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The Struggle is Real: What to Do When You Don’t Feel Like Doing Anything

As an entrepreneur, we all have those times where we don’t feel like doing anything. Throw on the stresses of everyday life or a mental illness like depression or bipolar, and sometimes, you have a recipe for disaster. (Yup, totally know that one.) Even when you don’t feel like doing anything, sometimes… you just have to do it anyway. What then?

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

Figure out if you don’t feel like doing anything for a real reason.

Most of the time, when I don’t feel like doing anything, I stop and ask myself these three questions:

Have I been taking care of myself lately?

I’m a workaholic, and you probably are, too! Those of us who love our jobs work tend to throw ourselves full-force into working. And that’s just not healthy if you aren’t taking care of yourself. I evaluate if I have been eating enough (three meals a day), drinking enough (being hydrated is super important), getting enough sleep (at least 8 hours), and taking a little me time (we all need it!)

If the answer is no to any of the above, then that becomes the first priority: fix what’s broken.

Am I afraid of something?

Fears have a strange little way of working themselves into the back of our thoughts and uprooting our passions. Sometimes, a fear starts holding us back before we even know we’re afraid. I always sit down and dig deep, and do a little self talk to see if I’m afraid of screwing something up, having a negative reaction to a project, or maybe a fear of missing out.

[bctt tweet=”If there is fear lurking in the shadows, you have to rip it out into the light &face it head on.”]

Do I need to change things up?

I am not a creature of habit or routine. We’re all wired differently, some folks need a steady routine. That’s not me. After a few days (if I’m lucky, a few weeks) of going about my day in a particular routine, I have to switch things up. If I check out on the previous two questions, it usually comes down to me being tired of doing the same old, same old.

Instead of following the norm, get creative and move your routine around a bit.

Fuel the power to get motivated.

If I eat, breathe, and sleep my work, then music absolutely must be pulsing in my veins. We all have something that drives us, whether that’s meditation, yoga, exercise, getting outside, or turning up the volume on our favorite tunes.

I have a short list of songs that are guaranteed to get me moving in the right direction, even when I’m depressed, sick, or tired. After finding my groove, I usually transition over to Songza or Spotify, and pop on a playlist to keep me moving.

[bctt tweet=”Whatever gets your blood flowin’, push play on it &get in the mood to be a productivity ninja.”]

Cater to your easy, fun, or favorite tasks first.

We all have tasks that come easy peasy to us, and that don’t really feel like work. For me, that’s coding, graphic design, and the like. (I know, I’m a little weird like that.)

For instance, this morning, I spent a little time optimizing a WordPress website for a soapmaker in my Facebook group. Since it’s something that I enjoy doing and doesn’t feel like work to me (since I don’t do it as work anymore…), it pushed me into a productive mode and carried the bonus points of helping her out.

If I don’t feel like writing a blog post, I’ll pop in Photoshop and whip up the blog post’s graphics first. (Yeah, that happened today, too.)

When you don’t feel like doing anything, make it easy to get started. Take a gander at your To Do list, and find a task that will help push you forward while getting your mojo moving. Accomplishing a task or two that feels easy will help get your ball rolling, and give you the satisfaction of crossing a task off your list.

When you jump on something you don’t feel like doing, ease into it.

I use FocusBooster to ease into my work day when I’m struggling. It’s a digital Pomodoro timer that gives me a race against the clock kind of feeling that isn’t crazy overwhelming. I rock FocusBooster with twenty minutes of “I will do this task right now with no distractions.”

When my twenty minute timer goes off, I take a five minute break as a reward. Usually, that break consists of popping over on Facebook, grabbing a snack, or going outside for a little sunshine and fresh air. Starting with twenty minutes of steady concentration and determination usually eases me into knocking the rest of the day out of the park.

If you have a huge task on your To Do list that you are dreading, break that baby down into an easy bite-size piece to start with.

[bctt tweet=”Stop struggling with your To Do list: start small and take it easy – don’t force it.”]

If all else fails, be a mouse in a maze with cheese.

It’s no secret, I will always be a gamer at heart. I really love it when developers build in gamification features into software. The big one I tend to share with other entrepreneurs is the Email Game, where you rack up points for wrangling your inbox. I also setup my daily agenda of three things on ToDoist, so when I click the little checkbox that says “I did this!,” I get Karma (points.)

If it’s not a task that already has a built in system of rewards, I’ll create one for myself. Whether that’s a glass of wine, some fair trade organic chocolate, or a new business book on my Kindle, I’ll find a way to indulge myself with a reward.

If you need to push yourself to take those steps forward, don’t be afraid to give yourself a little pat on the back or a high five in exchange for the hard work.

In the end, reframe your thinking.

Whatever it is that you don’t feel like doing, there’s a positive end game in sight for the reason that task exists. You might hate writing your email newsletter, but when you do write it, you get to reach out and make a connection with people who like your work. That’s pretty amazeballs, if you ask me.

For me, email is a common struggle… When I find myself dreading my inbox, I remind myself that I get tons of email from soapmakers around the world because they value my input or support my work. Email is an opportunity for me to help others, no matter how overwhelming it can be at times.

When you don’t feel like doing anything, you have to find a way to get over it as an entrepreneur. Find the light at the end of the tunnel, and remind yourself why that task is even on your To Do list. It has to have a real positive reason for being there!

Can’t find a rhyme or reason for that thing you are dreading? Then it probably doesn’t need to be on your plate! Look at that, another item checked off the good ole To Do list! 😉

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16 Responses

  1. Kenna,
    Thank you for this article. I am also diagnosed bipolar type II rapid cycling and major depressive…
    Doing soap keeps me sane and although I am overwhelmed right now, your artice brought me some light.

    I don’t know how often you hear this, but thank you for sharing your light. It is very bright and I for one, truly appreciate how you put yourself out there.

    Love and light.
    -Ciao for now,
    Sandi Kay
    AKA Bad Granny

  2. There is a game for taking care of your emails?!! I need that!! I have THREE emails and two of them are monsters. While I can easily go through and delete that ones I don’t care about at the moment, the other ones I want to get back to tend to pile up. I’m waiting for a day when I can just sit down and go through them all.

    Thank you SO much for your help yesterday. YOU made my day and I hope my “little” project was good food for you. I know you weren’t feeling well, so you were a rock star to jump on that. It was an answer to my prayers that you picked up on my distress. I am going to seriously consider the EOG . It looks like a good fit for my needs.

    Thank you also for such a great article. You’re awesome!

    1. Yesssss, the Email Game is fabulous!

      You are very welcome for the help. 🙂 I hope it ironed out some of the issues you’ve had lately. I definitely recommend EOG in your case, it’s cost effective and the right service level for you. 🙂

  3. Your tips are universally appropriate regardless of one’s personal challenges. The fact is, we all have tasks that we would rather avoid and thoughts that can become barriers to successful goal achievement. Thanks for considering this information important enough to share with your readership. I, for one am going to bookmark this one to remind myself when I start procrastinating or having negative thoughts.

    1. Thanks, Kathleen! It’s true, this happens to everyone regardless of what their life is like or what challenges they face. 🙂 I hope it proves helpful in the future!

  4. This is a wonderful article. I have been feeling blue for while. I have found out that making homemade soap brings me joy. There is no pressure or a job. I love doing it. Thanks

    1. Thanks for sharing, Angela. 🙂 Soapmaking has been a savior for a lot of people, and I think that’s part of what makes it so wonderful! You’re very welcome!

  5. Kenna, I really appreciate your openness regarding depression and bipolar disorder. I have a tendency toward anxiety and depression and can definitely relate to the triggers you mentioned. I’ve been struggling with getting my work area set up after moving to Colorado from the east coast. I had a failed soap batch the other day because where I chose to soap was closed in and awkward. And, I had made the mistake of trying a really advanced design. The situation set off a “I don’t think I can do this any more” complex and a major funk. But today, after reading your blog post, I switched to a better soap making area and simplified a soap design. Things worked out so much better and my confidence has increased. Thanks so much for this timely advice!

  6. Oh thank you!!!! This is a “stuck” day. One of those where I don’t HAVE to get orders out the door, or products to make. I need to make some products I’m out of, but I can procrastinate yet another day. I love your recommendations/suggestions because every day that I procrastinate and stay stuck, is just one more day piled on another of feeling bad, wrong, evil and very much a failure.

  7. Such a great article Kenna! 😀 Very helpful indeed 😀 I am a newbie to soap making, but I definitely can fall into a funk and become over whelmed.

    Happy New Year to 2016! :-D♡

  8. This is why I love the ToDoist app. It allows you to classify things on your list by whatever you like. I classify by time required and type of task, and energy level required. If I’m feeling unmotivated or low energy I’ll sort the list to see all 5 minute tasks, or all low energy tasks. Eases me into the flow, and striking off a bunch of small tasks can be as motivating as one big one.

    1. I love ToDoist! 🙂 I use it personally, and we use it internally among the team. 🙂 It’s a great app for prioritizing (among so much more)! Love the Karma system to add a gamification element, too.

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