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We all have those days when we just can’t. You take one look at your to-do list, and the next thing you know, your motivation’s gone faster than a Japanese bullet train. It’s frustrating to want to do something, and not want to do it at the same time.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even on days when you’d rather cycle through your favorite video playlist for the umpteenth time, you can still cross out your to-dos without a hitch. If you don’t feel like doing anything at the moment, these tips might help.

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Know if you’re really being lazy, or if it’s something else. Here’s a quick test: Do whatever it is you need to do for 30 minutes without stopping. Neil Fiore suggests this in The Now Habit as a way to get into the work groove. If you can finish that task halfway through, and you feel like going further, you were probably just lazy. But if you can’t even go that far without throwing your hands up in defeat, you might have a more serious issue, such as burnout or depression. You need to uncover the root cause of your demotivation first before applying any of the productivity tips below.

>> Read more: How To Identify the Signs of Depression

Turn your negative thoughts around. “I don’t want to do this.” “This is so hard.” “I want everything to be perfect.” It’s tempting to humor these thoughts when you’re unmotivated, but the truth is, they’ll do you more harm than good. Sure, they give you an excuse to not work now, but then, what makes you think you won’t have the same thoughts later, when the deadline’s just an hour away?

The key to dealing with this, says Fiore, is to rephrase these thoughts. For example, instead of “I have to do this,” say “I choose to do this.” Instead of “This is so hard,” say “What can I start doing now?” Instead of “I want everything to be perfect,” say “I can be perfectly human, and that’s okay.” They’re all about taking control of the situation, and steering it into the right direction — which is what you want, right?

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Get your top three out of the way first. If your to-do list is longer than the Nile and Amazon Rivers combined, there’s a good chance that most of it is basically “send email, check inbox, send more email.” These tasks might seem small at first, but they can turn into major productivity sucks if you’re not careful.

Pare your list down into the top three tasks you need to finish today. Do them while your energy levels are at their peak. This way, you’ll power through much faster, avoid getting overwhelmed and still have enough energy to finish the smaller, less important tasks.

Stay healthy. When you work for at least 10 hours every day, including weekends, without eating well or exercising, it’s a surefire recipe for burnout. Keep your diet balanced, get a good night’s sleep and squeeze in simple workouts every time you take a break. Your body, your work and especially your family will thank you for it. The fact that kids spend 50 percent less time doing outdoor activities than they did 40 years ago should be enough of an excuse for you to get out there to build up your health; take in some fresh air — all while spending some more quality time with your kids.

Bribe yourself. There’s nothing wrong with promising yourself things like “If I knock out this 2,000-word blog post by 5 p.m., I can marathon five episodes of “Golden Girls” tonight.” After all, 75 percent of your personal motivation comes from perceived rewards.

We hope this list is long enough to be helpful, but short enough not to get in the way of your work. Give these tips a shot right now, and let’s talk about them in the comments! (After you’re done with work, of course.)


Anum Yoon started and maintains Current on Currency, where she shares her hard-earned insights on money management.

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Photo Credit: Anum Yoon