The last few days, I’ve struggled mightily with a lack of motivation. The smallest task has felt like a huge undertaking, and I’ve been way less productive than usual. We all have days and even weeks like this, and it’s a topic worth addressing.

What do you do when you’re unmotivated?

Create Structure and Accountability

When we have 45 minutes to finish a 45 minute-task, we’re productive. When we have a whole afternoon open, we waste time.

When someone else expects something from us, we deliver. When we’re the only party involved, we let ourselves off the hook.

Every Thursday morning, I read through a document called Notes from Past Jonathan. Here’s one of the bullet points, a lesson I’ve learned over and over:

You are the most productive with structure. If your schedule doesn’t provide it for you, you’ll need to add it yourself. Without it, don’t kid yourself. — Past Jonathan

We can create artificial structure and accountability in our lives; we don’t have to wait for them to appear organically.

Use a friend or partner to hold you accountable on a difficult task. Break up big chunks of uninterrupted time with errands or a coffee date with a colleague. But don’t ignore your own tendencies. This time will not be different.

Do the Easy Stuff

Derek Sivers has written a great post about the idea of using periods of low motivation to work on “boring” and “necessary” things, tasks like catching up with your accounting and updating your will.

This is great advice, in my experience. It’s a way of compromising with yourself instead of demanding unwavering peak performance every day of your life (a strategy that leads to frustration).

So you’re not going to finish that grant proposal today. Could you change the oil in your car?

Realize That “They Can’t All Be Winners”

At the end of the day, we’re only human. If you waste a day so rarely that it seriously bums you out when it does occur, you’re probably in pretty good shape overall.

You’re going to have to write off a day from time to time. Get a good night’s sleep and hit it hard tomorrow!