How To Be Productive When You’re Not Feeling Motivated

Have you ever wondered how to be productive when you don’t feel motivated at all?

I’ve gone through phases where I just didn’t feel motivated but needed to get a lot done.

Below is a list of the many ways you can boost your productivity when you’re not feeling motivated based on everything I’ve learned through going through it myself.

The first half of the steps are about mindset. It may not seem relevant to productivity, but the truth is that it’s the most important part. After the mindset steps, you get to the planning part of productivity.

If you want to listen instead of read, here’s the podcast episode that goes along with this post — Productivity.

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Name the emotion you’re feeling

When you’re not feeling motivated, it’s because of a specific feeling you’re experiencing.

The first step to changing this is to become aware of how you feel.

This means your first order of business is to name the feeling.

Feelings are one word.

For example, if you’re not feeling motivated, you might feel:

  • Worried
  • Apathetic
  • Overwhelmed
  • Tired
  • Burned out
  • Frustrated
  • Bored
  • Something else…

So, whatever you’re feeling, name it.

It’s important that you actually name the feeling so you have an emotion that you can tangibly identify.

Step 2: Identify the thought that’s creating the emotion.

Next, you need to identify the thought that’s causing you to feel the emotion.

Your thoughts create your feelings.

Your feelings create your actions.

Your actions create your results.

Circumstances are neutral.

Whatever emotion you’re feeling is caused by a thought.

So, find that thought.

Write it down.

For example, if you are feeling apathetic about working on your blog, you might notice that the thought creating the feeling of apathy is: “I don’t think working on my blog will matter anyway.”

Whatever the feeling, figure out what the thought is that’s causing it.

All your thoughts are optional.

This is just good to know.

Step 3: Take ownership of how you feel

Once you have the thought and the feeling, own the fact that you are creating how you feel.

This means you don’t blame anyone else or your circumstances for how you feel.

Circumstances are neutral. It’s your thoughts causing your feelings.

There is total freedom in this.

It doesn’t mean you won’t want to feel bad sometimes. It doesn’t mean you should change how you feel.

But it means being compassionate with yourself. It means not beating yourself up.

But this awareness alone is so powerful. Most people aren’t aware that they’re the cause of their suffering.

Step 4: Choose the emotion you want to feel instead

Once you know you’re causing how you feel, you can decide if you want to continue to feel this way (or not).

If you want to continue feeling the way you’re feeling, then stay in that feeling.

If you don’t, choose a different feeling.

For example, you might notice you’re feeling self pity (feeling sorry for yourself) and therefore not taking action to be productive. You may decide you no longer want to feel self pity and choose a different emotion, such as motivated.

You can do this with any emotion. Choose the emotion you want to feel.

Step 5: Create a believable thought that generates the new feeling you want to experience

Once you have the emotion you want to create, you need to create a thought that will generate the feeling you’ve chosen.

The key is that you have to believe the thought in order for it to work.

This is why affirmations don’t work. If you go around repeating sentences you don’t believe, nothing happens. You have to practice thoughts you actually believe for the thought to cause the feeling.

For example, if you want to feel motivated, you might come up with one of the following thoughts:

  • I haven’t been motivated to start a blog in the past, but I know that it’s possible for me to be motivated in the future.
  • Getting up at 5am isn’t my favorite thing, but that’s okay – I can do it anyway.
  • It’s okay that I’m not motivated right now because I’m making an effort to change that.
  • I’m excited to work on my business this morning because I know I can create my dream life one day at a time.

Notice that all these thoughts vary in degree between positive and neutral. You want to create a thought that you believe that is positive, but if you can’t come up with a positive thought you actually believe, then come up with a more neutral thought is better than the negative thought.

The purpose of doing this is that you’ll shift how you feel. You’ll go from feeling not motivated to motivated. Then, you’ll take the action that you want because thoughts create feelings, feelings create actions, and actions create results.

Just make sure the thought you create generates the new feeling you want and that you believe it.

Step 6: Practice your new thoughts

After you write down the new thought that creates the new emotion you want to feel, practice it.

Practice the new thought over and over until it becomes a belief.

You’ll probably find your brain will gravitate toward your old thoughts. This is normal! Nothing has gone wrong. Just become aware of your brain defaulting to the non-supportive thoughts and how they’re affecting your life. Then, catch youself and start saying the new thought that you want to believe.

It takes effort to shift your thinking, but it’s 1000% worth it, because once you do, taking the right actions (in the steps below) is a million times easier.

Step 7: Set a goal

After you’ve done steps 1 through 6, you’ve addressed the mindset portion of not feeling motivated to be productive.

Now, it’s time to start planning.

The first part of any good plan is having an end goal.

You need to know what you want.

Decide what it is you want and set a goal for it.

This can be anything.

Maybe you want to lose weight, start a business, or have a better relationship.

But you have to choose one goal (and only one!).

Your end goal is the most important part of everything you do because it’s the guide to all the action you’ll take.

Here are my best goal setting resources to help you do this: 

Come up with your end goal for whatever it is you want to be productive with before you move on to the next step.

Step 8: Create a massive action list

Once you know what your main goal is, work backward to create a massive action list of all the things you need to do to accomplish your one main goal.

This step takes a lot of time. 

I highly suggest coming up with 10x as many actions as you think you’d actually need to accomplish your goal. This way, even if some of the milestones don’t work out, you’re well on your way to still accomplishing it.

Come up with your list of 30+ things you need to do to accomplish your goal. 

If you’re not sure how to do one of the action items, put “figure out how to do XYZ” as the item.

This step should feel really tedious if you do it right. (It’s also kind of boring! But again, completely worth it.)

Step 9: Put all the action items on your calendar as results

Once you have your massive action list, put all the items on your calendar.

The way to do this is to schedule them at specific times.

For example, if you’re starting a website, you schedule “register domain name and sign up for hosting” from 12pm to 1pm on Sunday.

The key is that you always should schedule the result you expect to accomplish during a time frame. Don’t schedule the activity, like “blogging” from 12pm to 1pm. There’s no way to measure what you actually produced during this time if you schedule the activity.

The key to productivity is to schedule the result on your calendar for a specific time period. 

I schedule the exact results I expect for every single part of my day. Even for non-work time, like relaxing time, reading time, and what I’m doing on the weekends. This is a total game changer!

Side note: I’ve created a free course to help you stop being busy. Check it out here

Step 10: Schedule more in less time

One of the best kept secrets to feeling motivated to be productive is to schedule more to do in less time.

The reason it’s a secret is because it’s counterintuitive.

We tend to think that if we’re not motivated to be productive, we’re spread too thin.

The truth is, we take way too long to do things and it’s spreading into other areas of our lives.

The way to do it right so you’re motivated and energized is to schedule more to get done in less time. 

Then, when you do the task, you’ll be super excited, energized, and motivated. It’s a completely different energy when you have a tight deadline. 

I used to make the mistake of taking my good old time with blogging tasks. I’d spend all day “blogging,” but the truth is that a lot of the time was spent on social media and other random things. Blogging took the entire day and was very indulgent in a way.

When I changed my process to scheduling results ahead of time, I had so much to get done in a very short time. I wasn’t on social media messing around. I took it very seriously. It some ways it didn’t feel as good because it wasn’t as casual and indulgent, but in other ways it felt better because I was so focused on getting done what I needed to.

Bottom line: If you think you’re overscheduling, you’re not. Schedule more in less time. Then, schedule downtime. This way, you’re super productive while working and when you’re not working, you’re relaxing.

Step 11: Honor your calendar (plan for resistance)

Your brain is wired to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and be as efficient as possible.

This means when you go to do something that takes you off your comfortable couch, you’re going to feel resistance.

Your brain would rather you do nothing. It’s easier and saves energy. It’s not as scary. It’s safer. This is just the brain’s wiring. It’s called the motivational triad.

So, once you’ve done all your planning and the time comes for you to actually do the thing on your calendar, your brain is going to come up with a bajillion reasons why you shouldn’t do the thing on your calendar.

Don’t listen to it.

Plan for resistance. 

Plan to do it anyway.

This happens to me to this day. I expect to not want to do the thing on my calendar. But I do it anyway. Once I start, the resistance is gone.

All this is normal. Nothing has gone wrong.

Do the thing on your calendar. No matter what.

Step 12: Let go of perfectionism

If you are struggling to produce a lot, it may be because you are stuck in perfectionism.

You have to let go of perfectionism. There’s no place for it in a productive person’s life.

Perfectionism is for scared people. You have to be perfect because you’re scared of what other people will think of you.

The thing about success is, you have to produce 10x as much as you think you do just to see what works. If you’re a perfectionist, you’ll never put enough out into the world to get massive success. You won’t reach your potential.

So, let that sh*t go.

Step 13: Review your plan daily

When you get up every day (or the night before), review what’s on deck.

You should know what you’re doing for every minute of the day – ahead of time.

In the morning, I look at my calendar and make sure I have every minute of the day planned.

This includes breaks, exercising, and fun things. It’s not all work. But it’s all planned. You can plan spontaneity, too. It’s not rigid. It’s the opposite. It gives you freedom.

For example, you might plan work related things throughout the day, followed by exercise, followed by relaxing downtime. The key is to know ahead of time what your day looks like (and look at it at the beginning of the day).

Step 14: Measure results (not the activity)

Evaluate how you’re doing, periodically.

This can be weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, or a combination of these.

It’s important that you measure the results you produce and not the activity.

You can be “working on a blog” for a year but not made any money at all.

Measure exactly what you’re producing.

This will tell you if what you’re doing is working.

If it’s not, change things up a bit.

Productivity is a result of planning. It doesn’t happen by accident. 

Step 15: Take care of yourself

Finally, take care of yourself!

Be smart about how you use your time and energy.

I recommend doing the following: 

  1. Schedule downtime. Don’t fill your calendar so you are spread too thin. Schedule time to do nothing. Then, do nothing!
  2. Get enough sleep. This means going to bed early and making sure you’re getting the sleep you need.
  3. Exercise. It’s easy to stay in a rut and feel unmotivated if you’re at home on the couch. Your body will get a natural boost if you get moving. Even just a walk, if you can’t make it to the gym, will make a big difference.
  4. Go out and do something in town. Doing an activity away from your work and home life gets you out of your own head. It will help you get perspective and reenergized for your work. A good example would be to go to a show, see a concert, or walk around at a street fair.
  5. See people. We’re social beings and getting around the right person can make a huge difference in your life if you’re in a rut. Make sure this person energizes you, so you feel better than when you leave.
  6. Remember your why. The stronger reason you have for wanting to do whatever it is you need to do, the more you’ll overcome your lack of not feeling motivated in the moment. Remembering why you want something is very powerful if you have a strong why. Keep it close to your heart.

A Final Note!

There are times in life where being more productive is easier than other times. But when we feel like being productive, it doesn’t always align with when we need to be the most productive.

If you practice the steps above, you can increase your likelihood of being productive even when you’re not feeling motivated.

I know it works because I do the work myself.

And next up, you can read 21 Simple Ways To Be More Productive.

What you produce is how you get results. How you get results is how you get what you want in life.

So, it follows that productivity is the tool you can use to design your dream life. And that is a beautiful thing.