What to Do When You’ve Lost All Motivation

You know that feeling… it happens way more often than you’d like it to. Something just isn’t right.

You don’t want to do the work you use to get excited about, even though you still love it. Every day just seems like a struggle.

If you’re like me, this is the moment where you feel lazy, incapable, and concerned about what comes next. You start to wonder what went wrong and how you can change things back to the way they were a few months ago.

This is burnout at its worst. A complete crash that will leave you paralyzed for days if not weeks.

I hope you can find some reassurance in knowing everyone goes through burnout at some point. In fact, this has been a recent struggle for me and has consumed far too much of my time and energy.

If this isn’t something you’ve struggled with, great! But I hope you’ll prepare to avoid experiencing it later.

Avoiding Burnout in the First Place

The best solution to a problem is to never have it at all. But unfortunately we are creatures of habit, and despite your best efforts, burnout will always be something to actively avoid.

Here are a few ways you can avoid it:

1. Leave Room for Rest

I get it, you really love to do what you do. But when your rest time feels like a lazy waste, you know you’re getting close to burnout.

You can’t function at 100% all of the time, and that’s ok. Read a book, play a game, spend time with friends, anything other than the work you’ve been doing on repeat.

I like to think of rest as refueling. 

You can’t drive a car forever without stopping. At some point you need to turn off the engine and give it time to refuel.

2. Keep a Schedule

Schedules can sometimes be a pain to keep up with. It seems so freeing to work without a plan and do whatever feels best at the time.

Without a clear plan, you’re wasting mental energy.

You start a new icon set, see an email, check a text message, reply to a few of those emails, work on the set a little more, see a tweet, check the tweet… are you exhausted yet?

Keeping your brain away from that kind of constant processing will help relieve a lot of the mental strain that leads to burnout. You can help it out by planning ahead.

3. Get a Burnout Buddy

That’s a stupid title, but you’ll remember it. This is simply a person you can be open with at all times. Let them know you’re wearing thin and allow them to let you know the same.

Sometimes just telling someone gives enough pause for you to realize something has to change.  But… what if you’ve already reached burnout?

Escaping the Trap of Burnout

Am I too late with the tips for avoiding burnout? Maybe you read them but ignored a few, so now you’re back. That’s understandable! But you don’t reach burnout by avoiding it, you’ve run head first into it.

You’re trapped, seemingly unable to escape. It’s lonely and worrying, but if you tell someone you’ve reached your limit, you fear humiliation.

Let’s work out of this mess:

1. Stop Everything

Burnout may have lead you to stop everything already, but if not, let it be ok to pause. It won’t be for weeks, just a few days.

Often when I reach burnout, I keep fighting it by working more. But that just adds fuel to the fire.

You’re not quitting, you’re allowing less progress be ok in your mind. 

It’s tough, but going on a vacation, taking on fewer projects, or planning a long weekend can do a lot for your condition. As I mentioned earlier, you need rest to refuel.

2. Remove the Clutter

When I’m burnt out my email inbox actually gets to zero, my desk is extra clean, and suddenly my files get a lot more organized.

These small but important tasks can bring some order back to the chaos in your life, and best of all they don’t require strenuous brain activity.

It’s amazing how much our surroundings can affect our outlook and ability to think. Just remember:

If you live in clutter you’ll think in clutter.

3. Keep a Journal

Doing a tiny part of a bigger goal every day is a good way to emerge victorious when you’ve burned yourself out. Here’s the problem though… you probably feel unproductive no matter what.

Keeping an account of what went right and what went wrong every day is extremely insightful. Maybe you never read it again, but in the moment you can celebrate your victories, and the next time you find yourself close to burnout, you can go back and see what happened.

It really doesn’t matter if the journal is physical or digital. Personally I use Day One. It’s a great app with a lot of handy features for keeping a daily journal.

Most importantly, if you’re a creative (especially one working in a high stress job), remember that you’re not alone. We all reach our limits at some point and hopefully these tips on avoiding and getting past burnout will help you keep doing the awesome work you do every day!

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