I’m having one of those days today where I really just feel like shutting off the computer, fishing out the Love Film DVD’s which have been waiting to be watched, putting on my pj’s, making some tea and flaking on the sofa.
A proper slobby day. Isn’t that what we think of actors doing a lot of the time anyway? Aren’t we notorious for ‘resting’ between gigs?
Lovely idea. Wonderful romantic myth. But the truth is something else.
So much of my life is influenced by the original TV series of Fame. In fact, embarrassing story time because I once met the actress who played Coco on the TV series – Erica Gimpel – and I gushingly told her that “Fame changed my life.” It makes my toes curl at how embarrassing that statement was, even if it was true. She was gracious about it and told me that she had heard that statement a lot.
Anyway on a day like today, where I really can’t be f*cked to do anything, I hear Debbie Allen’s voice saying, “You want fame? Well fame costs, and right here is where you are going to start paying in sweat.”
Debbie Allen has kicked my butt so many times over the last 30 years. And she’s never even met me, but her message is always there when I’ve got no carrot dangling in front of me and I need a bit of stick to get me moving.
So for me, and for you, here are seven ways to get yourself back on track and be productive when you really don’t feel like it.
1) Do Something, Do Anything
When an object is standing still, getting it back into motion takes the greatest amount of energy. That initial push is where you need to lay your back into it. But the actual direction of movement is less important than getting the wheels turning. You can always steer the direction later.
So get your pen moving, get your fingers moving, get out of your chair and start doing something. It doesn’t matter what. But get yourself into motion. Get the wheels and cogs turning. Get your brain and body engaged and then see if you can steer the car in the direction of where you should be going.
This of course presupposes that you know where you need to be going. Sometimes our inertness comes because we don’t know where we should be going.
2) Review Your Goals
If you don’t know where you’re going, then it’s hard to know what the next step is you should be taking.
If this is you, then allow yourself a few minutes to day dream. Think of where you want to be in five years time in your life or career. If wonderful things could happen to you, where would they take you in five years time.
Make it as vivid as you can. Then think of where you would need to be in three years time to be on the right path for achieving that five year target.
Now with that same trajectory in mind, think of where you need to be in one year, six months and three months.
This should now indicate pretty clearly what the next few steps and actions are that you need to take. Make a list for yourself of the actions that need to happen over the next 3 months.
Keep breaking them down into smaller and smaller steps until you have individual actions: phone a specific person, write a specific email, research one specific thing.
You’ve now got an amazing detailed list of action points. Now assign dates to them. Give yourself a deadline. Pin this up next to your computer.
Next time you feel unmotivated, consult this list and you will clearly see the steps you need to be doing and the deadlines that you have to achieve them by. This will spur you into action.
3) Reach Out for Support
Greatness is never achieved alone. Even good things are seldom achieved alone. We need other people. We need support and we need to commiserate with other people. So if you are feeling in a funk, or like you really can’t be bothered, then there is no harm in reaching out to a friend.
Call someone. Message them or email them. Say you are feeling really unmotivated and ask them to give you a kick up the backside. Your friends often share similar goals to you, so they will be able to identify where you need to go and help get you moving.
You can also set up some friendly competition with a friend. Agree that you will both achieve a personal goal and set a small wager on it. Whoever gets their personal task done first is the winner. You can keep track of it. Perhaps the loser has to buy a drink.
Use your friends. Lean on them when you need them. You are not in this alone.
4) Write About It
I find writing about how I’m feeling can sometimes point me in the direction of moving past my inertia.
Open up a Word document, or grab a pen and a piece of paper, and just start to write. Write about what’s on your mind. Write about what you’re feeling. Write about what you’d like to be doing and what you should be doing. Write about whether there is some kind of a compromise which can be struck.
Amazingly you can often free write yourself into a solution.
You know what needs to be done, and by moving your fingers on the keypad or your pen on the paper you can often guide yourself into identifying what your obstacles are and how to solve them.
Also, the act of moving your fingers gets you into a work mode and it is much easier to move on to being productive after that.
One tool I use, that I recommend is 750words.com which does exactly what it says on the tin. You write 750 words and it tells you when you’ve completed them. You can log on, write your 750 words and then log out and get on with what you need to do. I like the fact that it’s separate from my hard drive and exists somewhere out in the cloud. Also 750 words seems to be enough to identify where you’re at, but not so much that you don’t actually get anything done afterwards.
5) Take a Walk
When you’ve got the hump and nothing is going to move you the best thing to do is put on your shoes and go outside for a walk. The combination of exercise, fresh air and visual stimulation can shift your mood.
Walking is very meditative and as your feet move and the muscles of your body ripple in waves to move your body forward you create a rhythm. We love rhythms, they stimulate our mind, our emotions, our memories. Couple that with the senses: smells, sights, sounds of getting out in the world can wake you up and create a different mood.
While you walk you can think about where you’re at and what you should be doing. Obstacles and objections bubble to the surface and you can think about them and confront them while walking.
20-30 minutes is probably plenty to shift your mood and focus your mind ready to take your seat and do some work.
6) Put on the Timer
Use a timer to trick yourself into working. Tell yourself that you will work for 3 minutes, or 5 minutes or 7 minutes – keep it small. The idea is to convince yourself to just work for a small period of time and then reassess how you are feeling.
Anyone can force themselves to do 3 minutes of work, so decide what you want to get started on, agree that you will do 3 minutes, set the timer and then get to work. Throw yourself into it until the timer buzzes. Then stop.
Stand up. Stretch and then decide to do another 3 minutes.
In most cases you will get into it and then it will be easy to keep going. If this doesn’t happen then take a 3 minute break (with your timer), goof off, do something fun and then agree to do another 3 minute work period.
You may spend several hours doing this, but you will still be clocking up 30 minutes of work per hour – which is better than no work at all!
7) Sometimes the Bear Wins
The thing about wrestling with a bear is that sometimes the bear wins.
If you’ve tried all of the above and you still can’t be f*cked, then maybe you need to accept the fact that it isn’t meant to be today.
There is always tomorrow.
But if you are going to take today as a write off (from a productivity point of view) then allow yourself to completely unwind! Do the lazy thing you most crave to do. Get in your pj’s , crack out the ice cream, watch the films. Enjoy every moment of sloth.
And tomorrow you can once more enter the ring and wrestle the bear. But tomorrow you might win.