How To Be Productive Even When You’re Unmotivated

Staying productive has got to be the most challenging aspect of running a creative business, hands down. Whether I was freelancing or simply trying to write a blog post like this one, actually starting and feeling motivated has always been a huge struggle for me. Getting the client, defining the task, these are the easy parts. The hard part starts when you actually have to sit down and get some serious work done. Suddenly, doing the dishes sounds very appealing and your hunger kicks in right when you’re staring at that blank document. But I’m here to tell you that there’s hope, my friends! Here are a few tips for staying productive even when you feel completely unmotivated.

Make to do lists your friend

To make the most of my day, I find it helps if I have a short to do list drafted the night before to keep me on track. Whenever I skip this (usually out of pure laziness) I find I’m aimless in the morning and generally get stuck sifting through email until about 11am. Instead, if I have a few defined tasks planned ahead of time I can easily visualize my day and prioritize accordingly. Crossing things off this list is also super satisfying and gives you a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

Satisfy your hunger

This one is so important, make sure to eat breakfast first thing so you’re not distracted by your own hunger. I am a huge hypocrite when it comes to this, as I rarely actually eat breakfast right when I get up. But then you’ll usually see me keeled over with hunger pains halfway through the morning. Not a pretty sight, or feeling. I really want to make it a priority to eat something healthy and satisfying first thing in the morning. Having some snacks prepped like pre-cut fruit or these delicious, gluten-free breakfast cookies makes it so much easier to get some food down, even when you’re swamped.

Work in focussed bursts

Have you ever heard of the Pomodoro technique? This method breaks down your work day into 25 minute intervals, separated by short five minute breaks in between. First pick a task to work on, set a timer (I like this free one for Mac) for 25 minutes, work on your task until the timer rings and record your status, take a short break, and then start another “pomodoro”. Make sure to take a longer break (for 15 – 20 minutes) every four pomodoros. Using this technique will really help you gauge how long tasks actually take you and allow you to realistically set timelines.

Unplug from social media

Pinning, scrolling, tweeting and facebooking are all lovely ways to mind melt when you’re not motivated. But you’re only procrastinating the inevitable. Turn off notifications on your phone, or better yet, leave your phone in another room. Even an Instagram like can trigger your curiosity and completely derail you from what you were working on. Reserve checking social media for your five minute pomodoro breaks, and then actually stop when your five minutes are up! Once you quiet all that noise it’ll be so much easier to focus, I promise.

Get organized

Nothing’s more of a buzz kill on your productivity than a cluttered work environment. Tidy up your desk and tame your email so you can think clearly and breath a little easier. I recently overhauled our main email account with twenty different filters so that only important emails make it to our inbox, and the others are organized nicely. It’s pure bliss! You might want to get on this one right away.

Don’t force it

Some days you’re just not in the mood and that’s okay. Get away from your desk, go for a walk, take the afternoon off, just give your mind a break and try again tomorrow. After all, you can’t force greatness!

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How do you stay productive when you feel unmotivated? Let us know in the comments below!

Author: Brittni Rogers

Tired of being told to work for an agency if she wanted to make it as a graphic designer, Brittni chose to defy convention and put her skills up for offer. What began as a small Etsy side project rapidly evolved into something much greater. With a healthy appreciation for simple layouts, ample whitespace and just the right amount of color, Brittni’s creative spirit drives the look and feel of all of Station Seven’s projects.

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  • Working in smaller increments is such a great relieve! Staying plugged into a computer all day is not only hard on the eyes but it’s draining. Also, I’ve made it a habit of unplugging from social media when I have information overload. Recharging and refocusing with the time off works wonders! Thanks for such a great post!

    Nat

    • Hey Natalie, it definitely is a relief isn’t it? Another thing that helps me avoid information overload as well is closing the my email and only checking it at certain points in the day – this way I’m not distracted whenever something comes in, and the emails still get answered in a timely manner. So glad you enjoyed the post :)

  • Thanks a lot for this post..!!! I have recently started blogging and face so many issues when it comes to concentration..Now I am going to religiously follow your tips to stay focussed…

  • I’m always more focused and productive when I take the time to use the Pomodoro method! I always get burnt out in the afternoon so I’m trying to work on ways to keep being productive past that slump…

    A new tip I heard recently from funfunfunction; define a clear desire and outcome

    Example
    Write pitch for the Daily Post Blog
    In order to get more visibility
    So I can have a more successful website

    I feel that by looking at your goals right in the face for every to-do list, you can get over your fatigue because you know exactly why it is you’re working so hard.

    • Totally agree that the afternoon is the toughest to get through. I’ve heard so many good things about Pomodoro but haven’t tried it yet! I should do that.

      The new tip you mentioned also sounds helpful, knowing your “Why” is key for so many things! Thanks for sharing!

  • Working in focused bursts has been a game changer for not only how much I get done but the quality of what I do. It’s a great practice to highlight. Great Post.

    • Yes, I definitely see a difference when I take a break and come back to my work. Sometimes I find it hard to take a break though, but I need to keep reminding myself it’s important. Thanks!