What to Do When You Don’t Feel Like Doing Anything

It’s just one of those days, right? You’re sitting there with a big to-do list and no motivation to get started.

This happens to all of us from time to time. Such a day can struck with no warning. Sometimes even immediately after a highly productive day.

… So now what? What to do to save it and get some work done despite the adversity?

First of all, let’s face it, if you don’t feel like doing something you most likely won’t generate any good results… Do you expect a sprinter to win the 100 meter dash at the Olympics if they don’t feel like running? Of course not, it’s impossible.

So is there any point in forcing yourself to work only so you can screw it up? I’m not going to say something like “yes and no” because that’s just lame and I hate when people say that (don’t you?), so I will choose one side and say: no.

However, the fact is (whether you realize it or not) what you’re feeling isn’t really the lack of motivation to do every possible kind of work. It’s just a lack of motivation to do the work that you’ve originally planned for the day.

I mean, you have your to-do list (or other form of personal work organization tool) with a number of tasks on it, and when you look at them, nothing seems interesting enough to get into. As I said before, there’s no point in forcing yourself to something because you’d most likely have to do it over again after the initial screw up. What you can do, however, is find a suitable replacement and use it as a starting point.

Your favorite kind of tasks

No matter what line of work you’re in there’s always something you’ve enjoyed doing every time. Some specific kind of task that comes easy to you and you don’t need to put much effort into it to produce great results. Everybody has something like this, and this is a great starting point for an initially unproductive day.

We all know that getting started is always the most difficult part. A space shuttle uses most of its fuel during the first couple of seconds after launch. The initial movement always creates the biggest friction. Starting with your favorite task gets you going and helps you to fight this resistance.

As life shows, once you’re working for a while you can switch to different tasks more easily. There’s a high probability that you will be able to come back to your to-do list and execute it despite the initial resistance.

Everything’s in your mind. If your mind tells you that it doesn’t feel like working you simply need to trick it into working by starting with a task that doesn’t really feel like work. That’s all there is to it.

So what’s the remedy for a bad start?

1. Find your favorite kind(s) of tasks that don’t feel like work, and come easy to you.

Ones where you can create great results with little effort. They don’t have to be the highest leverage tasks possible, but they still need to be useful. By useful I mean tasks that move you forward towards your goals.

Moving forward towards your goals is something you need to devote special attention to. Working just for the sake of working is the stupidest thing you could do. If something doesn’t bring you closer to your goals then you’re better off reading a book … or even watching a cat video on YouTube.

2. Create a specific task within this favorite field and work on it.

For example, if you enjoy writing you can start by crafting a guest post for a popular blog. Simply set the exact topic you want to write about, and get going immediately. In such a scenario this is a great task to start with.

3. Once you’re done switch to other tasks from you to-do list.

Getting started is always the most difficult part and now you’ve done just that, so there’s a big probability that you won’t have any problems switching to other tasks.

What’s the friendly initial task for me?

My university diploma says that I’m a programmer. And I’ve always enjoyed playing with PHP code. So whenever I don’t feel like doing anything I start by working on improving my blog.

(No matter how well optimized your blog is there are still some things that can be improved.)

It’s also a task that’s congruent with my goals. Improving the blog’s structure gives me extra points for SEO, usability, accessibility, or performance (depending on the thing I focus on).

Now it’s your turn. Tell me what your friendly initial task is. Do you have more than one?

This is a guest post by Karol K (@carlosinho). He is a 20-something year old writer, a web 2.0 entrepreneur from Poland, and a grad student at the Silesian University of Technology. He shares his thoughts at newInternetOrder.com. Tune in to get his online business and personal productivity advice.

Photo credit: ‘Lazy Dog‘ from Big Stock


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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