What do do when you have no motivation

It happens to all of us. We tick along nicely and then something just pushes us over the edge of productivity, straight into feeling like it’s all too much bother.

Here are some strategies that help me. I hope they help you too.

Work out why you feel like this

When I lose motivation I take it as a warning sign. My body clearly wants to stop and this is a physical need for rest, or an emotional overload that has got too much, or sometimes, a combination of both.

If you feel like there is no point in doing anything it might be a good idea to check you are not depressed. See your doctor, or chat to the Samaritans, who are there for everyone, you don’t have to be desperate. They say to watch out for these signs:

  • Lacking energy or feeling tired
  • Feeling exhausted all the time
  • Experiencing ‘brain fog’, find it hard to think clearly
  • Finding it hard to concentrate
  • Feelings restless and agitated
  • Feeling tearful, wanting or cry all the time
  • Not wanting to talk to or be with people
  • Not wanting to do things you usually enjoy
  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope with feelings
  • Finding it hard to cope with everyday things and tasks
  • Experiencing ‘burn out’

And the Samaritans say to get in touch even if you don’t see what you are feeling on the list.

If the idea of the doctor or the Samaritans is a bit much for you, please talk to a friend or someone in a supportive online group. (I know a really good one!) A good moan sometimes makes all the difference. We have a day for it in the less-stuff Facebook group!

Are you tired?

If it is physical tiredness, pushing on can lead to injury. So no matter how difficult it might seem, you need to find some time for yourself. My main parenting regret when my son was small was that I didn’t sleep when he did. The house would have been messier but I would have been more rested and less stressed. I’m writing this as an insomniac. I know what exhaustion is like and I know what burn out is like. Not fun in either case. Find time for naps, baths, later starts in the morning and nodding off during films. You might have to schedule in fake meetings, or find someone to help so you can have a rest but make this a priority. Even a few minutes of concentrating on your breathing can make an enormous difference.

Give into it

The last thing I want to do when I’m unmotivated is fight it. So I give myself a day to wallow. I watch 3 films in a row. I eat food that takes no preparation. I cancel everything I possibly can and just let it be for a bit. I’m lucky being self employed because unless I have a deadline, I can usually shift my working days around. When that isn’t possible I try to make an hour for myself to wallow before I really have to face up to doing something.

Do something nice

Rewards! Treats! Nice things! You are an adult and adulting is hard. It deserves to be rewarded. Just be really kind to yourself instead of beating yourself up. Check your internal dialogue and try to replace any nagging nastiness with love, compassion and respect. There is a whole list of non cluttery rewards in this post.

Do something different

Sometimes a change is all it takes to get me out of a bleak mindset. This takes energy of course but most of the time it is worth expending it. It can be as easy as shopping in a different place. Or getting a pumpkin spice soya latte instead of a cup of tea. Or walking a different route. If you feel like getting out of the house you could see how far a day pass gets you on local transport. Take a packed lunch, water and a flask of hot drink and all you will need to find are loos.

There is a very excellent essay by Buster Benson called ‘Live Like a Hydra‘. In it he lists different modes that we all go through and he has very comforting words about each one of them. Recovery, Novelty, Work, Self, Flow, People and Gold are all heads of the Hydra. He suggests trying a different mode if your current one isn’t working.

Do one small positive thing

Dragging myself out of the mire isn’t always easy. I look around at all the impossible things that need to be done before breakfast and I despair. Choosing one small thing is the only way I can break through this. Putting something away. Wiping the bathroom sink. Deleting a couple of emails. These are all small things that make me feel like I’m getting somewhere. Staying still helps for a little while but eventually you have to face up to things. Take it slowly and it will be less daunting.

I hope this helps you break out of the stuck feeling. I’ve written this for myself too because I usually forget what helps when I’m feeling unmotivated. If you have any other strategies that work for you please let me know and I’ll add them. Lets turn the internet into a supportive space.

Lisa Cole

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I'm Lisa Cole. I'm a designer and writer who lives in Bristol. Less-stuff is about my journey to live a more organised life. I document little things I can change to live more sustainably. I'm not a minimalist!

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