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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

Dear Productive People: You're Allowed to Have Lazy Days

motivated person

Last Friday morning, after a very productive week, I made my way into the office, sat down at my desk, and texted my sister, “I have zero motivation today, finding it hard to buckle down and be productive.” She responded that she felt similarly. She admitted that with no deadlines looming, it was a struggle to focus on advance items.

I didn’t check in with her later to get a run down of what she accomplished on her decidedly unmotivated day, but I’m sure, like me, she managed to tackle a few of the more tedious or administrative tasks on her to-do list. By 5 PM, I imagine she felt overall pretty good about the workweek as a whole—even if on the fifth day, she failed to grasp the often-elusive determination.

The truth is, our lack of motivation at times isn’t abnormal. Can any of you say with a straight face that you’re 100% excited to work 100% of the time? Didn’t think so. Still, if you tend toward perfectionism or simply thrive on a doing a job well and working hard, navigating the lazy periods of the workday or week can be trying. Fortunately, there’s research to the rescue!

A Business Insider article explains, “It's not about trying to increase your motivation so much as taking advantage of motivation when you do have it.”

You’re probably already doing this. And you don’t even know it. When you’re motivated, you get stuff done. A lot of stuff. You wrap up projects that were close to completion. You begin a new meaty assignment. You clean out your inbox, make time for a brainstorming session with colleagues, and put your head down in strong focus as motivational juices flow through you. It’s a good feeling, and one that psychologist and director of a lab at Stanford, BJ Fogg, says to go with. The “motivation wave” as he terms it, is meant to be ridden. It, he explains, exists to help us do the hard things.

So when you’re feeling that high, you should take full advantage of it. Make the call you’ve been putting off, start the spreadsheet that you’ve been anxious about beginning, approach your team about the idea you want to test out—whatever feels daunting to you on a lazy afternoon will feel more than achievable when you’re feeling inspired and driven.

Rather than beat yourself up for the times when you wrestle with getting half as much work done as you did the previous day, allow yourself to accept that sometimes, that’s just the way it is. If you’re unknowingly pushing yourself on certain days, then you can probably relax a little knowing that when you were stimulated, you were actually, more or less, doing double-time. Accept the inevitable lethargy and manage it with checking off easy items.

Then, the next day or week when your motivation is in full swing again, you can embrace the challenging aspects of your job. Even if you don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing when you do what, unless you’re somehow managing to completely drop the ball when ambition strikes, chances are, you’ll come out of the lazy period unscathed. And, if all else fails, the advice from these career coaches might be enough to break you out of your temporary rut.