It’s easy to think of procrastination as something directly related to your IDENTITY. And who you are as a person.
“I’m a procrastinator.”
“I can’t stick with a schedule.”
“It’s just who I am.”
But procrastination is often more related to MOOD than personality. And if you struggle to stick to a schedule or find yourself losing the discipline to stick with a project before it’s done…
…Or even get it started at all…
…A Key Area To Look Is Your “Mood Management” Skillset.
We all have bad days.
We all have times where we don’t “feel like” working.
But the high achievers, the most productive folks among us, get things done day in and day out. Rain or shine. No matter what’s going on in their lives or the greater world around them.
Think of it this way.
If your grandmother passed away this morning, how much work do you think you’d get done? How difficult would it be to stick with your schedule if you found out you had a chronic illness (even if there were no physical effects yet)?
Do you see how staying on task has a lot to do with how you FEEL?
Given that life will always have its ups and downs and our moods will go up and down with it…
Here Are Some Tips Entrepreneurs And Online Workers Can Use To Stay On Track Even When They “Don’t Feel Like It.”
Mood Cure #1: Master The Art Of State Change
Mastering your mind state is key to gaining more control over your mood swings, so bad days or bad moods don’t throw you off.
We all work with our own unique emotional landscape; however, there are many predictable ways to put yourself in a better mood instantly that work for most people Even when you don’t know what the source of your emotional sticking point is yet.
- Listen to music that you love. You may want to keep a playlist on hand just for these moments.
- Take a break. Sometimes if you’re not feeling the work, all you need is a little time away. Come back when you’re “feeling it” more.
- Call a friend or accountability partner. Or call a client or colleague and talk about the project a bit.
- Keep a file of motivational videos/audios on hand.
- Practice meditation, breathing exercises, or gratitude to get more control over your mind and emotions. You can then turn to these whenever you need to!
- Take a cold shower.
- Jump up and down, shout, act crazy. Yes, I’m serious. Tony Robbins emphasizes this type of state change, especially at his wildly popular seminars, where he gets thousands of attendees to do this at once.
Mood Cure #2: Establish Work Patterns To Create Unstoppable Momentum
Implementing work rituals that you go through every time you sit down to focus can help to create a mood-setting pattern that you can turn on even when you don’t feel like doing anything.
By putting your “work brain” on autopilot as much as possible, it’s easier to “tune out” of everyday noise and fire it up for action when enthusiasm for action is low.
There are a lot of tricks here to help you leverage rituals to “just get going.”
One little habit to kickstart momentum makes it easier to jump right into work (even when you don’t want to).
Sit down, open a file, set a clock for 5 minutes, and then just start… doing. Make it as mindless as possible. Again, the trick is to do it everyday so it becomes a ritual.
Once you do get going, you’re thinking about the work more than your worries and you sort of lose yourself.
I know one guy who only holds himself to doing 2 hours of work every day. He doesn’t even take one day off! 2 hours is a low enough bar that he can always motivate himself. And it establishes a momentum he never loses with a day off.
Some days he puts in twice that time, or takes off on a work marathon. But either way, he puts in his two hours, and his pattern is a procrastination killer that very rarely lets him down.
Ritual in action!
Mood Cure #3: Find Other Ways To Invigorate Yourself With Movement
Tony’s method is about EXTREME movements…
..But moving on a more basic level deserves special mention too because it has such a powerful effect on your emotional landscape. Yes, move, move, move, and move some more!
I highly recommend just taking a break when you’re down sometimes and just doing something to get your blood pumping. Do some jumping jacks, a set of pushups, or put on your running shoes and go for a jog.
If your schedule is flexible, stop work and go to the gym. It can radically change your day!
And if physical exercise is a part of your daily routine, that will spill over into your daily mood as well.
Pick something simple and mindless and start there.
Simply sitting in front of a computer all day doesn’t exactly put you in peak state.
Mood Cure #4: Delegate Tasks You Don't Enjoy
Often “not being in the mood” is just about boredom.
And a low level of enthusiasm for the work.
Even if that’s not the source of your low enthusiasm on this particular day, well, it’s still MUCH easier to “break out of” a bad mood if you can get motivated enough to sit down and get the ball rolling. And that will happen a lot easier when you actually LIKE the work.
On the other hand, it can be pretty hard to motivate yourself if your day is bogged down with trivial tasks you hate.
In “The Four-Hour Workweek,” Tim Ferris popularized the idea of outsourcing lower level tasks online. Thanks to online technology, specialization, and geo-arbitrage it can be pretty cost-effective these days (even if you’re an employee yourself).
Check out platforms like Fiverr and Upwork to find quality help at an affordable rate.
Hand off your most uninspiring work. Focus only on what really invigorates and inspires you.
Setting yourself up for the most enjoyable work makes it easier to escape into a state of flow.
Mood Cure #5: Or Just Change Your Environment
Sometimes this can be as simple as packing up your bag and heading to another room, or a coffee shop down the road.
Just for the change of scenery.
It might involve moving to a new house! Or hey, a new country!
But you should also just control your current work environment as much as possible. Is anything in your environment creating emotional friction between you and your work? Is anything about your work environment irritating you?
People barging in? Put a lock on the door and set rules with family and friends about your work-time.
Traffic noises? Get some noise-canceling headphones.
Office feel stuffy? Open the windows, scatter plants across the room, and hang some beautiful pictures of scenes that inspire you.
Get a more comfortable office chair if that’s what it takes. Your comfort and satisfaction while working is paramount!
Mood Cure #6: Eat Some Ice Cream.
I mean, who can eat ice cream without ending up in a better mood, right? 😉
I’m half kidding here.
And be careful… Because too much sugar can actually have a negative effect on mood and energy.
But the point is sometimes a small treat is a great way to perk yourself up. You could even use it as a reward for finishing the first hour or two of work if you’re really struggling to start.
For some people a “treat” might be a massage. Or a spin down a country road in their car or motorcycle.
You can even treat these mood-boosting “treats” as rewards by making yourself accomplish a little bit of work first.
Have fun with it. Work doesn’t always have to be so serious!
Mood Cure #7: But... Control Your Vices Too
People who struggle with low energy, poor mood, and chronic procrastination are often caught in negative cycles that are affecting their mood (maybe more than they’d care to acknowledge).
For example, alcohol.
This one is really common because in our society we don’t really think of it as a drug.
But it certainly is one and even known to be a depressant. So, if you binge drink a lot, it might help to pay attention to how it’s affecting your mood and your energy levels. You may very well notice a strong correlation between the weekend highs and a low that stretches from Sunday, perhaps all the way to Tuesday or Wednesday, with some early week procrastination problems.
This doesn’t just apply to alcohol — it just makes a great example because it’s a very common vice.
Excess caffeine, tobacco, or sugar intake can also make you irritable. Even food, especially carbs or sugar, consumed in excess may leave you sluggish and down.
C’mon… We know this stuff ALREADY, right? I accept that.
However, if you’re finding yourself in lethargic, crabby moods, it might be time to ask yourself if you’ve been listening to the “things you know.”
Or just “knowing” them.
Mood Cure #8: Listen To What Your Body Tells You
As the alcohol example might suggest, your moods are often closely tied to your physiology.
If you find yourself irritable, tired, or depressed… Maybe your body is telling you something. And maybe you should listen?
Sometimes it’s not eating, for example.
I’m a big believer in the powerful effects of fasting. But you may find that eating your first meal too late in the day results in you starting to get moody around noon. In a situation like this, you might find a decent meal is all it takes to brighten the day again. If so, reconsider your fasting hours or the breadth of your eating window.
Lack of sleep is another common culprit, especially in our hustle culture. Take a nap! A quick 30 minutes may be all it takes to get you up and at em’ again.
Monitor your sleep patterns over all. Modern society tells us that it’s natural to wake up early to an alarm every single day. And staying up late into the night, our houses lit up with artificial light.
Hint… it’s not!
If sleep seems to be a problem, try maintaining a more regular, earlier bedtime. If your schedule affords it, try doing away with the alarm completely and sleeping with your curtain open. Let the sun wake you instead of that blaring, unnatural alarm clock.
I use this sunrise alarm clock to wake up naturally everyday by 6:15!
Exposing yourself to that natural sunlight during the day (and perhaps wearing blue-light blocking glasses at night) is another great way to normalize your sleep patterns.
Mood Cure #9: Study Up On Stoic Philosophy
There’s a lot we can learn from the Stoics, but one of the most powerful lessons when it comes to working through life’s drearier moments is the acceptance that life doesn’t always need to be perfect.
As much as we like to think of ourselves as unique and “special,” no human is deserving of a “perfect life” that is somehow always comfortable and fun.
And it’s unreasonable to expect one.
Marcus Aurelius said:
“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?’”
Stoic philosophy teaches us that always expecting life to be amazing and thrilling is irrational and unrealistic. By accepting that sometimes things will be uncomfortable, and being willing to face that discomfort and work in spite of it, we build much healthier, more logical patterns of thought for work and life.
Rational Emotive Therapy teaches very similar principles. Here’s an article we wrote about this idea here.
Mood Cure #10: Visualize Your Goals
One powerful way to work in spite of a bad mood is to think of the bigger picture.
WHY are you working?
What are you working TOWARDS?
Is it money? A better lifestyle? More freedom? A greater cause?
Sit back and check in with your bigger goals and you can often tap back into that motivation to power through your darker moments.
Whatever you think about vision boards and their ability to create reality, it’s hard to deny they are a great mood lifter!
Mood Cure #11: Think Of Yourself As A Craftsman
If you’re always just working for the next payday and don’t really CARE about what you’re doing, it’s much less fulfilling.
But by thinking of yourself as a craftsman you can make the work itself become a reward.
This isn’t about the end result of your goal. You may be a web designer, for example. But have you made it a mission to be THE BEST WEB DESIGNER POSSIBLE?
Do you love the CRAFT of web design? And if not, can you learn to?
If you constantly find yourself working for clients, you may find yourself uninspired by the work. But think of what THEY’RE trying to accomplish with the website you create. How does it SERVE the world? If it really just doesn’t, you might consider focusing on a different type of client…
How can you constantly IMPROVE on what you do?
The deeper you dig into any topic or skill set on earth, the more fascinating it becomes. So I encourage you to dig as deep into your work as you can. The better you get at something, the more you learn about it, the more INTERESTING it becomes.
And you create that dynamic with your work where you can get LOST in it…
When you have that type of relationship with your craft, all it takes is sitting down and firing up your table saw, picking up your paintbrush, or in this scenario, opening up Photoshop…
…And the entire physical world (and all its concerns) fade away. You may have to face them again later, but your work can always be a place to disappear for a while.
Mood Cure #12: Don’t Beat Up On Yourself!
Of course, one of the most vicious traps with procrastination is our tendency to be hard on yourself when you procrastinate…
…Thus making it even HARDER to work. And creating a self-perpetuating cycle.
So learning to forgive yourself and accept your own flaws and mistakes (as cheesy as it might sound) really is a big part of keeping yourself in a healthy enough state to get things done too.
Mood Cure #13: Make Sure To "Celebrate Your Wins"
One of the best things about learning to work when you’re “not in the mood” is this…
…Once you DO sit down and actually get something done, it’s a great little reward to yourself. And as you defy your procrastination, defy your mood, and defy the notion that life always has to be “comfortable”…
…You get small little wins.
And these wins build positive emotions. That build on themselves to eliminate the power procrastination holds on your life and your psyche.
In fact, I take a few minutes at the end of each day to write down my “wins” for that day.
And it’s amazing how much momentum this builds over the course of the week.
Of course, if I wait until the end of the week (or Monday morning) to try to remember what I accomplished, I only come up with a few items. But when I make it a point to write them down every single day, I usually end up with over 20 big wins per week…
Which drives up my confidence and boosts my motivation by allowing to start my day just a little more charged up!