Humans 101

If You Can’t Motivate Yourself to Accomplish Basic Tasks, You’re Not Alone

When keeping up daily routines feels impossible, there’s a deeper cause at play

Photo by Walling on Unsplash

If there’s been any resounding sentiment on the internet over the past few weeks, it’s this: Functioning at optimal levels of productivity simply isn’t a reasonable expectation right now.

This is true. However, it ignores the fact that many of us lacked motivation before the pandemic — and our current reality has only exacerbated that.

If the simplest tasks feel overwhelming right now, don’t worry.

It’s not just you. It’s everyone.

It’s also a solvable problem — but solving it requires a few mindset shifts.

If you’re someone who finds very little motivation in completing mundane daily tasks that are at once seemingly insignificant and tremendously important to your sense of sanity, read on.

Stop overloading

If you find it hard to complete seemingly simple tasks throughout the day, your issue is probably not that you’re doing too little, but that you’re trying to do too much.

No, you probably won’t cook three complicated meals, dress in your best outfit, keep the house immaculate, parent, work, keep up with social media, and listen to a podcast all in one day. You could, but most people don’t, because most people don’t want to.

The internet has inflated our sense of “normal” to a deeply unhealthy degree. We think everyone is performing at max capacity each day, and while it certainly motivates us to improve in some ways, this disconnect holds us back in the end.

It’s okay to eat simple meals.

It’s okay to wear simple clothes.

It’s okay if you didn’t knock out a ton of work.

It’s okay if you weren’t a perfect parent.

It’s okay if there are dishes in your sink right now.

This doesn’t make you a failure. It doesn’t mean you lack motivation or willpower. It means you are a human being doing the best they can to manage the limited energy they have in a day — and you’re doing pretty well at that, too.

Create systems

All of that said, when you do care about accomplishing something, you must create systems. Systems are rituals and routines that incorporate your desired actions and contribute to your long-term goals.

This can look like always taking your vitamins when you wake up, tending to a skin care routine (even a simple one) at the same time each day, drinking your cup of coffee in the morning, doing a 10-minute tidy before you go to bed, reading in the evening, or taking a break to walk around the neighborhood at 3:00 p.m.

Once you establish your system, you’ll adapt to it pretty quickly — that’s the whole point.

Decide on your top priority each day, and then create a routine to get it done. That’s the secret highly productive people don’t tell you: You must get yourself on autopilot.

Stop trying to care about everything

One secret of self-sabotage is that, sometimes, the things we resist doing are things we never wanted to do in the first place. We’ve simply allowed society or peers or insecurity to pressure us into thinking we must accomplish them.

Most people don’t care to have a perfect Instagram feed, gourmet meals, perfect ensembles, Friday night plans with posh friends, a high-paying job, a sports car, and a six-pack.

Maybe you laughed while you were reading that list — and you should.

Most people don’t have these things not because they aren’t capable of attaining them, but because they don’t care.

An internal battle begins when your head tells you something might be ideal, but your heart knows your priorities are elsewhere.

You need to give yourself permission to care about what you care about and let go of everything else. You do not need to master every aspect of your life; you just have to get to a place where you are sincerely content. No other opinions matter.

Find your own motivation

Low motivation can be a sign that you’re performing for someone else.

Human beings are naturally highly motivated to accomplish whatever it is they genuinely want to. (We’re less motivated to accomplish what other people want us to do.) So, to motivate yourself to accomplish simple tasks, focus on what you get out of them, as opposed to how your work might be perceived.

For example, focus on how relaxed you will feel when your space is clean; focus on how good it will taste to eat a meal you really like; focus on how nice it will feel to wear what you really want.

When you shift your focus back to what you will gain — instead of what other people will think — you’ll easily find yourself doing more.

For more of my writing, follow me on Instagram, or check out my books, 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think, and The Mountain Is You: Transforming Self-Sabotage Into Self-Mastery

Author of 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think and six other collections. Visit to shop for books and more.

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