Feeling stuck and unmotivated? Not getting as much done as you want?
You’re not alone! I know I’m not the only one who deals with moments (or days) of feeling unproductive.
Remember you’re not the only one!
It can be really difficult when you feel unproductive, especially when you need to work. If you’re a freelancer like me, it can be especially difficult. I only get paid for the work I do. No guaranteed paycheck.
So if I’m having trouble focusing, my income drops.
It’s not always easy to turn it around once you start feeling unproductive.
But I’ve put together a few ways I deal with it.
1. figure out why you’re feeling unproductive
You know you’re not feeling productive. But have you thought about why you’re struggling to get things done?
The reason for being unproductive can affect how you deal with the situation. So it’s important to figure out what’s happening.
People can be unproductive for a lot of reasons:
- Stress due to the difficulty of the project
- Overwhelm from how much you have to do
- Personal issues that are causing strong emotions
- Physical distractions in your work space
- Doubt, fear or lack of confidence
- Feeling tired
- Reacting to things instead of being proactive and getting ahead of the issue
- Lack of structure of vision
- Pushing yourself too hard
If you’re feeling unproductive, stop to think about what’s really going on. What’s keeping you from doing your work? Then address that specific issue.
2. Prioritize tasks
If you’re feeling overwhelmed because you have so much to do, it’s time to get real with yourself about what’s really important.
I find that I sometimes let a long to-do list get to me, especially if I have more than normal to handle. All I can think about are all the things I have to do.
But if I step away from that panic, I usually realize it’s not that much.
And if it is too much for me to get done, I prioritize.
What can get the ax? What really has to get done?
Getting the pressing things out of the way can give you a bit of relief and help you get more done.
3. Do what you dread first
Have you heard of swallowing the frog?
Basically, it means taking care of the thing that you’ve been procrastinating right away.
So many times, we have something we’re dreading. Maybe you need to make an uncomfortable phone call. Or you need to start on a new project, but it seems overwhelming.
So we procrastinate. Push it off until later because we don’t want to confront it.
But then it sits there and eats away at you. It’s always in the back of your mind. Which means you can’t really focus on the other things you’re trying to do.
Instead, just swallow the frog. Do the thing you really don’t want to do. Do it first. You’ll feel relieved, and then you can go on with the other things on your list.
4. take a break
You have a to-do list that never ends.
You’re on a deadline.
Everyone keeps adding to your list with more requests.
Doesn’t seem like the ideal time to take a break. But sometimes that’s just what you need to do.
Walking away from the projects that are stressing you out gives your mind a break.
I find that I’m often more productive when I get back to work if I let myself take a break. I can actually get more done because of the mental break than I do if I keep trying to push through when I’m struggling with my focus.
Sometimes that might just mean taking a quick walk around the block and refilling your water cup.
If you work from home, it might mean taking a break to dance or play with your kids.
It might even mean putting down your laptop for the rest of the afternoon and calling it a day early.
Don’t underestimate how much regular breaks can help.
5. Change your scenery
Sometimes a simple break isn’t enough. Removing yourself completely from your work area might be more effective.
I often feel inspired and motivated when I get out of the house.
One of my favorite ways to do that is to get out into nature. There’s something refreshing and inspiring about it.
If you feel like you’re going crazy at home, step out for a while and give yourself a change of scenery.
6. Use a timer
Don’t trust yourself with breaks? It’s easy to let your quick break take over your day. And then you end up getting nothing done.
One way to motivate yourself and keep your breaks to a minimum is by using a timer.
The Pomodoro Technique is one popular way to do it. You set a timer for 25 minutes. Your goal is to work nonstop for that 25 minutes.
When the timer rings, you take a break for a few minutes. Set a timer for the break, too, so you don’t take too long.
Then set the timer for another 25 minutes.
7. remove distractions
Distractions can be a big issue for productivity, especially if you work from home.
I’ve been working from home for 12 years. The distractions don’t ever go away.
But you can minimize them no matter where you work.
Pay attention to what distracts you while you’re working. Is it the TV? The piles of dirty dishes? Outside noises?
You can’t always eliminate all of those distractions. But you can cut down on some of them.
8. satisfy your needs
Another thing that can distract you is not meeting your needs. If you’re thirsty, hungry or tired, you’re not going to be as productive.
When I’m overwhelmed with work, I sometimes put my needs on hold. I’ll reach for whatever junk food I can find or I’ll skip drinking water.
It always comes back to bite me though. It’s much better to take care of yourself and satisfy your basic needs so you can focus.
9. rethink the environment
Having a comfortable environment can also help you increase your productivity.
Do you have a comfortable chair to sit in? A desk that makes it easy to work on your computer?
Is it warm or cool enough?
Is your space inviting? Does it make you feel motivated?
Make some changes to create an environment that inspires you to work.
10. crank up the tunes
Music can have a huge impact on your mood. If I’m feeling stressed or sad or otherwise not great, I turn on some uplifting tunes.
Music is a very personal thing. So pay attention to the songs you love and how they make you feel. Put together a motivational playlist that you can turn on when your focus lags.
11. get physically active
Working up a sweat can help you refocus on your work.
My favorite way to do this is to take a walk. It actually combines a few of the suggestions. I get a change of scenery and I crank up the tunes. Plus, I’m taking a break from whatever is stressing me.
Some of the benefits of exercise that can help with productivity include improving your mood and giving you more energy.
12. Use essential oils
Essential oils can also boost your mood and help you focus.
My favorites for focus are peppermint and anything citrus. They both help wake me up and make me feel motivated.
Diffusing is an easy way to use essential oils. It puts the scent into the air and gives you the benefits of the oils without applying them to your skin.
I also like to use roller bottles with essential oil and carrier oils.
13. Find your muse
You don’t have to be successful all on your own. Lots of people have done great things before you. Let them be your inspiration.
Too much social media can be a huge distraction when you’re trying to work. But strategically following social media accounts that you find inspiring can give you the little boost you need.
Go visit those profiles when you’re feeling unproductive.
Or save some motivational quotes, success stories or other things you find inspirational. Reread them when you’re not feeling your best.
14. focus on your why
Why are you doing what you’re doing? Money, sure. But why? To have more financial freedom? Give your kids the things you want them to have? Travel more?
It’s easy to lose that real reason why you’re doing something when you’re in the trenches doing the work.
If you find yourself feeling unmotivated or struggling to focus, reconnect with why you started in the first place.
Even better, keep some kind of physical reminder next to your work area.
It could be a full-on vision board. Or it could be as simple as a postcard to a place you really want to visit.
15. create a plan
I find that if I don’t have a clear plan and goals, I’ll often feel lost and not sure what to do.
And that makes me feel unproductive.
So then I start to stress because I’m not getting anything done.
This can especially be a problem if you’re an entrepreneur, starting a blog, launching a business, etc.
There isn’t always a clear-cut playbook. You don’t always have easily identifiable tasks to do to get you to your end result. You’re figuring it out as you go.
Instead of just winging it, get very clear with yourself about what you need to do. Create your plan and break it down to specific tasks.
Set goals related to those tasks. Put deadlines on the tasks.
The structure might help you improve your productivity.
16. write a to-do list
Don’t underestimate the power of the simple to-do list. There’s something about crossing off those tasks that can help you find your motivation.
If you feel like you’re not getting much done, write a quick list of things you need to do. Keep your list visible, and cross them off as you go.
17. Confront emotions
Show of hands: who lets their emotions get to them?
That’s totally me. I have lots of emotions. And I feel them fully. And many times they distract me and stop me from taking action.
It’s usually the worst when I try to shove them down and ignore them.
Those aren’t tears welling up in my eyes. I’m not on the brink of a mental breakdown. Everything’s fine. It’ll go away.
But it won’t.
Instead of trying to push aside your feelings, take a little time to really feel them.
Yeah, it feels yucky to be sad or fearful or confused or hurt. No one wants to feel those emotions.
But giving yourself permission to feel those feelings may help you get through them faster.
It’s okay to sit in the bad feelings for a little bit. Just don’t unpack and stay there forever.
I always feel like as much as I hate going through those negative emotions, it makes the happier times feel a little happier. You need that contrast to really appreciate the good.
Improve Your Productivity
You can’t always force productivity, but some little changes can help you get back on track. What are your favorite ways to improve your productivity?