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How To Be Productive When You Just Don’t Feel Like It

Patrick Byron
Jan 8, 2019 · 9 min read

There are no two ways about it. Some days you just don’t feel like doing shit. Some days you’d rather be slapped in the face than get off your butt and put in some work.

Maybe you are depressed because your neurotic paramour keeps texting their ex. Perhaps your hypocritical micromanaging boss gave you an unjustified poor interim review. Or you just freaking woke up on the wrong side of your cheap mattress.

We all feel that way sometimes, but more often than not we need to pull ourselves together and get busy anyway. Here are some tips on how to will yourself out of bed and into work mode.

Remember the Alamo

The events behind the Battle of the Alamo aren’t important for our purposes. Just know that about 200 people defending the recently independent Texas from Mexico were slaughtered by 1600 Mexican troops led by Mexican general Santa Ana.

About a month later Texans gained revenge and defeated the Mexicans ending what was called the Texas Revolution. The avenging Texans used as their rallying cry “Remeber the Alamo” as motivation.

Your Alamo is whatever motivates you to do the work you do. Your family, your personal pride, money, career advancement, belief in a better life, whatever it is use it to get you going on those days when you just don’t have it on your own.

Work that Willpower Muscle

There are people that will tell you that willpower doesn’t work, and while that makes a clever book title, it’s flat-out wrong. If you want something badly enough you’ll get it done through willpower.

Mark Twain once wrote 9500 words in a day rushing to finish a contracted project. People advise 500–1000 a day for writers so 9500 insane.

You can increase your willpower by working at it. Exercise more and push yourself to get stronger physically and mentally. These are things that translate into your everyday life.

If you get used to pushing yourself in the gym or outside while running you’ll be stronger, but you’ll also have those experiences to call upon when you need that extra motivation to keep pushing at work.


Speaking of exercise, nothing gives you a boost of adrenaline like exercising. If you don’t feel like working then maybe you can will yourself to get a good workout.

I feel pretty damn awesome after a workout. That’s the time to transition into some work and getting things done. Take advantage of that adrenaline boost and work.

Do Something You Excel At

Change your mood by doing that thing you kick ass at. Surely there is something you are the king or queen of, even if it’s in your own damn mind.

I’m not saying it has to be socially worthwhile or even something you necessarily would be proud of telling your friends. Hey, to each his or her own.

Just find something, anything, that you will give you a shot of confidence. Something you can rack up an easy win at that will get you back on track and in the mood to do some real work.

Just Give Up….Temporarily

No, I’m not telling you to say fuck it and throw in the towel completely, as tempting as that may be. But sometimes beating a hasty retreat from battle is exactly what is needed.

“Part of the happiness of life consists not in fighting battles, but in avoiding them. A masterly retreat is in itself a victory.” — Norman Vincent Peale.

If life has worn you down, then perhaps rest is the perfect remedy. Perhaps a vacation is in order. Maybe you just need a mental health day. Only you can know your limits, and it would be wise for you to learn them if you don’t.

When you play sports you encounter annoying injuries like tendonitis from overuse. The prescription is rest and less exercise. Pushing onwards means the risk of greater injury and a longer absence from exercise. The same is true when you reach your limits at work. Take a break before you end up broken.

Talk It Out

It feels good to talk about your problems… to the right people. Talk about your issues with a trusted friend that will listen and not judge or give you tons of endless advice. Sometimes just blurting out what is wrong to someone is all we need.

Just Do It

Sometimes if you simply get started on your work that feeling of depression or gloom will lift. When it came to running my dad always said the first step was the hardest. Once you get into the flow for a few minutes you may find yourself feeling fine. Seriously. It happens.


I’ve always found this to be hokey as fuck but people swear by them. In short, according to the blog mindvalley, affirmations are “statements that are spoken, and often repeated, to encourage and uplift the person speaking them.”

You say them enough and you convince your brain they are true and your body responds by lifting you out of your funk.

Mindvalley has everything you could possibly want to know about affirmations and why they work, including some examples such as: “I am enthusiastic and excited about my work” and “I love every day that I work.”

You can easily create your own, such as “As soon as I get up and get moving I am going to feel better and feel like working.” Say it as many times as you need to get yourself believing it.


They say that laughter is the best medicine! Right? Everyone has heard that at some point in their lives. And everyone knows it’s true!

You just have to make or let yourself laugh. Sometimes we’d rather just sit there and brood. I totally get that, but if you need to work then let laughter pull you out of your funk.

All you need to do is bring up YouTube or TikTok and start searching for funny stuff. In a matter of seconds, you will be laughing your ass off and feeling better. Guaranteed.

Otherwise, just start smiling and forcing yourself to laugh. It sounds creepy because it is creepy! It also works.

Let There Be Light!

Let that big old ball of fire in the sky kiss your beautiful face. Yes, let the sun shine down upon you. Imagine you are on that perfect beach and soak up the rays. Swimsuit optional.

If you are living up north somewhere where it stays dark all night then I guess this one isn’t an option. Perhaps a heat lamp?

Starting Eating Right

I’m sure plenty of people don’t want to hear this one. I don’t even like typing it. I am rushing to finish this article so I can finish the pizza I ordered earlier.

But…it’s proven that a better diet will improve your mood and your energy levels. I know that it’s trendy to refuse to listen to science, but this one can really help if you listen.

Cut out the beer, soda, sweets, and (gasp!) pizza, and eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, and chicken and tons of water and watch the energy levels soar into the stratosphere, and the laziness and foul moods recede to the depths.

Dress for Success

Put on something that gives you confidence. Something that makes you look good or feel good.

I’m not exactly the most handsome of devils, but I do have a couple of suits that hide my deficiencies and create some modicum of desirability. I definitely put those on when I need a lift.

Maybe you just need to stay at home and work in shorts and a t-shirt. Whatever works for you to get you in the mood to work is the absolute right choice.

Ponder Your Career Choice

Perhaps you are depressed or down because you just hate your damn job. Sometimes the simplest explanation is the correct one. Perhaps it’s not the right fit for you.

Look, we all get sold a bill of goods growing up. Things like this or that is a respectable career and you are a loser if you do this sort of job. It’s absolute bullshit.

Pick the career or job that makes you happy and lets you afford the lifestyle you want and you have aced a huge part of life. It doesn’t matter what it is. If it makes you feel like crap every day I can tell you that’s probably not the job for you.

So take some time and figure out if what you are doing as a career is what makes you unhappy. And to hell with your friends or your parents if they don’t like your choices. They aren’t the ones that are unhappy.

Experiment with some other choices. I wholeheartedly recommend this to people that are in their 20s. Trust me, you have zero to lose at that age. You still have plenty of time to figure it out, make a million and retire eventually.

Switch Up Your Routine

Routines are great because they are simple and let you autopilot your life. Routines suck because they deaden your mind. Which one is correct?

Trick question of course. They are both correct.

It is soooo tempting to try and make everything in life simple and easy. That’s the goal, right? Again, trick question.

Life is a constant balancing act of so many competing interests and concerns. Routines are great because it feels wonderful to have that security and normalcy, but that also gets boring and stupefying.

Your brain absolutely craves new experiences as well. That is a stone cold fact. So give your brain what it wants on occasion.

Instead of taking the same trip to work every damn day, and paying too much for coffee at Starbucks and parking as close as you can to the building, go a different way, try a local coffee spot and park in the boonies and hike it to work.

But this applies to any routine; not just your going to work routine. Switch up how and when you do your work.


Yep, write your issues down. Flesh them out. Tear them apart. Let it all hang out.

If that sounds stupid to you then I believe you haven’t tried it. Just sitting there brooding about whatever bothers you is so old school.

When you are upset or depressed your mind is like that word jumble thing, except you are trying to make a word out of 800 random letters instead of just 5.

Writing out your problems puts into focus what’s bothering you and will bring into mind some potential solutions. It will just make you feel better as well.

Take A Walk on the Wild Side

I can’t speak for everyone but I definitely have a wild and dark side that must be satisfied at times. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy they say.

I’m not going to get into specifics but whatever your vices are and whatever naughtiness that titillates you is indulge them from time to time.

Don’t let them overtake you, of course, but a little time being a bad boy or girl isn’t going to hurt anyone too much.


We ALL feel depressed or down or just don’t feel like working or making a difference at some point or another. It’s nothing to feel horrible about.

But do know that it’s temporary and that there are a plethora of things you can do to pull yourself out of it.

Some may take some time to implement, and some might work instantly, but one of them will eventually do the trick and get you back to full speed.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +408,714 people.

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Patrick Byron

Written by

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +669K people. Follow to join our community.

Patrick Byron

Written by

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +669K people. Follow to join our community.

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