How To Be Productive When You Don’t Feel Motivated

Do you ever have those days where you’re just not feeling it?

Where you struggle to be productive and just can’t get yourself motivated to do anything?

When every little thing that you try to get done seems impossible and the hours fall victim to procrastination instead of productivity…

It’s actually pretty common so if you feel this way, you’re definitely not alone.

The good news is that it’s possible to still be productive, get stuff done, and reach your goals – even when you don’t feel motivated.

The Problem With Motivation

For most people, if you rely on motivation alone, you will struggle to be productive.


Because motivation is inconsistent and unreliable.

Motivation is an emotion, and it comes and goes just like any other feeling.

Some days you will wake up, energized and ready to take on the world. While other days, you’ll end up staring blankly at your “To Do” list trying to figure out where to get started, or moving aimlessly from one form of procrastination to another.

The best way to be consistent with your productivity is to make sure that you don’t rely on motivation alone.

While motivation can be great, if it’s the only driver you have to get things done, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Instead of relying on motivation, you should have some strategies that will help you to be productive even when you don’t feel motivated.

Here are some good tips on how to be productive:

6 Ways You Can Be Productive Even When You Don’t Feel Motivated

1. Identify, acknowledge, and understand the “why”

When you’re not feeling motivated, there is always a reason. And it’s usually tied to how you’re feeling at the time.

How often do you feel unmotivated when you’re happy? How about when you’re excited or inspired? These feelings often go hand-in-hand with your most productive days.

On the other side, when you’re feeling anxious, burnt out or worried, you probably struggle with motivation and getting stuff done.

So how do you resolve this? Well, the first step to identify and acknowledge how you’re feeling. Pay attention next time you’re feeling unmotivated and ask yourself how you feel.

Do you feel sad? Worried? Anxious?

Maybe you just feel apathetic or a bit burnt out.

However you feel, the aim is not to necessarily change it, but just to acknowledge how you’re feeling and how it can impact on your productivity and motivation.

Once you understand why you don’t feel motivated to be productive, you can make a conscious decision to move past this and get stuff done anyway. Or alternatively, you can decide to give yourself a break if it is something you honestly think you need.

Self-care is important, so make sure that you’re taking care of your needs (both physical and mental). Not only is it good for you, but it will do wonders for your productivity too.

A great way to identify and understand what you’re feeling and what might be causing it is to get it down on paper. Maybe try starting a journal (if you don’t have one already). If you’re new to journaling, check out this great article on why you should keep a journal over at The Joyful Quest for some useful tips.

If you’re looking for a new journal, I’m a huge fan of of the PAPERAGE hard cover notebooks. I carry one everywhere with me. They’re great for taking notes at work, jotting down blog post ideas, or just about anything else you can think of. They also come in a range of pretty colors so you’ll be sure to find one that you like.

2. Take choice out of the equation

One of the best ways to be productive is to reduce the number of decisions you have to make and just do it. The easiest way to do this is by taking choice out of the equation.

Think about all of the things that you currently do because you “have to”.

Going to work is a great example. You get up in the morning and just start getting ready for work without even thinking about it because you’ve told yourself that it’s something that you have to do. When in reality, you go because you have a good reason to (probably because you want to get paid).

At some point you made the decision that work was something you just have to do, and from that point on, you probably didn’t think of it as a choice anymore.

Using that same logic, if you don’t have to consciously choose to do something, you’re much less likely to choose to not do it.

To use this interesting little bit of human psychology to your best advantage, try to schedule as many of your activities as you can and make them into something you do on auto-pilot. Don’t even give yourself the option to not do them and you’ll see your productivity soar.

It’s also a great idea to have a few productive activities that you just get up and do first thing in the morning. This helps ensure that you’re starting every day productive and with a sense of achievement.

3. Switch your focus and avoid the negative self-talk

Sometimes when you’re struggling to be productive, the issue is with what you’re trying to achieve. Some days it pays to push through with the task you’re trying to get done, and you will eventually succeed. While on other days, there are certain things that you just can’t seem to get done, no matter how hard you try to push yourself.

On these days, try switching your focus. Often, if you can succeed in completing something else, it makes that task you’ve been struggling with much easier when you get back to it. After all, productivity breeds productivity, so get that snowball rolling and it’ll all be downhill from there.

While you’re at it, make sure you don’t fall victim to negative self-talk. When you’re having a bad day and struggling to be productive, it’s easy to beat yourself up over it. It can be really frustrating and easy to slip into negative self-talk when you can’t seem to achieve anything, particularly when you have a lot to do.

The problem with this, is that it just doesn’t help. Sometimes giving yourself a stern talking to can be all you need to spur yourself into action, but if you’ve tried that and still aren’t getting anywhere, make sure you don’t let yourself slip into negativity.

Telling yourself that you’re “lazy” or that you “just can’t do it” (or any other variation of this) is sure to deflate your mood even further. Plus, telling yourself these negative things is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Be kind to yourself – if you wouldn’t say it to your mother or your best friend, then don’t say it to yourself.

Stick with the positive and you’ll be back to productivity in no time.

4. Stop trying to be perfect

Being a perfectionist or high achiever can really impact your productivity sometimes. If you end up overthinking what you’re trying to do it can be paralyzing and ensure that you get nothing done.

The first step to getting past your productivity block is to go back to point #1 and understand how you’re feeling, and why you’re feeling that way.

As a perfectionist, procrastination can be due to the fear that whatever you’re doing won’t be good enough and you may procrastinate over the tasks that are most important to you. The problem with this is that the important things really need to get done. So you need to find a way to be productive and power through, even when you don’t feel motivated.

One of the first steps to overcoming this behavior is to recognize it. One way to help overcome perfectionist tendencies is to just let yourself be messy and imperfect.

You don’t have to let anyone see that rough first draft. Getting it started is often the hardest part, so just do it and let it be rough. As with most things, it gets easier with practice.

So get practicing. And while you’re at it, ditch the negativity and self-doubt.

5. Get your body moving and get some fresh air

If you’ve been struggling along trying to get motivated for a while without success, maybe you need to get yourself moving.

Like physically get yourself moving.

Go for a walk. A run. Do some jumping jacks or 15 minutes of yoga. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it gets you moving.

This is particularly important if you spend much of your day seated.

The human body wasn’t designed to sit all day, as many of us do.

To maintain good health (both physical and mental), you need to stay active. The great thing about being active is that it also does wonders for your productivity.

Challenge yourself to go for a walk around the block next time you’re feeling unmotivated and see what happens. While it may not be a miracle cure, you’ll still feel better after (even just a little).

If you can make this a habit, it will have awesome benefits for your health and your productivity too.

When you’re busy, it can be way too easy to sacrifice the simple things like this. Some days you may hardly leave your desk, particularly if you’re busy or stressed. These are often the days that you end up feeling crappy and de-motivated.

On these days, a simple walk around the block and some fresh air can do wonders for your productivity. After some activity, you’ll likely come back with a fresh surge of inspiration, which leads to productivity.

Next time you’re feeling unproductive, give it a try.

6. Set some goals and go achieve them


While it may seem counter-intuitive, setting some ambitious goals can actually help you kick-start your productivity.

Many people find that they’re at their best and most productive when they have a lot of stuff to get done and not much time to do it in.

Goals and deadlines are powerful! Especially if you can link them to something that has value for you. Give yourself a deadline and an incentive to get stuff done and then stick to it and reap the rewards.

If you’re looking for help with goals, check out our post on How To Achieve Your Goals In 5 Proven Steps for some great tips to get started.

If you have a lot to get done, get into that “just do it” frame of mind and start checking things off your list.

No time for procrastination here.

Which leads to our next tip – keep a list. Write down your goals. Set yourself some deadlines. Keep a checklist. Do whatever works for you, but make sure you have it in writing. This will help keep you focused and give you a reminder of what you’ve set out to achieve that day.

Final Thoughts

Consistent productivity is one of those things that you get better at over time.

“Practice makes perfect”, as they say.

However, learning to look inwards when you’re not “feeling it” is an important skill to learn too. Focus on improving your self-awareness and you’ll be better prepared to identify the “why” in these situations.

And if you can get to that point and recognize when you just need to give yourself a little push vs. when you truly need a break, it will benefit you enormously.

After all, while productivity is great, sometimes you just need to give yourself permission to be unproductive.

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