5 Tips to Stop Procrastinating when you Feel Unmotivated
One of the most important stages of self-care is to make time for self-care, and when you procrastinate and constantly have all your unfinished tasks looming over your horizon, it’s hard to truly relax. As someone with ADHD and a perpetually overactive imagination, I am a master procrastinator. As someone with a history of depression, I am very familiar with the feeling of not having enough energy or motivation to want to get things done. But things must get done whether we want to do them or not, so sometimes we have to come up with some pretty creative solutions to get ourselves through them.
Here are five ways to stop procrastinating when you feel unmotivated.
1. Close those Tabs
When faced with tasks that we don’t want to do, our brains can turn to anything and everything in our environments to distract us and avoid the tasks at hand. The internet is the ultimate home of distraction; if you’re working on a device with internet connection, you can spend hours reading about literally anything before you’re left with only your assignment. There is an unlimited supply of things that you can avert your attention to, and sometimes that temptation is just too strong. To avoid falling
down into the trap of internet distractions, there are a few things you can try. One is to close tabs that aren’t related to what you’re working on, and you can take this a step further by setting a limit for how many tabs you’re allowed to have open so that you don’t start opening more every time you want to think about something else. If you don’t need the internet, an even better step would be to close all internet browsers altogether. If those aren’t enough, try leaving your computer for a bit and writing notes and ideas about what you need to do by hand. It might sound like a drag, but in addition to getting you away from your computer, writing by hand might also inspire you to come up with better ideas; there’s something freeing about just writing down everything that comes to mind and not having the power to use the backspace button every time you regret a thought.
2. Take Energization Breaks
Sometimes we procrastinate because we’re tired (physically, mentally, or emotionally) and we know, consciously or subconsciously, that we don’t have the energy to focus and do a good job. In cases like this where you’re trying to work but you just can’t be productive, sometimes the solution is surprisingly simple. You may merely need a break to re-energize you. Either go outside, even if it’s just for a few minutes, or doing some brief intensive exercise (or do both at the same time). The activities I find most helpful are doing 20 jumping jacks and running up and down my street, but going for a brief stroll outside works for me as well. Getting your blood lowing, getting some fresh air, and getting a change of scenery can all work wonders for your state of mind and your inspiration.
3. Don’t Push Too Hard
This is an extension of the last point. Sometimes when your procrastination and lack of motivation are rooted in a lack of energy the solution is to re-energize yourself, but if you’re truly exhausted, the best thing to do is always to rest. No matter how much work you have to do or how soon the deadline is, if you’re tired to the point where you’re procrastinating and unable to find motivation, you probably aren’t going to be productive anyway. Letting yourself rest will give you what you need to produce your best work, even if it’s a few hours or a day later.
4. Don’t Force It
I have something to confess. This topic is not at all what I originally wanted to write for this post. The topic that I was planning on writing about and had been thinking about for days is much more interesting and complex in my opinion, but after multiple days of trying to write it I had hardly gotten anything down. Every time I tried to write it, I would instinctively turn to anything that I could distract myself with. Seriously, in the time I spent trying to write that post I caught up on all my emails and watched an entire season of Grey’s Anatomy, but I only wrote 51 words of the post. So yesterday I decided to start fresh; I opened up a blank document and just told myself to freely write about what I’m feeling and thinking about. Boom, suddenly I had a topic (procrastination of course), and all my points and half a page written.
I know that a lot of the time we can’t change the work we have to do, but when you’re not interested in what you’re doing it can be next to impossible to engage in it. If you can, try to shift the topic or nature of your task so that it’s something that sparks some passion in you. If you can’t change it at all, try doing some light research on an aspect of it that you’ve never learned about so that you understand it better and potentially feel more inspired. If neither of those things work and you find it really demotivating and difficult to engage in, the best option is probably to take a break from it and see if you feel more passionate about it at a later time.
5. Create a Childish Reward System for Yourself
This one appeals to our simplest mechanisms for motivation. It may not work if your procrastination is the result of a depression or a chronic lack of motivation, pleasure or interest, but it’s easy to do so it’s always worth a shot. Remember when you were a kid and the way your parents got you to clean your room or do your homework was by bribing you and telling you that if you did it you would be rewarded with something that you wanted after? Now that you’re grown up, you get to do the rewarding for yourself. Create your own reward system that makes you give yourself something that you want if you complete certain amounts of work. Essentially, you’re creating motivation to get it done because getting the task done in itself is not motivating you enough.
The reward can be anything as long as it’s something that you want enough that it will actually motivate you to be productive. Some good examples are foods, breaks from working, and going out or doing something fun. The way that you measure your progress can either be by how much work you’ve done or by how much time you’ve spent working. I tend to prefer measuring by amount of work done because if the unit of measure is time then you might end up half-heartedly “working” while you wait for the time to go by. This results in you getting your reward because you’ve been “working” for the required amount of time, even if you weren’t actually being productive. These are a few of my personal examples: while working on an essay, every time I finish a paragraph, I can take up to a 30-minute break (and my breaks always include food, for extra motivation), while working on pretty much any assignment, if I get it done by a certain time, I can go out with friends or do something fun later in the day, and while working on this blog, after every two points I completed, I could watch one episode of Grey’s Anatomy (yes, I’m obsessed).
Procrastination is something we all do, especially in our culture that promotes working until we have nothing left to give, but we still need to find ways around it. The important thing is to identify why you’re procrastinating; if it’s just a simple desire to avoid something that you don’t really want to do, you might just need some more motivation or fewer distractions, but if it’s a deeper reason, the issue might be that you need to take care of yourself in order to reach your optimal level of functioning. Always remember to take care of yourself first; no assignment, task, or deadline is more important than you!