What to Do When You Don’t Want to Do Anything

dog procrastination

“What am I doing today? This. This is what I’m doing.”

You don’t always have to be on your A-game, or even a close B, but what do you do if you don’t want to play the game at all? What happens when you don’t have the mental fortitude to take the next step, and you’d rather pull the covers over your head and stare at the wall instead?

Here’s what you do: Pull those 800-thread-counts over your head and stare at the wall. Trust me, I’m there often. But consider these four things to help you refocus, shed your procrastination and get stuff done. It’s the first step in taking the next step.

1. Think about what you’re feeling

When you don’t want to do anything, there’s usually some reason attached to it. It could be physical, like you don’t feel well, you didn’t get enough sleep, or you’re fighting off pain. Or there’s emotional reasons. Do you feel sad or angry, anxious or lethargic? You can feel one or several of these things at the same time, and you might not realize you’re feeling anything until you sit down and think about it.

Psychologists call this taking your emotional temperature, and consider this the building block of emotional intelligence. Best-selling author and internationally recognized psychologist Daniel Goleman says there’s actually four components of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, managing your emotions, noticing other people’s feelings, and effectively managing your relationships. But it all starts with self-awareness and knowing what you’re feeling.

2. Ask yourself why you’ve got a case of the “don’t wannas”

Now that you’ve taken emotional stock and figured out what you feel, let’s look at what awaits you once you emerge from under those covers. Are you avoiding a chore you particularly hate or a phone call you don’t want to make? In the same way that you sat down to ask yourself what you’re feeling, now ask yourself what work you’re putting off.

Behavioral psychologists say there are plenty of reasons why we procrastinate, but the most common one is fear. Not laziness (but we’ll come back to that in a second). Not lack of willpower. Fear is why many of us put off tasks we don’t want to do. Simply admitting that to yourself is a very tangible step in the right direction.

3. Drop the procrastination guilt and self-deprecation

Remember I mentioned laziness? Mary Lamia, clinical psychologist and author of What Motivates Getting Things Done: Procrastination, Emotions and Success says she often talks to self-described procrastinators who chalk up their tendency to put things off to the last minute as laziness. When I interviewed her last year for a podcast, I was the self-deprecating one who decried my laziness, but she told me something I’ll never forget.

“I want to hug you and tell you there’s nothing wrong with procrastination,” she said. “That’s just how your brain and biology work. But over the years, procrastinators have been told by others, and they’ve reprimanded themselves, that something’s wrong with them. It’s simply not true.”

So stop feeling guilty and beating yourself up for an off morning. We’re not machines: we think, we feel, we fear, but we ultimately take action and do something.

4. Remember, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

The late author and motivational expert Zig Ziglar said that, and it’s one of my favorite quotes because it addresses the self-doubt we all face. That feeling that maybe we’re not talented enough — or smart, or pretty, or brave, or strong enough — to pull this off. But you don’t have to be any of those things to take the very first step.

And you don’t have to wait for inspiration to strike. Oftentimes, it works the other way around. When you start writing, working out, or whatever, inspiration finds you and motivates you to keep going.

So the next time you feel like you just can’t get moving on anything, try these four steps. You will feel better. You will get your gears turning. And you will be that much closer to the next step. How do I know? That’s how this column got written.


What’s your biggest struggle? Share it with me as a suggestion for a future motivation column. Email me at shelby@skrhak.net