So you want to be productive, but feel like a slug.


We've all had those days that feel like an ordeal from the get-go. As tempting as it is to just stay in bed, that's not an option for everyone. I wrote this article while recovering from a family reunion weekend - I was completely extroverted out, but I still had things to do. I pulled out every trick I had to get through the day, and at the end I was pleasantly surprised by how much I'd done. Now I'm sharing these tools with you.

Here's how I got through the day with zero motivation and lived to tell about it.

Showing up this morning wasn't easy, and I'm definitely on track to do what my teacher Martha Beck calls a "minimum day." I do have some commitments to meet, but it's not going to be a aim-for-the-stars day.

Here's what I'm going for.

A to-do list with 3-5 things on it. 

You may remember this from my article on over-committing. These are things that I promised other people I would do, NOT something ambitious like cleaning out the garage or even vacuuming the living room.

When I finish those things, I don't add more. I'm done; everything else that happens is a bonus. Ditching the extraneous commitments lets me show up more fully to the remaining ones.

Go for the easy win.

What can I knock out in 20 minutes or less (or what do I have the least resistance to working on for 20 minutes)?

I can't remember what productivity guru says to immediately do any tasks that come to mind and take 5 minutes or less, but it's not bad advice. It's about building momentum. Do one small thing, and maybe I'll feel inspired to do something else. Or maybe I'll feel like a nap. But either way, I did something.

Break it down.

What's the smallest possible step I can take on my next project?

Today, it was opening up my e-mail so I could send a client a progress report on a project. Then, I realized that it wouldn't take that much longer to get just a little bit further on the project so that I could send her a more complete version. But it started with hitting the "compose" button.

Give myself plenty of transition time.

I used to have an old bike that would take several pedal revolutions between me switching gears and the chain actually moving over on the sprocket.

Some days are just like that; give yourself time to switch gears before you're panting halfway up the hill of doom. Don't wait until 2 minutes before you have to leave to start getting ready. Trust me on this.

Let it suck.

Trying to pretend I'm as chipper as Chester the Chipmunk when I really just want to lie on the floor until someone comes along to scrape me off with a spatula adds another layer of exhaustion to what's already there.

Acknowledging and legitimizing the pain has surprising power. Did you know that swearing helps you feel less pain? I really like "even though" statements for this, as in, "Even though all I want is half a cheesecake and a nap, and it's totally legitimate for me to want this, I'm still going to show up for my mastermind group."

Also see: "and that's okay," as in, "I totally don't want to do this right now and that's okay."

Practice self-care.

For some reason, it's really easy during these slug-days to be both hyper-aware of how tired and/or uncomfortable I am and still not do anything about it. 

It's amazing how much more I feel like doing stuff when I'm at a comfortable temperature, not hungry or thirsty, and not ignoring the fact that I've had to pee for the last hour.

Many of my clients struggle with resistance, that wall of "I-don't-wanna" that shows up whenever we try to push forward. Right on cue, a video about this very thing showed up in my inbox this morning. I've worked with Molly Gordon in the past and always find her perspective to be matter-of-fact and comforting.


This is not how I get through each day, every day. Ideally, when I don't have commitments and I feel completely drained, I rest. When I feel energized and inspired, I create. This is a stopgap for those days when some things need to get done and the energy just isn't there.

What helps you when you're feeling tired and depleted, but still want to get some work done?

Image credit: Fahri Ince

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