Doing Nothing at All – 2

In my last post, I asked “What do you do when you know you ‘ought’ to be doing something, but really don’t feel like doing anything at all?”

I want to follow that up with another question: What leads to this state in the first place? In other words, why do I feel like doing nothing at all? I think there are a few factors that come to play. The most common for me are:

Lack of energy or enthusiasm
“There are things that need done but I’m exhausted…can’t I just put it off? I don’t want to think about it, and I really want to lay down.”

Confusion or conflict around hierarchy
“My desk is a mess, I’ve got phone calls the answer, emails to reply to, and some bills. What about that big project I’ve been meaning to start? Man I really ought to go to the gym. On the other hand I’m tired and need a nap. Sleep is important right? Let’s just deal with all of this stuff later, it’s too much to think about.”

“Every time I attempt something I just give up or forget about it anyway. Why waste my time when I could just relax. It’s been a long day anyway and I deserve a break.”

Lack of urgency
“The things that need done don’t really need done today. I’d rather watch TV. I’ll do them tomorrow.”

Every one of these things is a complex topic in itself. Usually the “do nothing” feeling is a mixture of them (or something else!). The first step though is simply to identify the feeling. What factor or factors are actually at play? It’s surprising how often we don’t do this. Today after work I had a “do nothing” mood hit and what I really needed was just to eat something (I lacked energy because I hadn’t eaten). All I needed was a bowl of oatmeal, but it was surprisingly hard to identify that fact.

Once you can put your state into words, it’s easier to make a firm decision and take action. Perhaps lack of energy is the easiest of these problems to solve, as well as the most common, so I’ll limit myself to that aspect in this post. More than the other factors, lack of energy can be solved in realtime if you can identify it and act on a firm decision.

Along these lines, I’m trying to habituate the following questions and responses when I feel like a sloth:

Am I actually tired as in “sleepy”? If so take a nap. Do I need to rev up? Take a walk, exercise, or jump around. Am I tired because I’m hungry? Eat something healthy. Do I feel “blah” in general? Get out of the house!

Habituating this response can pay off big time, and what’s more it’s not particularly complex at all. The other issues–hierarchy, disillusionment, and urgency–might take a bit more foresight and planning to stave off. They are also a lot more interesting psychologically. So, they’ll each get their own post! Stay tuned.

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