What To Do When You’re Feeling Unmotivated & Don’t Know Why
When you’re feeling unmotivated it means you don’t want to do what you’re supposed to do today. And we’ve all been there.
If you’re an employee, it’s sometimes a little easier to get away with slacking off, and spending the majority of your day watching cute panda videos on the internet. But when you run your own business like I do, if you don’t get the work done, then you don’t make money. It’s as simple as that.
Either way, nobody enjoys feeling unmotivated. It makes you feel lazy, purposeless and like you’re drifting through life. Sometimes, we’ll only feel this way on the odd day or two. But other times we can fall into long, indefinite periods of deflation.
This happened to me last year.
The year began on a high when I hosted my first ever women’s soul retreat in Sri Lanka. After that, it felt like I was on the dropping part of a rollercoaster, plummeting downward and clinging on for dear life. I was struggling to write most days, and would sit and stare at a blank laptop screen for hours. I also lost some of my income streams, and felt a little helpless trying (and failing) to find new ones. And it took months for me to find my way back to feeling inspired and confident again.
So, I wanted to share the things that have helped me when I’ve been feeling unmotivated, in the hope that they help you too.
1. Ask yourself why you’re feeling unmotivated
There’s no point trying to power through and pretend like everything’s okay when it’s not. This may temporarily fix the issue but it won’t solve it, and you’ll probably find yourself feeling unmotivated again really soon.
Occasionally, we all have off days. But if you know it’s more than that then you need to do some soul discovery work.
What do you think the root cause of this dip in enthusiasm is?
Which area of your life do you think it’s related to? Your job or your business, your romantic relationship, your friends, or something else?
And once you’ve pinpointed the area, go deeper.
What is it about this area of your life that doesn’t feel good?
What do you think would make it better?
Make a list of things you can do to improve it, and commit to doing at least one of those things today.
2. Are you self-sabotaging?
There are usually three ways that self-sabotaging behaviour shows up:
- Lack of confidence/self-worth
And you know what the root of all those things are?
Fear of not being good enough, or being fucking amazing beyond your wildest imagination. A fear of messing up or failing and looking stupid. A fear of other people judging you.
Do any of these fears resonate with you?
If they do, think about what the worst possible outcome is if your fear becomes your reality.
Usually it’s not as bad as you think it is.
Next, think about what this fear is costing you in your life?
Tim Ferris has a brilliant exercise on fear setting that I recommend you check out.
3. Figure out your best time of day
Without a shadow of a doubt, I am a morning person, which is why my mornings are sacred to me. This is my writing time, my creating time. My energy is high and I’m fired up.
That means things like emails, social media and other admin tasks do not usually get my attention until around 3P.M.ish, when my energy and concentration dip.
It’s not realistic to be highly motivated throughout the entire day. That’s a long time. So think about when your golden time is, and protect it. Do your most important work or tasks during this time. Switch off your phone, and avoid checking emails and Instagram.
4. Make a manageable to-do list
The trap most of us fall into is we write incredibly ambitious to-do lists for ourselves each day. Then, we barely cross anything off them (because they were totally unrealistic), and we beat ourselves up over it.
Stop doing this to yourself!
Write down your most important task for the day, and then a couple of small things that each won’t take more than 5-20 minutes of your time. Get the big task completed in your golden time, and fill the rest of your time with those smaller tasks.
If you have time leftover at the end of the day, that’s wonderful!
You can always move on to something else at that point. But it’s better to be in this position than to still be looking at an endless to-do list with only ten minutes left in the day.
5. Reward yourself when you do get things done
To be honest with you, I’m really crap at doing this. There’s always that achiever gene within me that says: why treat yourself to a reward when you can do more work instead?
I often go from one achievement straight to the next thing, without even taking a breath or celebrating my success. And I know this isn’t healthy, so I’m working on it!
Rewards can really help when you’re feeling unmotivated, particularly if there’s something you need to do that you really don’t want to. Like cleaning the bathroom. Or filing your tax return.
Choose a reward that is motivating enough; something that will really get you moving and into action. Like a yoga class, a hot bath, or 30 minutes curled up with a book and a cup of tea.
The bigger the task, the bigger the reward should be.
6. Move your body
Sometimes when you’re feeling unmotivated, it’s just an invitation to get out of a rut you’ve wound up in and shift your perspective. Moving your body is a wonderful way to do this.
What’s important is you move your body in a way that feels good to you. If you hate the gym, you probably won’t even make it out the door. So choose something that you genuinely want to do. I don’t know what that is for you, only you know.
Here are some ideas:
- Go for a walk in a park
- Go for a run round the block
- Head to a yoga class
- Do an at-home workout
- Go for a swim
- Take a new exercise class that sounds fun to you
- Try indoor rock climbing
- Go to a dance class
7. Tidy up your space
There will always be times when you just don’t feel like doing anything on your to-do list, and that’s okay. We all have off-days like that.
A great way to make use of this time is to tidy up your space. Clean something, de-clutter and re-organise.
Not only will these make you feel lighter and happier, it will also help to clear out stagnant energy and make space for the new. This might be just what you need right now.
8. Give yourself a break and do something fun
Feeling unmotivated can also be a gentle reminder from the universe to slow down and take a break.
Is your life out of balance? Have you been working a lot lately, and not making time for play?
This happens to me when I’ve been consistently waking up early, working every day (including weekends), or focusing on a big project that has required a lot of my energy.
It’s my body telling me it’s close to burnout and a call to re-fill my well. When I don’t listen, it only gets worse and usually results in a total meltdown. So now, I try and listen.
I give myself a rare space day, which means my laptop and phone are switched off. I take myself on a date, cook or bake something special, see friends or family, or allow myself to veg out on the sofa and watch some movies with my partner.
Remember, it’s okay to not be super productive all the time, and it’s okay to take a break. We all need that.