Guys, I’m going to be honest. I’m having one of those days where I’d rather do anything else than writing this blog post. I just want to watch Netflix, or play Minecraft. Or go outside and enjoy the sun. But here I am, at my desk, typing this article on my computer, because I need to post today.
If you have read my previous post about building a routine to avoid relying on motivation only, you know that I think building a habit is the best thing you can do to stay motivated every day. There are some days, however, where it is JUST. NOT. HAPPENING. I call them my “blah days”.
Having a lazy day is not a bad thing. Sometimes you just need a break. But when you have a deadline, it’s a little more complicated than that. So I thought that today I would talk about my strategies to motivate myself even when I don’t feel like it.
That’s usually my go-to activity if I feel lazy or overwhelmed. Tidying up the flat, even for a few minutes, helps clear my head. Taking a shower helps too, as well as finishing a quick chore like washing the dishes or starting a laundry.
It works on two levels:
- It clears the surroundings of any distractions. Often, I feel lazy because I see all the stuff that needs to be done and it feels too overwhelming to start. Clearing the workspace helps me concentrate on what I have to do.
- It sets your body in motion and gets the flow of energy going. Going around my place and picking up stuff allows me to gently start moving and feel productive.
Cut Down Social Media
There is nothing worse for your productivity than jumping from one social platform to another. I know it’s alluring to quickly check what’s new on Twitter or who posted stories on Instagram. But social media has the side effect that it will keep you in a “not doing” state. It can give you the illusion of moving, but you are not actually productive.
Social media is also bad in a sense that it puts your laziness in perspective with other people’s productivity. You see photos and status of people who go out and do stuff, and it makes you feel even worse about your current situation. And usually, it has the vicious effect of keeping you in an inactive mindset, because you are already defeated by other people’s results.
Trust me, if you are having a lazy day, close all social media apps and tabs.
Start With an Easy Win
OK, you managed to drag yourself to your workstation. Congratulations! Now, let’s not ruin what must have cost you all the shreds of motivation you had left with a task that will make you feel miserable.
Instead, start with something that can be accomplished quickly and will make you feel good afterwards. It might be writing an email, or do a quick sketch. For example, I start my work sessions every day with a couple of lessons on Duolinguo. I am currently learning Norwegian, and doing 2 lessons takes me 5 minutes. After I’ve completed them, I feel like a winner!
Make the habit of starting your day with something that doesn’t take long and that you can quickly achieve. It will give you a boost for the rest.
One Thing at the Time
Now that you’ve had your first win, you can start the serious work. But there again, avoid the classic mistake of overwhelming yourself with all the things that you have to do! Make a list and take each item one by one.
You don’t have to waste your energy thinking about something until you reach it on your list. Just think about the current task, and that’s it. It will reduce your chances of feeling discouraged and going back to the couch.
In general, making a list of the things you have to do and ticking them as you go is a good motivator. I’m a very visual person, and frankly I would forget half the things I need to do if they weren’t written on a post-it in front of me!
Use the Pomodoro Technique
Does working on your projects still feel like pulling a teeth? Then do it for a short time only! The Pomodoro Technique is super popular with writers, especially when it comes to writing first drafts. I’ve seen it called different names, such as “word sprints”, and it’s the method that I’ve used to write both my novel and my book.
The idea is super simple: you get a timer and you do an activity for a certain amount of time (for example 25 minutes). During that time, you are focused on the task and are allowed no distraction. Then, when the timer reaches 0, you take a break. I’ve found that doing these “sprints” helped me tremendously because I didn’t have to contemplate hours of work in front of me. I just concentrated on the 25 minutes, and that was it.
If you want to give it a try, the NaNoWriMo website has a pretty good timer page. And you can do sprints with other people, to add even more motivation.
Find a Pusher!
Building on this, it is much easier to motivate yourself if you have an accountability partner. I cannot count the number of times when I felt like doing nothing, but was quickly reminded of my goals by my partner. He’s an artist too, and he accomplishes a lot. Seeing him working hard every day makes me want to work hard too. (Check out his website, he’s an awesomely talented guy!)
Find one or two people who will push you when you are feeling lazy. They could be members of your family or people from the internet. And they should be able to recognise days where you need to be pushed from days where you just need a break. It’s a delicate balance, and I’ve met accountability partners before who were either not helping much, or being too intrusive. But if you find someone helpful, make sure you keep them!
Rewarding yourself is never more important than when you have had such a hard time forcing yourself to work in the first place. You need to think in the long term: if you don’t reward yourself this time, next time the same techniques probably won’t work. You can’t trick your brain for too long before it sends you to hell.
Find appropriate rewards, either when you finish each task or at the end of the day. It can be a cup of coffee, a square of chocolate, a Youtube video, a walk outside, anything that will celebrate what you have just accomplished.
Make it worth it! You’ve done a good job, and it wasn’t easy. Acknowledge it: you’re a badass!
Having a lazy day is not the end of the world. But if you have already a limited time to practise your art, you can’t afford to lose it. I hope that these techniques will help you be more productive and will prove that it is possible to beat the lazy feeling.
As usual, don’t hesitate to comment below if you have good techniques to motivate yourself, or if you are having a lazy day right now.
Before you go, have you seen my survey? I need help to decide what content to add to this website. I want to help creative people like you when you struggle. To do that, I need to understand what your problems are, your greatest obstacles, and what attempts to fix them have failed before. So, if you can spare 5 minutes, I’d love to hear from you!
Céline is an author and podcaster passionate about helping fellow artists reach their potential and live a happy, balanced life.