How To Be Productive When You Have Zero Motivation

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I don’t know about you but I thought all of this time at home was going to be amazing. I have always dreamed of having time to do all of the things on my “to do” list and working from home but I quickly realized that for whatever reason, I just don’t have the motivation to do anything. I am sure it’s because I am a little overwhelmed with working from home, raising three kids and sharing my space with my husband. I know that when I stick to my tried and true methods, I have a more productive day. I want to share my methods on how to be productive when you have zero motivation; a method that works every single time. 

Open The Blinds and Curtains

There is just something so motivating about good old fashioned vitamin D. I live in Colorado, so the weather is not always warm, but even on a snowy day, letting in natural light lifts my spirits. 

When you wake up in the morning, open up your windows in the whole house. If it’s warm, even open the actual window and let fresh air come in. 

When I am in “cleaning mode” I become instantly more productive if the windows are open letting in a fresh breeze. I don’t know what it is but it gets my butt into gear. 

It’s too easy to snuggle up and not get moving when you are in a dark space. 

Make Your Bed

Okay everyone, I am about to get real with you. Want to know a secret? Before this whole “staying home” thing I only made my bed on the weekends. Yep, five days out of the week, my bed goes un-made. 

My mornings getting ready for work and getting three kids out the door is pretty hectic, even for the most organized person (my system is here). I’d love to have it made everyday but it just isn’t realistic for me. 

Now, on the other hand, now that I am home making my bed each day feeds my soul. It’s such a jumpstart on the motivation train. Making your bed sends a signal to your brain like, “we are productive, look at us making the bed”. I know that sounds silly but I feel like people who have their life together make their bed every day, so if I am making my bed, then well, I have my life together. 

Also, it is much harder to crawl back into that bed that’s so beautifully made and binge watch a Netflix show. 

Work Out

After a workout I am way more active. The reason is that you get your adrenaline and endorphines pumping. Back in the day, before I had kids, I loved the early morning yoga classes because I would come home and just rock at being productive. 

It doesn’t have to be a major workout. Just yesterday, after a long conference call I went on a walk with my kids and came home recharged and motivated to keep moving. 

Shower and Get Ready

By no means am I saying you need to do full glam, or even put on pants with a button, but get yourself ready. 

Getting dressed, even into yoga or comfy clothes (check out my favorites here) is a huge motivator for me. I am always more productive when I am not in my pajamas. 

You don’t want to send a subliminal message to your brain to kick back and take a nap do you? Get dressed. 

Even better, shower before you get dressed. I know that on the days that I lounge around all day, I am able to kick my but into gear if I go up stairs and shower. If you are feeling unmotivated and can’t get into your todo list. Hop in the shower and get moving. 

Create a Todo List

If you are anything like me, you love to check things off of a list. We did a behavioral analysis test at work and my results literally said “you love to check off a todo list, it gives you energy”! Yep!

In fact, the more things I get off my list, the more I keep moving. It’s kind of like running. They say that when you are running, the further you go the easier it gets and you get that runner’s high. I love the feeling of crossing things off my list that I am motivated to keep going. 

My favorite “todo list format” is included in my family planner. I am sure if you’ve been to this site before you know how much I depend on my custom planner. Sometimes, we face motivation issues because we are overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin. 

A mentor of mine once said to write the list that is in your head down on paper. Then you will be less stressed as you know that the thought is safely stored on paper and you won’t lose it. Once I started keeping a todo list, I was able to truly relax as I didn’t have a million things running through my mind. 

Check out my family planner here. It’s on sale right now!

Use a Timer

You know when you want to get a little kid to go grab something from upstairs and say,  “I’ll time you to see how fast you can do it”? This is the same kind of thing. People are naturally competitive or at the very least, will feel pressure of beating the clock. 

I absolutely hate emptying the dishwasher. I don’t know why I hate it so much but I avoid it like the plague. I will literally set a timer and see if I can unload it in under 2 minutes. It makes it go fast and gets the job done. 

Make sure you are setting small intervals. You wouldn’t want to say “I will try and clean the main floor in one hour”. That’s too much time and too much to do. Break it up in smaller chunks, like try to get the bathroom done in ten minutes etc. 

This method works really well for work or school tasks. How many times have you needed to write a report or write something up and have all day to do it, only to end up cranking it out late at night in one hour because you procrastinated? Give yourself an hour in the middle of the day and set a timer and get it done. When you set a time boundary you won’t let yourself get distracted by other things. 

Bribe Yourself

Back to the kid analogy. When we want our kids to do something we use rewards and bribes. In order for my kids to earn technology time, they have to first clean their room. 

The motivation to watch their favorite show or play their favorite game is enough to get their butts into gear. Adults are no different. 

Once you have completed a task on your list, feel free to reward yourself with your favorite show etc. Be careful not to go overboard and give up your whole day. Complete one task, watch one episode and then get right back to work with your next task and reward. 

This method works really great with the “time yourself” method above. If you hit your time goal then you get your reward. If you don’t hit your goal then you keep on moving to the next thing on your list. 

Create a Schedule For Your Day

In college I was always more successful when I was racing from class to work to practice. My grades were better because every minute of my day was scheduled and I knew I only had so much time to get homework done so I made sure I was on task! 

At work, when things are slow, it’s too easy to sit around and talk with co-workers and I find myself unmotivated to get things done even though I should be taking advantage of some down time and knocking down that to do list. 

Being home during quarantine has felt similar; I should be taking advantage of all of this free time but I just wasn’t feeling motivated. That is, until we started using a schedule for the day. Now, I don’t schedule every weekend day and every moment of our life but now that we are working from home this schedule has made sure that we are being productive with work, home chores and the kid’s school work. I go much more into detail here on how to implement the schedule if you want to know more. 

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    Crank The Tunes

    I don’t know what it is but playing music is such a motivator to get things done. Pick some music that fits the job. If you need to get some cleaning done, choose a tune that gets your body moving and lifts your spirits. 

    If you have a long paper to write, or need to focus mentally, I like to listen to instrumental music. Amazon Music has a lot of channels that I like to listen to, even modern instrumental music. 

    Turn Off The Television

    This tip should really say “limit distractions”. It’s too easy when you are struggling with motivation to be pulled off of your task. If you are lacking in motivation, your brain is looking for any excuse to ditch the plan and do something else. Don’t give yourself any distractions to pull you off of your plan. 

    You can always reward yourself by giving yourself a Netflix break once you complete a certain task. 

    Prioritize By Motivation

    All too often we prioritize our todo list based on what NEEDS to get done first. This is exactly what you DO NOT want to do if you are not feeling motivated. 

    Start with a task that you are most motivated to do. No matter how small or how unnecessary it is compared to other tasks, you will have the most success if you have a little motivation. 

    Then, once you complete that task, you will be able to carry that success and motivation into other jobs.

    I have to tell you, when my husband and I choose a task to complete together on the weekends we try to pick something we are in the mood to do. I am not going to lie, when he is not in the mood and agrees to help me with a chore, it’s a little miserable and not very productive. 

    Find Some Accountability

    Accountability is so important! Whether you share your intentions for the day with a significant other, a sister, a friend or some strangers on social media, just do it! Tell someone what you plan to get done during the day and then follow up with them when you are finished with your task. 

    My mom and sister and I do this all of the time. We will text to each other saying “I’m going to paint my bedroom today”, or “I have to finish writing this paper before I do anything else!”

    Sometimes just saying it out loud to someone else, helps make the task real and your intentions to complete the task real. 

    I have two great groups that can help with accountability. Join my mom group on Facebook called All About That Mom Life. I also have a Spring Cleaning Challenge group… talk about accountability! 

    Get The Family On Board

    Make sure that everyone in your family or household is ready to be productive with you.

    There’s nothing worse for me when I am trying to get the house cleaned, or finish a home project and my husband is in chill mode. 

    Be open with your communication and what your intentions are for the day. Your family does not have to get on board and have the same goals for the day but they at least need to get out of your way and be supportive of what you plan to accomplish. 

    If your goal is to workout, then your partner should support that and not become a barrier for you by inviting you to chill on the couch. 

    Take Before And After Photos or Videos

    So I just recently started taking before and after photos for my Facebook cleaning group and let me tell you, it is motivating! I live for that after picture. I cannot wait to see the difference.

    Another really great tactic is to take a time lapse on your phone if you are doing a task that you can see a physical change. It motivates you to keep moving knowing you are filming yourself.

    This method obviously isn’t as useful if your task is something like writing a paper, but it works great for cleaning. You can check out a before and after post I did a while back here

    Give Yourself Some Grace

    Listen, at the end of the day give yourself some grace. Too often I set my expectations really high and then feel disappointed and like a failure when I don’t reach my goals. 

    Be realistic in what  you want to do in order to feel and be productive. 

    Celebrate even the smallest wins, especially on those days that are really hard to be productive. 

    Allow yourself to take a mental health day here and there. I do know that for myself, some of the best things I can do for my mental health is to tackle that to do list. 

    I hope you have found more than one tip on how to be productive when you have zero motivation. I have to keep bringing myself back to these steps lately as we continue to quarantine and support the stay at home order. As I find balance I am finding more peace, and ultimately more motivation! Happy simplifying everyone!


    9 thoughts on “How To Be Productive When You Have Zero Motivation”

    1. Kate, can I love this post 1000 times?! So much resonates and I love these tips–music and scheduling/prioritizing has been my saving grace. I will try the accountability tip because I am struggling a little with that. Great tips!

      1. Thank you so much. I am glad you’ve found some helpful tips. Accountability is key! Make yourself answer to someone at the end of the day!

    2. oh jeez, I read the title and thought my husband tattled on me! I feel like you wrote this with me in mind, but realized I can’t be alone. These are great tips, I’m starting to take frequent breaks for ‘housework’ in between sitting on laptop (i mean sometimes I feel like i’m sitting ON IT) More blinds are open now and podcasts are now my new thing.. anything educational, motivational or amusing.. anything but the NEWS!

      1. I have been taking breaks for housework too! It actually relaxes me. I will do a conference call, and go wipe down the kitchen, send a few emails and go vacuum the family room! LOL

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