Staying Productive When It Feels Impossible

You need energy to get things done. But sometimes you just don’t feel like doing anything. You might be sleepy or you might not have eaten breakfast or your friends might be sleeping with you. Sometimes, no matter what you do, you just don’t have the energy to do anything. That’s okay! It is hard for everyone sometimes but it will go away soon and then we can try again!

For times you don’t have energy, these tactics will help you out more than anything else. I hope they are helpful to you like they were for me!

Zoom out and look at the big picture. Zooming out is a way to think about how a task you are doing now will affect your life in the future. It’s best to zoom out when you need motivation.

Zooming out means seeing how your task fits into the bigger picture of your life. It helps you understand its purpose and see how important it is to you. You might find that some tasks are unnecessary or don’t make an impact in your life, so you should either eliminate, delegate, or shrink them if you need to.

Look for procrastination triggers. Tasks on which people tend to procrastinate are often boring, frustrating, difficult, unclear, and/or unfulfilling. When you zoom out from a task that you’re struggling with and ask yourself which attributes the task has, then you can make a plan to flip these characteristics so it’s more enjoyable to complete it.

Examine how you treat yourself. If most people spoke to their friends like they spoke to themselves, they wouldn’t have many friends. When you put pressure on yourself and think about things that make you stressed, your negative self-talk can go up. When this happens for me, I get really stressed out and it’s not good for me.

If you are telling yourself negative things, you are only making it harder. On average 80% of what people say to themselves is negative. When the pressure builds up, remind yourself to be kind to yourself.

Write Drunk, Edit Sober. If you can’t think of an idea, just give yourself permission to do a really bad job. If you are the only person who will see the original version of whatever you are working on, then after you give yourself permission to do a bad job, it is likely that better ideas will come. Then when good ideas start coming up, remove the ones that were bad in the beginning.

Work less if you are not feeling it. If you work too much or too hard, then it will make you feel worse. So work less until you are comfortable with the amount of time that you spend working on something. For example, if I am supposed to do a report, but don’t want to work on one, I should shrink the number of minutes or hours that I will work on the report until I can deal with it better. Once you get started, you might even work longer than scheduled!

Set limits on how much you work. This will make you more productive. For example, if you give yourself an hour to finish a report as opposed to all day, then it will be easier for you because there is a deadline and you need to work harder during that time.

Take a break from your routine and try something different. We all change our behavior depending on what we’re doing. It is possible that just doing something different will help you feel better about yourself and start working again, like if you work in an office, arrive at work early when there are fewer people around or work from home or out of a coffee shop if you have that flexibility. I find myself in a rut often when I am working from home, so I always take time to leave the house to change my scenery.

Disconnecting from the internet. Disconnecting can help you work more. Research says that about half of our time on the internet is spent procrastinating. When you are not in a good mood to work, this number can go up higher. Disconnecting from the Internet will help you focus more, not waste time, and be more productive.

When all else fails, try bribing. When you are trying to be productive, one way to help motivate yourself is by rewarding yourself when you meet your goal. This can be anything from a coffee break, or 15 minutes on Facebook, or 30 minutes off work. A great reward is food!

The most important thing is not to be too afraid of being unproductive on occasion. Breaks help you feel better. They give you rest from work. Breaks are good for your feelings too. Taking a break can reduce your negative thoughts and help you relax to start working again. You should stop when you need to, but make sure to pick the right time to start again because breaks are good for you!