When I was little, it was not uncommon to see me sitting at the family computer, legs dangling from the office chair, nearly or actually crying in front of a blank Word document. Even for someone who loved words, writer’s block was real — and it sucked. I had an assignment, and I could feel the deadline approaching like a specter, but I was still stuck.
By high school and college, those tears had mostly turned into quiet frustration, procrastinating by flitting between projects. I hated that I did it, but everything somehow managed to get done in the end. The closest I ever cut it was my junior year of college — I wrote a 3,000 word paper worth 45% of my grade in 8 hours the day before it was due. Oh, and I had to teach myself a new citation style for it and had chosen the topic the day before.
Sometimes I need the deadline to force me to finish a project. And sometimes even that isn’t enough (see: my best friend’s 6-month-late 16th birthday present). The point is that motivation and inspiration are hard to find and harder to hold onto. It would be awesome if we could wait for them to fall into our laps like autumn leaves, but we are rarely afforded such luxuries.
So how can we be productive when we are wholly and completely unmotivated? It’s a little different for everyone, but these are the tips I’ve found most helpful:
- Procrastinate with other productive things. If you really can’t do the one thing you’re supposed to be doing, do something else that needs to get done for a while first. Then your to-do list is still getting smaller and you’ll feel less bothered by being stuck on that one task.
- Breaking the big item up into smaller items. I know it’s silly and you’ve probably heard it a million times, but it really does make it feel less intimidating, and small achievements are the best way to get big things done.
- Make lists. I am one of those people who derives great satisfaction from checking things off on a to-do list. So if I put necessary tasks on the list, I’m at least mildly motivated to want to check them off.
- Set rewards for reaching certain points. Maybe when you get items A and B done, you let yourself watch TV or go outside before getting back to work and doing C.
- If you have writer’s block, write through it. This looks different for everyone, but I will literally write stream-of-consciousness nonsense just to get my brain working, and often brainstorm ideas and plans for things I write on whiteboards because somehow they are my magical cure for writer’s block.
- If you’re getting overwhelmed, take a small break. Breaks are okay. Four-hour naps after 6-hour Netflix binges are not. Take time to reset, and then get back to work.
What tools do you find most helpful when you’re feeling unmotivated? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!