It’s time for a confession: Despite being fortunate enough to work from home, on a variety of different freelance jobs I thoroughly enjoy, I still have phases when I have no motivation to do anything.
I’m clearly not alone. A quick bit of research before I worked on this article revealed that, on average, nearly 5000 people each month go to Google and type “no motivation to do anything.” into the search bar. In addition, you can see how the number of people has shot up in the past few months, with over 8000 looking it up on January 2021.
Usually, I’m very motivated. I’ve worked for myself for well over a decade – and if you don’t motivate yourself as a freelancer, nobody else will do it for you. As such, when I hit a phase when I’m “not feeling it,” I get extremely frustrated with myself. (That said, if you’re struggling right now, the graph above should be sufficient reassurance that you’re not alone).
Rather than kicking straight into a productive gear, I tend to bury myself in procrastination. I then get increasingly frustrated as I realize I’ve passed yet another hour achieving nothing beyond getting furious with my fellow man as a result of reading about politics on Twitter.
By that time I’m so fed up I need to comfort eat.
And so it goes on.
However, I’ve been in this game long enough now that I know I can’t afford to allow these unproductive phases to last long. So with that in mind, I’d like to share the techniques I use to shake myself out of them. Hopefully next time you feel like you’ve lost your “work mojo,” one or more of these ideas will get you back on track.
Tactics for When you Have No Motivation to do Anything
1. Don’t do anything
OK, so this isn’t a tactic you can use very frequently – not unless you want your business and financial situation to crumble! However, I do feel it has validity.
Sometimes, we all just need a rest. Especially these days. Sometimes we lack motivation because our brains are overstimulated or our bodies are physically tired.
Well the good news, if you’re a freelancer or self-employed home worker, is that you ARE allowed a “duvet day” occasionally. Sometimes, the genuine answer to getting unstuck is just to give in to the lure of Netflix or the lounger in the garden, and give yourself a chance to reset.
Sure, it means nothing gets done for a day, but if it brings you back to 100% productivity afterwards, it’s probably worthwhile, so long as you don’t miss any deadlines or upset any clients in the process.
2. Make lists when you’re on a roll
This is a tactic you have to deploy before you find yourself with no motivation to do anything, but once you know it, you can put it into practice ready for the next time.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have days when you’re super-inspired; Days when the ideas don’t seem to stop flowing. In my case, these days are often when I already have 101 other things to do, and it’s frustrating that I don’t get to start on all the things inspiring me.
The solution is to always make a note of these ideas when they come to you – whether they’re new marketing methods you fancy trying, articles you want to write, tweaks to your website, or literally anything else that will move your business forward.
Then, armed with these lists, you can go through them when you’re lacking inspiration, and hopefully find at least one thing you can push yourself to get on with.
3. Start something new
One of the biggest attractions of the freelance lifestyle is that you never have to settle for doing the same things day in, day out.
If you want to launch a new product or service, you can – and you don’t have to convince a board or management team first.
So take advantage of your freedom (the freedom that you probably work very hard for most of the time!). Think of a string you could add to your bow, and get started on it. This often works really well for me when I’m feeling uninspired – and great things can come from the end result.
4. Eat a frog
Clearly, I don’t mean this literally. I’m also not suggesting licking reptiles in the hope of inspiring yourself with a psychedelic experience!
This technique actually originates from a quote by Mark Twain, as follows:
“Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
This has been translated into a wise business practice. In fact, there’s even an entire book on the subject.
Basically, the idea is that you get the nastiest, crappiest job on your list done first, knowing that anything else you have to do will be more enjoyable. You don’t then have to dread it for the rest of the day, week or month.
When I force myself to “eat the frog,” it guarantees me a good rush of motivation once I’ve done it. It takes some willpower, but sometimes it’s all about putting your head down and getting on with it. I can assure you this technique does work. So choose the job you’re most likely to procrastinate with and, as those sporty folks would say, “just do it.”
5. Go for the easy win
Okay, so this is the exact opposite of eating the frog. Rather than gaining motivation from having got the worst thing on your list taken care of, this method relies on the boost you get from completing tasks.
There is nothing as motivating as being able to cross off a load of tasks from your list!
The trick here is to start with the easiest tasks first so that you build enough momentum to carry you through the frog-like ones.
One caveat with this tip is that you need to make sure you don’t end up doing a load of tasks that don’t actually help your business move forward. A couple every now and then won’t hurt but as a freelancer you always want to focus on the work that adds the most value.
6. Use a Done list instead of a To-do list
To-do lists can be great for keeping you focused and organized but they can easily turn into motivation killers.
An alternative for the list lovers among us is to create a “done list.” By writing down the tasks you have completed you can track what you have done and get a boost in morale from seeing tasks being completed.
You might still need to take a quick look at project To-do lists or your goal sheets, but at least you won’t be facing a seemingly impossible list of tasks for the day. Because, let’s be honest, we all tend to put more on our To-do lists than we can realistically expect to achieve.
7. Hit up a side hustle
If you’ve spent much time reading the content here on HomeWorkingClub, you’ll know I’m a big fan of having side hustles to turn to. They keep your working life varied, and give you the insurance and security of having extra little streams of revenue.
Obviously, how free you are to switch to a side hustle on any given day will depend on all of your existing client commitments. I’d never condone any technique that puts you behind on deadlines or compromises your levels of service.
However, if your freelance life is anything like mine, there’s plenty of work that needs to be done “by the end of the week,” or “by Wednesday,” leaving us fairly free to shuffle around our commitments.
So, if I ever really feel like I’m “wading through treacle” with my work, I might decide to do a few website tests on UserTesting, get some household clutter uploaded to eBay, or spend an hour or two blasting through some tasks on ClickWorker.
Doing stuff like this at least earns some money, and is more productive and less soul-destroying than watching the day ebb away as you scroll through a Facebook feed.
8. Do some admin
Again, this is something you’ll only be able to do if your customer commitments permit it. If they do, plowing through some admin can be a way to still be productive, even when you feel you have no motivation to do anything.
All self-employed people have to do tasks that don’t earn them any money at some point. So if you’re having a “down day” and there’s nothing you absolutely have to do, there’s nothing to stop you getting ahead. You could do a tax or VAT return early, clear down your blog comments – or even file away the years of receipts that are sitting in a shoe box.
PRO TIP: You can actually go one better with this. Try to think of some admin tasks that will save you and your business some money. A few weeks ago, I spent a couple of hours canceling a few old software and service subscriptions and changing my utility provider, saving well over £1000 per year just doing something I’d not got around to before.
9. Get some fresh air
Some people might opt for a quick power pose but, although science might back that up, I would rather get outside for some fresh air.
Stepping outside for a few minutes or going for a quick walk can really help you reset and boost your mood. While the idea of going outside during bad weather might seem rather unappealing it can actually be the best thing to do. There is nothing like a blast of icy cold air to wake up your system.
Pairing fresh air with some exercise will often help get you out of a motivation slump and has the added benefit of being good for your overall health. You can up the productivity factor even more by listening to a podcast while you do it – why not start with mine!
10. Talk it out
Working from home can be solitary and even though that might suit some of us it can take its toll on our motivation. Sometimes all it takes to get that motivation back is to talk.
Talking about our interests and passions helps fire us up. Talking about our problems can help us see solutions.
Many freelancers hire coaches or become part of an accountability group to help them stay motivated, but it doesn’t need to be something so formal. You could simply call a friend who understands what you do. In my case, I’m fortunate to have a wife who also works freelance.
Sometimes a quick chat is all you need to figure out why you have no motivation to do anything or to get you fired up for your work again.
11. Bribe yourself
This is my wife’s favorite anti-procrastination tactic, but it’s one I use too.
She will go down to the kitchen and grab a cake or a bar of chocolate. She’ll then place it on her desk and only allow herself to have it once she’s half way through the task she wants to put off.
It’s an effective strategy – and I’m proud to say that since I wrote the first version of this article, I’ve managed to stop bribing myself with cigarettes!
12. Turn up the volume
Normally you want to minimize distraction and have a quiet place to work, but don’t underestimate the power of music to boost your motivation.
It is no secret to those of you who have been following me for a while that music is a bit of a passion of mine. I’ll often use music to fire me up when I know that work is going to be a bit of a grind. During lockdown, I turned to music a lot and even created a to help keep me going.
You might not get quite as much done in your day when listening to music but I guarantee that you will feel better than if you simply try to push through when you have no motivation to do anything.
13. Commit to an hour of focus
This tactic can really break the deadlock if you ever find yourself in a lazy cycle of procrastination.
All you need to do is choose the task you’re going to work on, look at the clock, and commit to giving that one task an unbroken hour of your undivided attention. This means no social media, no email checks, no snacks – no nothing. All you do for that hour is work on the task.
An hour isn’t a long time; It’s over quickly and often you’ll find that productivity breeds productivity. For minor cases of lack of motivation, this can sometimes be all it takes to shake you out of it.
14. Work when you DO want to
This is one of my favorites.
Due to the fact I live in England, a country not known for beautiful weather, I can really struggle with motivation when the sun comes out.
In England, if you don’t get out into the sun when it’s there, it can sometimes be months until you see it again! As such, if I feel office-bound when it’s sunny (especially after a long winter), I become rather like a petulant child who just wants to go out and PLAY!
It’s taken me years to realize it, but as a freelancer, I do actually have the freedom to do this some of the time. If you’d rather work when the sun’s gone in, or indeed at 2am, there’s nothing stopping you.
This is one of the greatest benefits of the home working life – so take advantage of it.
15. Work on self-development
My final tip for when inertia strikes is to find something to re-inspire you – ideally something that will contribute to the future success of your business.
You could book yourself a place on an upcoming conference, arrange a session with a coach or mentor, or look to sign up for a course at somewhere like Udemy or Coursera. You can learn literally anything from the comfort of your laptop nowadays, so it’s easy to add to your skills for little or no outlay.
So that concludes my favorite methods for breaking out of the “no motivation to do anything” trap! Please share your own methods in the comments below, and let me know what you think of these ones.