How to Regain Momentum When You Feel Stuck and Unmotivated

Whether you’ve been feeling a bit unproductive while working from home or you’re lacking the energy to stick to your usual routines, these tips will help you get back on track.

Taseffski/ Getty Images
Taseffski/ Getty Images

Considering all the challenges and disruptions we’ve experienced over the past several months, it’s completely normal if you’re feeling stuck, unproductive, or a little less motivated right now. Whether professionally, creatively, or physically, we all have our own ways of pulling ourselves out of a slump, and hearing what works for others can be incredibly, well, motivating.

We asked our Thrive community to share one strategy that helps them regain motivation when they’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed. Which of these tips will you try?

Take a mindful walk

“When I feel stuck, which I often do during this very stressful time, I take a little break for a mindful walk. While walking, I practice mindfulness and stay alert to my senses. I notice what I see, especially the color of the sky, trees, gardens, and what I hear — the traffic, dogs, wind, and birds. I also hone in on what I smell, whether it’s the trees or fresh flowers. It always helps me move forward.”

—Jessica Saigh, therapist, St. Louis, MO

Read old thank you notes

“When I am feeling overwhelmed, I go to the file on my computer that contains copies of all the beautiful thank you emails and testimonials that people have written in response to the work we did together. Rereading their enthusiasm and appreciation helps me to course correct away from the boredom and frustration I feel, and reminds me that the work I’m doing is important. I also have some cards that have been sent to me on the fridge; they contain words of appreciation and love. Reading words of gratitude keeps me committed and aligned with the big picture of what I am offering and how valuable my work is.”

—Nicole Moore, birth healer and pregnancy mentor, N.S.W., Australia

Listen to an audiobook

“I feel that listening to audiobooks and podcasts is an easy way to feel more productive and motivated. You can do it while doing household chores or running errands, and it can get your creative juices flowing to make you feel inspired again. For example, I just finished the latest audio version of Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk. It’s a great book for staying motivated. Depending on your interests and experience, each person should curate their own ‘reading’ list to turn to when they need a push.”

—Andrea Cardenal, communications consultant, Miami, FL

Stand in the sun for five minutes

“To reset, I get up from my desk, go to my balcony, and stand in the sun with my cat by my side for about five minutes. I then go back inside, have a piece of fruit and a large glass of water. This little reset break always helps me regain motivation.”

—Alexandra Ware, senior specialist, product operations AP, N.S.W., Australia

Play a song you love

“When I am feeling stuck and need a bit of motivation, I like to walk around outside and listen to music to unwind. As my mind calms, I’m able to focus on completing the small tasks that will eventually help me accomplish bigger things. It’s like ‘peeling back the onion’ till you get to your desired place. And there is nothing like a killer playlist to inspire you when you’re feeling overwhelmed.”

—Eliza Williams, manager, New York, NY

Celebrate a “micro win”

“I’ve realized that the feeling of overwhelm creeps up on me when I am not keeping the promises I make to myself. My strategy to pick myself up and regain motivation is to create small progress. ‘Micro wins’ are my antidote to inaction. When I experience a tiny win, I celebrate it, and then when the next block of time becomes available, it is that feeling of momentum that energizes me to continue. I also remind myself to see the day in small choices and not adopt an ‘all or nothing’ attitude. I remember that I can take a few hours away for recovery, and then get back to it.”

—Lori Milner, author and speaker, Johannesburg, South Africa

Find where you’re lacking balance

“When I find myself stuck, I sit down, quiet my mind, and set definitive goals to push through whatever it is I’m working on. My main strategy is balance. I see where I’m off, and set goals to get back my balance. This may result from lack of sleep, or simply a lack of preparation for the task I’m working on. Once I get my balance back, everything seems to fall back in place. Balance is critical for my motivation. I find that it’s so key to sit down to set goals, plan, and establish balance again.”

—Sylvia Faircloth, Woodbridge, VA

Carve out time to rest

“When I find myself overwhelmed, the only thing that can reset my brain is rest. This may seem counterintuitive, but if life is stressing me out and I have zero motivation to do anything other than check my junk food cupboard, I know I need to break that negative momentum by simply stepping away and taking a nap. If a nap isn’t possible, then I step away from my desk and into nature. There is always something that ignites the imagination or soothes the soul when you can go out into the fresh air.”

—Deb Rosman, author and speaker, Madison, WI   

Give yourself little rewards

“When I’m low on motivation, I try to prioritize one task that is the most important to get done that day. If I get it done, I reward myself with little joys, like watching a show I taped on DVR, or having an ice coffee. I also try to have ‘power hours’ where I make calls or respond to emails for an hour. It helps to do smaller tasks in short bursts to get into a consistent pattern of doing these types of activities daily.”

—Jennifer Lynn Robinson, speaker and trainer, Philadelphia, PA

Do you have a go-to strategy that helps you get unstuck when you’re lacking motivation? Share your tip with us in the comments.

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