Feeling Unproductive? 3 Fixes to Get You Back in the Game

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Feeling Unproductive? 3 Fixes to Get You Back in the Game

Foolish Past-Vincent thought inspiration would always come on its own.

He thought he was invincible and that tackling the world all at once would never tire him out.

Every morning he would jump out of bed, rush to the bathroom so he can clean himself up and hit the ground running.

Every afternoon he’d be on the laptop digesting information and applying what he’s learned.

Every evening he felt content with what was done during the day and continued working until he was too sleepy to keep his eyes open.

In short, he was on fire.

Now that supposedly endless stream of inspiration feels more like a pail of water that he has to work hard every day to refill.

It never occurred to him that productivity was a finite resource that needed time and effort to replete. There’s no wonder why there are hundreds or thousands of books on the subject.

And everyone experiences this.

Our imagination and drive slows down regardless of how passionate you may be.

Ideas stop popping up left to right. We get the easier ones all out of our heads and inspiration begins to take longer to grow.

We get scared once the faucet reduces itself to just steady drops. Does this mean it’s the end?

Then we start procrastinating and get away from doing the work that matters.

Always feeling tired becomes normal and no matter how many “power naps” we take, there doesn’t seem to be a way to switch back to our old selves.

We wonder if this is the famous “burnout” that people always talk about (hint: it’s not.)

Luckily, I figured out what I personally need to do to get the spark going again.

Look around you. Where are you right now? Don’t worry I’m not going to ask you to do any cliche visualization of your happy place or whatever. I just want to ask you…

How much time do you spend in that exact same location every day?

I personally do most of my work at home and it’s awesome most times… until it’s not.

There are too many distractions here. I’ve got a television, a decent view outside my window, and a comfortable bed I can sleep on anytime I want.

So when I’m feeling drained, unmotivated, and out of ideas, the best thing I could do is leave to go somewhere else. I get out of there and head to a coffee shop or a friend’s house. Maybe even a library or a public university.

Suddenly, I feel it again. By it I mean the P-word. Productivity.

I do more work in a matter of three hours in my new setting than I’ve done in three days at home.

Some people love staying in the same place day in and day out, but they’re not me. I can only tell you what works best for me.

I didn’t write this article from home. I did it at a coffee shop after knocking out four hours of continuous work. Here at a Starbucks in the mall, I feel recharged when home wasn’t enough.

I know not everyone has the ability to work from anywhere, but this goes further than just your physical surroundings. Also ask yourself…

Who do you spend most of your time with?

Friends and family, I’m sure.

Think about each person you hang around with on a daily basis.

Be certain the people you spend your time with make you happy. Cut out any and everyone who’s toxic from your life.

Getting away from the people who drain your energy is one of the best things you could do for yourself. They’re bad for you, so why let them bring you down?

It may seem harsh and selfish, but at some point, you have to prioritize your own happiness. If not, you’ll crash and burn.

If you’re unhappy, you have less time to focus on productivity because you’re spending more brainpower thinking about how bad you’ve got it or how so and so wronged you. By the time you’re done with all negative thinking, you’re too tired to get anything done.

You start rationalizing that you deserve a longer break to “just relax” and get your head cleared. You wouldn’t have to clear your head if there wasn’t so much negativity getting in there in the first place.

Bring closer the ones who inspire you, make you happy, and raise you up.

Use the energy they give you to do beautiful things. Bathe in their warmth and do the things you want to do, the things you enjoy.

Sorry if it sounds cheesy but it’s true.

Life will suddenly feel 10x more fun and your chest will feel lighter. You naturally start smiling more often and you’ll be more productive.

Finally…

What do you do on a daily basis?

Create a daily ritual you can follow once or twice a day.

Be sure your morning routine jumpstarts and funnels into productivity.

Ever since I started following a morning routine I feel inspired again. I don’t allow myself to touch my emails, social media, or any work until I finish each step. I’m disciplining myself and training my body to go through each step before finally leading into actual work.

Without a routine I would begin my day without a clear start. Some days I would watch TV for hours and not realize how much time has passed. Then I’d get on the laptop and begin surfing Facebook and Reddit. Before I know it, BOOM, it’s 4pm.

But now I have a strict routine that funnels into productive work. And life’s good again.

Here’s what I do every morning:

  1. Go to the restroom
  2. Drink 16oz of water—I haven’t drank a drop in over eight hours
  3. Perform light exercises and stretches
  4. Meditate with the curtains open for as long as I can
  5. Sit and reflect on my life while looking outside
  6. Write at least half a page in my journal
  7. Sift through emails marking what’s important and what’s not
  8. Check social media
  9. Start working on the most important tasks first
  10. Read (this alone gives me tons of inspiration and ideas, kickstarting productivity–here’s what I’m reading)

Not everything needs to feel like a chore.

You don’t have to stay stuck or constantly drained of energy.

When there’s something blocking the way, mixing everything up will help the water smoothly flow again. The clog will clear eventually if you look hard enough for the solution.

Find the piece that’s negatively affecting you. It might be one, two, or even all three of the things I mentioned.

If the solution involves physically moving to a more productive setting, do it. You may need 10, 20, or 100 different locations you can rotate from. So what? Better than getting nothing done from one place.

If the solution involves cutting people out of your life and/or finding better influences, do it. You may have a few people talk about you behind you’re back and say you’re selfish. So what? Better than being so miserable you can’t focus on anything else.

If the solution involves creating routines that spark something in you, do it. You may end up spending an extra hour each morning going through the motions. So what? Better than wasting three doing nothing even remotely productive.

Reflect and experiment with these three different pieces and let me know how they work out for you.

If none of it works then you can print out a picture of my face and spit on it. I won’t be upset.

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Vincent Nguyen is the author of Self Stairway. After landing his dream job with Empire Flippers, he dropped out of college and began living a location independent lifestyle (still always drawn to coffee shops though.) Don't worry, he still publishes every Monday and hasn't missed a single week since starting this site in January 2013.

Latest posts by Vincent Nguyen (see all)

12 responses to Feeling Unproductive? 3 Fixes to Get You Back in the Game

  1. Getting out of the house is so important for me in terms of working. I get a lot more work done at my friendly coffee shop. It is also helpful as you say not to be around people who constantly sap your energy.

    I have found that routine is key. When it comes to writing, as long as I get a certain amount done every day then I progress rapidly. When inspiration eventually comes then I already have my routine set and can do 5x the normal amount of work I do. All about discipline.

  2. I’ve experimented with different morning routines (e.g. exercise at the gym Monday-Wednesday-Friday).

    Speaking to your point: “Start working on the most important tasks first” is a good reminder. Part of my morning routine should include writing for my business. Often, I hope to get in some writing time during slow periods at the day job but that often doesn’t happen.

    • I never was a morning gym guy (although these days, I’m not a gym guy at all.) That’s a great idea though. I’m willing to bet it’s emptier and that’s a kickass way to start the day.

      Yeah, I feel you about intending to use downtime for productive work but holding off on it. I’m the same way. “Oh, I’ll take care of that later when I have time.” By the time I have time I’m too tired and I justify procrastination by saying I already got a lot of other work done so I can just relax.

  3. Though I work in an office, I still find this very helpful. I could make use some of your pieces advice except that I really have no choice of where to work. And it is so draining to work in a single location everday. Today must be my turning point? lol

    This article is so bookmark-worthy. :)

    • The way I see it is that the article could serve as that push for someone to move into that location independent lifestyle if they’re currently in a 9-5 job and they want out.

  4. I’m hopelessly lost if I don’t do something physical first thing. Could be easy like stretching or even just a walk pulling up weeds in an appreciative state of mind.

    Put me at the computer first and the rest of the connected world wants to tell me what they think and why I should to.

    • The stretching and exercising in the morning are the ones I’m always tempted to skip. Wish it got cold in the Philippines because I’d really like to walk in the morning with a jacket or something. Instead, I ask myself all the time “Should I take a walk? Nah. too hot.”

  5. True that. Any swimming worth mentioning? I’d bet there be sharks.

  6. Ad.1. My days are very structured (4 hours commuting, 8 hours of job) and I have limited choices as where do I work. Maybe I’ll try this when I quit my job.
    Ad. 2. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
    I don’t buy this concept of ‘cutting out toxic people.’ If I cut them out who will bring them up? How can I have the hope of changing them, if I’m not around setting an example?
    They can’t bring me down, if I don’t allow it. I’m responsible for my thoughts and reactions.
    It’s hard, true. But it helps me to grow.
    Ad. 3. http://www.expandbeyondyourself.com/early-to-rise/
    It evolved a bit since that time, but the core is the same.

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