How to Reset When You’re Feeling Unmotivated to Work

Sophie Michals
Jun 11, 2019 · 4 min read

I’ve been a solopreneur for nearly three years. Since venturing out on my own, I’m pretty good about getting up and starting work in the mornings. I have a dedicated desk at a coworking space, and I alternate between working there and working at home.

I don’t dread going to work like I did when I worked a corporate job, but sometimes I lack the motivation to get started. Staring at my screen and willing the motivation to come doesn’t work—I’ve learned to give myself permission to take breaks during “normal work hours” when I need them.

Here are my strategies for those times when I feel sluggish and would rather be doing anything but working.

Turn up the Tunes

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Photo by Juliane Mergener on Unsplash

One of my favorite rituals that energizes me and improves my outlook for the day is listening to music I love while drinking my morning coffee. Music is a big part of my life and can greatly influence my mood. When I’m at home, I’ll sing along and maybe even dance. Don’t worry—I’m nice enough to use headphones and to not sing along when I’m at my coworking space.

Get Some Exercise

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Photo by Blubel on Unsplash

I commuted by bicycle or the subway for many years when I worked an office job. Now my coworking space is three blocks away, so it’s a quick walk. The biggest thing I miss about working several miles from home is biking to work. Even though I had to stay alert in traffic, the ride was meditative and helped get my day off to a good start. It was a bonus that my commute doubled as exercise.

These days I go to a yoga class two mornings a week and start working in the afternoon. On days I don’t do yoga, I like to take a midday walk for at least 30 minutes when I can fit it in.

Read a Book or Play a Game

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Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Scheduling time for reading may seem silly, but it’s a good way to break up your day and recharge. Go to a different room (or outside!) and set a timer for 30 minutes or an hour. Do some pleasure reading or play a game until the timer goes off, then get back to work. I like to use this time to catch up on articles on my to-read list or to do a crossword puzzle.

Take the Day Off

If the ideas above don’t work and you have a flexible deadline, consider taking the day off.

A couple of months ago I asked this question in a LinkedIn group I belong to:

How do you get motivated to work on days when you’re just not feeling it? I’m usually good about starting on my work, but today I’m feeling distracted, and the deadline for the project I’m working on is more than a week out.

I got some great responses, but this one really stood out:

One thing I have tried is just knuckling down for 1.5 hours before allowing myself the decision to take the day off to recharge or going onto some other project. The initial 1.5 hours can help get me over any procrastination humps or mental blocks. And when I do need to recharge, I do it knowing I’ll be a lot more efficient when I get back to the project.

Even though I set my own hours, I rarely gave myself permission to take the day off if I hadn’t already planned for it. However, sometimes you really need to do that, especially if you’re feeling burnout.

Now I’m not hesitant to take a day off if I need it. I’ll go to a museum or a movie or take a long bike ride without feeling guilty. The work can wait til tomorrow.

Me Time Is Essential

Setting your own hours is both a blessing and a curse. I spent most of my working life working for other people, and it was hard to switch from the mind-set that I must work 9–5. I’m still getting used to it! But the beauty of having this flexibility is that I can build me time into my day—and that helps me use my time better and produce better work, which is a win for both me and my clients.

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Sophie Michals

Written by

Helping brainy, image-conscious leaders simplify complex ideas in writing | Technical Writer | Writing Coach

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +775K people. Follow to join our community.

Sophie Michals

Written by

Helping brainy, image-conscious leaders simplify complex ideas in writing | Technical Writer | Writing Coach

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +775K people. Follow to join our community.

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