How to be productive when you are not motivated

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Do you find yourself struggling to find motivation on days when you have to deliver important tasks? How about feeling so frustrated about falling behind your goals, passions, and projects? Feel like certain tasks that usually feel like a breeze could sometimes feel so hard to even start with?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

As human beings, it is natural for us to have “one of those days” when we seem to lose mental clarity, memory or focus. There can be a variety of reasons, but know that it certainly is normal to feel like we’re not managing our focus and time as much as we’d want to.

While self-motivation is highly important in achieving goals, there are other ways to soldier on even when we feel like just staying in bed. Here are 5 ways to motivate yourself into action:


#1 Make your bed in the morning.

This may sound silly and weird to even be the first one on the list. But keeping a habit of making your bed every morning gives that sense of fulfillment, something that’s already a win so early in the day.

Believe it or not, something as mundane as making your bed in the morning has its own mental health benefits. In his book “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life... And Maybe the World,” retired Navy four-star admiral and former chancellor of The University of Texas System William H. McRaven suggests that this simple task can set you up for success. Having done this first thing in the morning helps you already accomplish one thing, and that can affect your overall mindset for the day.

Something related to this is keeping a clutter-free and organized work area. A 2016 study presents a strong body of evidence that shows a positive correlation between a tidy environment and increased focus, productivity, and less stress. [1]

So clean workspace can mean clear mind. Why don’t you try it?


#2 Find out what you’re most afraid to do and tackle them head on.

I don’t know about you but sometimes, I will wake up in the morning and feel daunted about a certain task for the day. I’ll try to put it off and when I finally muster enough courage to tackle it, I’ll realize it’s not that hard after all.

Certain tasks look bigger than they actually are. Sometimes we tend to overthink it, and in the process create unreasonable, imagined fears about how challenging they will be to finish.

So a good rule-of-thumb is to tackle the challenging tasks instead of putting them off. This way, you will be able to break it down and find out how to make it easier. Perhaps you need to delegate (some parts of) it, or maybe in my case, realize that it’s not too hard of a task after all.

Also, try to allocate enough time for a seemingly difficult task to give yourself leeway and flexibility. This serves two purpose – it helps you prioritize your day and gives you that sweet feeling of fulfillment when you finish ahead of time. If you find yourself needing more time, then feel free to do so. Maybe you need to ask around  for help, delegate, tap other resources, or revisit your strategy. The gist is to tackle the task instead of trying to hide it under the rug (else it might bite you in the bum later on).


#3 Design goals and set up systems to back it up.

Goal-setting is important in tracking progress. Studies have shown that when people look towards a goal or target, they are likelier to achieve it. This explains why salespeople with targets tend to perform better and those who have set up daily exercise goals see progress in their fitness levels.

However, goals are not enough. According to the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear:

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there."


In fact, goals need systems to back them up. Setting targets sometimes may not be enough as it can be very easy to fall off the wagon. Imagine setting up a yoga practice for three times a week. But a bad, chilly weather can make it easy to turn on Netflix over picking up the mat. Or a resolve to cook healthy, nutritious meals everyday. But too much work or a long commute can feel so tiring it’s easy to pick up the phone and get burgers delivered instead.

Systems help prevent us from picking the alternative to our goals. By making your yoga mat highly visible or wearing yoga clothes once work is over can make it easier to start the yoga practice. Or deleting your Uber Eats app from your phone and having meal preps in place can help you keep your healthy diet.


#4 Eat nutritious food.

What you eat has a lot to do with how your brain performs.

It’s a known fact – having a well-balanced diet brings a lot of benefits. Boosting brain function is one of the merits we can get from eating the right foods. Having the right vitamins, minerals and nutrients not just keep us mentally sharp, they could also help delay cognitive decline.

It's important to know certain superfoodsthat can help keep you in top shape, not just physically but also mentally. What you eat directly affects your brain functions and, ultimately, what you feel. When you notice that you feel flat, your energy is low, and you can’t pinpoint any other reason why, it could be because of what you consume. Take a good look at what you regularly eat and determine whether it serves you.

Perhaps it worth considering a nootropic that will support your diet and aid increased memory, focus and clarity. By getting enough nutrients and amino acids, you’ll be able to increase your natural energy, enjoy positive mood and get better blood circulation in the brain for a sharper mind.


#5 Airplane mode.

Social media has trained our minds to have shorter attention span. It’s as if we constantly need stimulation and the urge to jump from one thing to another. This can be detrimental to focus and concentration.

Especially in today’s digital world, this may be easier said than done. But when you need to dive into a task, steer clear of social media. Here’s a tip – use your phone’s airplane mode for a certain time, say in 40 minutes. This way, you can get rid of distracting notifications and more likely to enter a state of flow, all while being able to listen to music (if that’s your thing).

Setting up an environment free of distractions can help you become more productive especially if motivation is out of place. According to a study done by University of California Irvine, “it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.” For every distraction, every glance on Instagram, or checking emails, it takes nearly 30 minutes to gain your focus back.

So hold on to deep focus, you state of flow. Turn on airplane mode. Turn off notifications. Only keep 2-3 tabs on your computer (or better yet, use focus mode on Office apps). You’ll be happy you did.