What Do You Do When You’re Unmotivated and Bored?

QUESTION:

Scott, I’m feeling more than a little unmotivated to do just about anything today. Suggestions? I’m bored, but I just can’t make myself get started on anything. Weird day. What do you do when/if you find yourself in a similar situation?

Thanks,

Lili

ANSWER:

Lili, I’ve observed that a lack of motivation is often really a lack of focus or lack of inspiration. For example, you need to do the dishes and wash some clothes. So you’ve got focus but doing those things are not very inspiring. A lot of people have trouble getting inspired to vacuum, clean the bathroom, or do housework in general, but seeing everything that needs to be cleaned helps you stay focused on what needs to be done.

On the other hand, if you’re excited about your upcoming trip to Hawaii, you may not know what to pack for the trip (lack of focus) so your suitcase isn’t getting any fatter, but you’re very inspired to drive to the bank to get your spending money and stop off at the store to buy your swimwear.  No problem.

The trouble with finding yourself “more than a little unmotivated” is that by the time you’ve reached the point of being bored and unmotivated, it’s pretty hard to get yourself to use any strategies that may get you unstuck. But, I’m here to offer you plenty of practical strategies anyway.

Strategy for Getting Started

  • Think of some of the things you need to get done (housecleaning, that work project you’ve been putting off, making phone calls, etc.)
  • Write down 3 of them.
  • Commit to spending 10 minutes doing each one.
  • If you feel like doing one for more than 10 minutes, go for it…you’re on your way to being un-bored.

What happens when you don’t really know how to begin one of the items on your list? Some tasks may require multiple steps. Washing dishes may be pretty uncomplicated, but planning a 25th high school reunion, or making a grocery list for that dinner thing you offered to cater for (with 100 people expected to attend) is going to require a few more steps, and some of them may be a bit nebulous.

When one of your 3 tasks is more complicated, then you commit to spending 10 minutes writing down the steps you might need to take in order to complete the task. You’re not looking for perfection, just progress. You don’t have to write down all the steps in order. Just spend 10 minutes writing down steps you know you’ll eventually have to take. When you’re ready to take action, just pick a step that seems like a logical place to start and get started.

Strategy for Preventing Boredom

  • Get a notebook and pen.
  • Start making a list of things you are interested in doing, learning, visiting, watching, etc.
  • Anytime an item jumps out at you as being particularly interesting, highlight it, star it, or circle it.
  • The next time you’re bored, pick an item off the list and pursue it in some manner.
  • If nothing jumps out at you, then spend some time adding to the list.

A big part of avoiding boredom is in being prepared for down time.  That’s why there are magazines in doctor’s offices. If you have magazines to read, you might not realize just how late your doctor is for your appointment. Keeping a list of things to do when you have some free time is a great way to prevent boredom.

Tips for Getting Inspired

  • Find a book on a topic that you’re interested in and read it.
  • Browse around on places like YouTube and look for interesting videos on topics that may inspire you.
  • Start collecting really great and inspirational quotes. Review them when you need a lift.
  • Research volunteer opportunities and get involved with one.
  • Find someone else who needs some inspiration and try to help them find it.
  • Spend time around someone who inspires you.

Personally, I rarely get bored but I do get unmotivated. Sometimes that’s okay. But there’s usually a reason for it so I usually examine what’s going on to see if I can find the reason. Sometimes boredom and lack of motivation are forms of procrastination. Other times, it’s because there’s a huge obstacle in your way and rather than attempt to tackle it, we downshift and get distracted often leading to boredom or lack of motivation.

Let me know if you try anything. If you do, let me know how it works for you.

Good luck!

Scott

Have a question that you would like answered in the Q&A section of Behavior and Motivation? Just use the Contact page to email me your question. I can’t guarantee that every question will be used, but I do answer all of my own emails.

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