Every entrepreneur & creative goes through it. Call it burn out, creative block, procrastination…it’s all the same. That depressing downward spiral where you lose focus, & motivation & can’t seem to get anything done. The more you try to think yourself out of it, the more you procrastinate because catching up seems too overwhelming. Then you get the guilts of not getting things done which makes you zone out & procrastinate even more.
If you’re reading this because this is where you are right now, know that you’e not alone & that this happens to everyone.
I’m not one to speak in abstracts & motivational quotes. If you could will it away with positive thoughts you wouldn’t be here. That doesn’t work for me either.
I’ve found that it’s a series of incremental steps that helps me get out of the funk, get back on track, & productive again.
1. Get some sleep
When you get in a rut it’s easy to fall into bad sleep patterns. Staying up late, late nigh social media doom scrolling. The stress & guilt of poor productivity can make it difficult to concentrate, while at the same time your brain won’t let you stop thinking so that you can sleep.
Put down the phone, turn off the TV & be alone with the quiet. Maybe play some relaxing music. Constant noise & input will not help to clear your head, & focus.
2. Eat better
Fatty, filler foods take away all your energy & make you sluggish & unmotivated. Eat better. Snack better. Grains, protein, fruits & vegetables give you more energy, wards off the sleepy’s, & makes you feel better overall.
Check out this article from eatthis.com:
30 Best Foods That Give You All-Day Energy
3. Start your day well
9 to 5 are my business/productivity hours, but I start my day around 6 a.m. Get my coffee, catch up some news or bookmarked articles, exercise, shower, get dressed, & maybe a decent healthy breakfast.
By 9 a.m. I’ve already accomplished a few positive things that make me feel good & productive. Once you’re on a roll & feeling good about yourself it’s really easy to keep it going for the rest of the day.
FYI: Exercise is a huge energy boost to your day, & makes you feel personally accomplished & better about yourself, which in turn makes you motivated to tackle professional tasks & knock them out of the park.
You’re not a robot & are not supposed to be perfect, motivated & upbeat all the time. It’s not natural. Sometimes we forget things, & some days we just don’t feel like it.
You will never get out of the funk if you dwell on the totality of all the things you need to get done. It’s overwhelming & too difficult to pick a place to get started.
Try picking one thing at a time, & committing to getting that one thing done. Doing this will give you a feeling of accomplishment again, & motivate you to move on to one more thing.
You’d be amazed how fast you can catch up when you just commit to one thing at a time.
5. Eliminate distractions
Once you start down the spiral you find reasons to engulf yourself in distractions that keep you “busy”, but are really just excuses to avoid facing your to-do list. Just a few minutes on Facebook or YouTube can turn into hours, & then it becomes easier to just give up for the day.
Create productivity times that you do not stray from. For instance my business is open from 9 to 5, so during those hours I either work on or for my business. I do listen to music throughout the day, but no TV, games, or social media before 5 o’clock. Not only does it give me something to look forward to later, but it keeps me from losing track of time when I tell myself “I’m only going to spend 5 minutes on Reddit, & then I’ll get started.
This includes friends & family who want to talk & socialize during your business or productivity hours.
Without distractions occupying your time you have a better chance of tackling at least one thing on your list.
6. Get up from your desk
When you’re feeling unmotivated, tired…get up from the desk & get something else accomplished. Dishes, laundry, shopping. Anything. Don’t just sit there doom scrolling & beating yourself up.
7. Don’t fall into the guru trap
When we’re feeling unmotivated it’s common to fall into the guru trap. Constantly combing the internet & YouTube looking for daily affirmations, motivational speeches & quotes to pull us out of the funk. Seeking inspiration is a great idea, & it’s a good way to spark the creative juices or see things from a different perspective. Just be careful not to become addicted to watching guru videos as an excuse for actually doing stuff.
8. Do the boring hard stuff first
I’m going to school online, full time. I set a goal of studying 3-4 hours a day. I’m the most alert & energetic in the morning, so that’s when I study. If I try to study later in the day I get sleepy, don’t retain the knowledge, & screw off to avoid doing it. Get the boring stuff out of the way first. Not last.
9. Make your work space comfortable
Make it a place you actually like being in. Things like a bad chair, improper monitor height, bad lighting make you not want to be in the space & rush to get away from it as fast as possible.
Surround yourself with things that bring you joy, or, clean it up if that’s what makes you feel more relaxed.
Make incremental improvements to your space or your gear to help improve speed, productivity or comfort.
10. Take time off
Working & sitting at your desk all day, 7 days a week is less productive than having dedicated work hours. It also leads to fatigue & burn out. Enjoy your weekends when you can. Sometimes a good happy hour is enough to do the trick.
Take vacations. What’s the sense in working hard if you never enjoy the fruits of your labor? If you plan ahead you will not miss anything.
These are the things that help me get out of a creative or productivity funk. The key is baby steps. Don’t put additional pressure on yourself to get this magical burst of energy that allows you to handle everything all at once. Do one thing at a time & when that’s done move to the next. If you accomplish one thing every day that to-do list will be done before you know it.