanks for indulging me!


Well, for what it’s worth, I started making a not-at-all-ambitious Twine game in 2013 and basically took a 6+ month break every time my life got busier or I lost interest in the writing or I couldn’t figure out a design problem. And then, this year, it reached a state where I felt okay saying “I’m not going to add anything else to this.” It’s actually quite a satisfying feeling. So I think it is in some sense “OK” to work like this. The IF police aren’t going to show up.

One thing I did notice was that after these long breaks, when I came back I had lots of new ideas, and the work I had already done seemed to conflict with these ideas. I did feel a pretty strong need not just to revise my previous work, but completely re-do it. This seems to me to be a natural response, but not one that’s conducive to finishing a project. I think I might have been better off resisting this and saving my “exciting and novel ideas that require a bunch of rework” for the next project.


I had forgotten about this thread but since I got the notification I thought I’d pop back in.

I never really overcame the problem. I beat my head against an invisible wall for years and pretty much had given up. Ended up losing my job (lack of energy + work from home in COVID year did not work out), and only then started trying anti-depressants. I am frankly very pleased with the changes. I have a lot more energy, I am able to focus much more easily on what I set my mind to. I feel less anxious about everything. Negative thoughts and emotions are easier to shed when I encounter them. Based on this I would recommend anyone struggling like I did at least consider talking to a doctor.

I wish I had done this years ago.


So, I’m maybe not the best to take advice from on motivation because I have a history of not finishing projects. To me, the question of whether it’s in within my ability to do something is far more interesting than actually doing it. So when I get to the point in a project where it feels like it’d probably be smooth sailing to the end, I get bored and drop it. That’s just how I work and I’ve come to terms with that.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel obligated to finish things, which can really bring my morale down. To overcome this, I have to forcefully categorize my projects. Are they necessary, or are they for fun? Are they for myself, or are they for praise by others? If I find that I’m working on that I classify as neither necessary nor fun and I’m solely doing it for praise, I toss that project and never look back.

As for actually staying motivated, social media is my kryptonite. Discord, Twitter, IRC, this board… I have to put my phone on the other side of the room if I want to concentrate on a movie or playing a game. I’m the worst. PC is still a struggle because the apps are right there…


try to do nothing for 5-10 minutes, then start thinking about what you will got in the future if you will spend some time on your thing now, for example for me it was not easy to be productive in my property in Berlin here but when I started to do small steps it became much easier

I tend to find it easier to write parser games because there’s more coding involved. It’s a cliché that we have a left (analytical) and right (creative) side of the brain, but I definitely have days when I feel more like coding than writing, and vice versa, so with a code-heavy format like Inform I can make progress with a game no matter what mood I’m in.

I second Maga’s comment (from 2015!) that it’s better to start small, though I have broken that rule several times. What’s most demotivating for me is the feeling that it’s going to be years and years before I can release something. I usually have several games on the go at the same time (currently five) and I plug away at them for years until one of them suddenly reaches the tipping point and begins accelerating towards the finish line. I then focus on that one exclusively until it’s done.

I’ve only released six games, so perhaps I’m not one to talk. I’m constantly disappointed in my own lack of output and every time one of the big competitions rolls by and I don’t have anything to enter I beat myself up about it relentlessly. That people can release two or more (decent) games a year is just astonishing to me, but I also know that it’s ridiculous to compare myself to others whose circumstances might be completely different to mine.


Sounds so relatable. I have some games I’ve been working on for ages, I think my biggest problem with any creative project is that initially I have tons of motivation and ideas but tend to lose it after a while. I don’t know how to solve this. I usually even start to doubt the premise, afraid it’s somehow flawed or uninteresting, making it hard to come back to it.


Mara, I think that happens to everybody. On a couple of my games I’ve reached a point where I just couldn’t make any more progress, and what worked for me was asking for help. A fresh pair of eyes on your unfinished project can be a real help, especially if you’re the only person who’s ever seen it, and often the problems are not as difficult to fix as you think.