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What to do when you have no motivation

I’ll start with an obvious statement.

Business is hard. And finding the motivation to do it is even harder. So here’s some advice on what to do when you have no motivation

From my experience and observing other startups for several years, I have noticed a few things that I have picked on.

I think everyone has those days when they just have no motivation to do anything. There is no desire to get to work, no desire to start on anything productive. It is a “mood” (for want of a better word) that comes and goes as it pleases. It may be for one day. It may be for one week.
Here are a few observations I have made about it:

It often happens when you have a mountain of work and don’t know where to start.
It can be immune to the simple “starting hacks” – e.g. just do the first step of something, or just start working for five minutes.
Your usual motivational techniques may not work. For example, some people use music for focusing, listening to podcasts, looking at work-related but not actual work content.

It seems to happen more often when people are working alone.

I think there are two underlying issues for these periods.

  1.  If it is happening cyclically or disturbingly often, you might want to consider radically changing what you do and who you do it with. Often this might require a job change. This might be symptomatic of a lack of desire for the work you are doing, a disinterest in the purpose of the organization you work in, a dislike of the people you work with.
  2.  If it happens sporadically but not often, this might just be normal. Consistent habits, namely sleep, nutrition, exercise and rest will probably make a good impact.

So, what’s the fix?

Fundamentally, it is the same as all productivity advice. There is no secret formula or recipe for it, unfortunately.

Have a good schedule on a daily basis.

Time to relax
Friends to talk to

Have a good schedule on a yearly basis.

Don’t work all the time
Make time for hobbies
Make time for extended periods of relaxation

It is something that probably happens to the most driven and productive humans. Perhaps that is to be expected. The human body, after all, has not historically had to deal with sustained periods of strenuous mental exercise. A few non-functional days out of every year is probably necessary.

If you have the freedom, perhaps the best thing to do are small, inconsequential tasks. For example

  • Clear up your calendar.
  • Fix your filing system.
  • Clean your office.
  • Reply to a few low-priority emails.

Often I find that this leads way to the core work you need to be doing.

On a related note, the brain seems to be exceptionally good at knowing what the most important thing on your to-do list is. It’s the thing that you keep putting off.

Photo by Aleks Dahlberg on Unsplash

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