One of the biggest lessons that I've learned so far this year is that motivation is like a fickle mistress. Make discipline your lifelong partner.
My second pregnancy/maternity leave was very different than the first. I got diagnosed with gestational diabetes. One of the things it taught me was the advantages to be had by maintaining disciplined snacking habits. I discovered that if I ate an apple and a handful of cashew nuts at around 10 every morning, whether I was hungry at the time or not, I was likely to have a better day of eating and more energy.
But nutrition was where the discipline ended. Pretty much from the moment I got the GD diagnosis I was completely distracted by it and lost motivation for my PhD. I get obsessed by things really easily and I got obsessed with managing the GD and avoiding medication. Obsessed. As a result I didn't achieve as much as I had intended to prior to going on maternity leave because I allowed my mind to be taken over by the motivation I had for something else. This disinterest persisted throughout my maternity leave and I was totally dreading returning to my study. I felt like my mind had gone to mush and had a massive case of imposter syndrome. But I did it, because I said I would, and hoped the motivation would follow.
It sort of did happen like that. Enough that I felt like my brain switched on at least. But then I got the idea that to be fulfilled, I really needed proper work, not just the part-time PhD. I followed a few rabbit holes, again allowing my motivation for the new shiny thought to overpower what I really should have been focusing on.
In February my daughter started school. It's only about 1.5km away so I thought it would be a good chance to build in another form of regular exercise into my routine. I would walk and she'd go on her scooter. She scooted much faster than I walked, and I was quickly reminded of my lack of aerobic fitness when I tried to jog to keep up with her. This seemed like a easy problem to fix.
I used the C25K to start running. By about week three I was hooked (as mentioned before, I get obsessed easily). One of the things that I enjoyed about it was that it made me feel disciplined. I was doing something that I found hard and wasn't naturally good at straight away. I didn't do it necessarily because I felt like it, but it was scheduled (and I had to get home somehow) so I did it anyway.
Because I was running on my scheduled work days, it brought about improvements into my overall approach to work. I had my scheduled time in the morning for exercise, so I'd better make use of my scheduled time for work and just get into it. I learned that motivation is bullshit, discipline is king. My productivity and focus has never been better.
If you want to listen to someone really drive home this message, check out David Goggins on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. I'm not advocating his methods or anything, they are certainly not for me, but he has a fascinating story of how he has built his life upon the idea of 'callousing the mind'. I figure it's like religion, if it's not hurting other people then by all means do whatever works for you.