We've all been there. The pile of things we have to do just keeps growing and we can't even muster up the self-discipline to get started. Even when we do, our attention is instantly pulled in another direction. Luckily, there are a number of strategies we can use to get back on track.
Give Ourselves Some Slack
First, we need to give ourselves some slack. Motivation comes in waves, and we can't blame ourselves for the lulls (nor anyone else). Just as I discussed in my post about handling guilt, if we make ourselves feel bad about not doing work, we will just avoid it longer. On a good day, we don't like dealing with things that make us feel bad; it's a thousand times worse when we are already in a funk.
A great short-term option, is to find a way to be productive with our procrastination.
‘Productive’ will mean something different for each of us. In my case, I'm not a video game developer so playing games isn't very productive. However, I'm currently trying to get into creative writing so reading is actually very productive for me. I could even make the argument that watching TV is productive because it's a medium for telling stories. However, those are only productive if I do so critically and not mindlessly. Bonus points if the task you choose helps develop skills that will help you in your main tasks.
Productive procrastination is not a long-term solution, but it can help us out of a shame spiral. The best option is to funnel it into the work we really need to do. A great example: my writing this blog post. It is up the alley of how I've been procrastinating, but it subtly leads back to true productivity.
Ok, ok, I'm sure you've heard it before. But this is a cliché for a reason. Getting out and moving is scientifically proven to improve our mood and our ability to focus (among many other things). It doesn't have to be ‘exercise’; it could be a sport, dancing, or even just a vigorous walk. Ok, enough said.
Connect With People
Being in a funk like this always seems to be connected to feeling sad and lethargic (If it's even stronger than that for you, please consider getting professional help). Often, when we get this way, we close down and stop wanting to interact with people meaningfully. We need to deliberately do the opposite. No it doesn't count to go out with our buddies and get drunk. We need to sit down with someone that cares about us to let them know we're in a funk. The right people can do wonders to break the cycle.
We can't keep everything inside until we somehow magically break out of it ourselves (because that isn't going to happen). We are social creatures; emotional isolation only makes things worse.
Adjust Our Mindset
The final strategy is to adjust our mindset. Remind ourselves why the things we're avoiding are important to us. Not everything in life must be fulfilling, but everything we do should have purpose–even if that purpose is to feed ourselves.