21 Things To Do When You Don’t Feel Like Doing Anything

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Most people will have a time in their lives, however brief or lingering it is, when even getting out of bed in the morning seems pointless.

That feeling of not wanting to do anything at all might be a result of mild depression, it might be because you’re emotionally drained or stressed, or simply that you have a to-do list as long as your arm that never seems to get any shorter and you just can’t take it anymore.

It might be that you feel like you have no options and are stuck in a rut, or it might be that you have so many options and courses of action open to you that you’d rather just keep your head firmly under your pillow, because it’s much easier there, thank you very much.

Whatever the reason that everything suddenly seems like far too much effort, it can be hard to haul yourself out of it.

That’s where this list of suggestions comes in.

It’s broken down into two elements. The first 11 points all relate to your general mental state and approach to what you have to do. The final 10 points are some little things that you might want to consider doing right now.

Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help get to the root of why you don’t want to do anything (and overcome that feeling). You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.

1. Listen to your body and mind.

There might be a good physical or emotional reason why you don’t want to do much at a given time. So it’s vital that you first assess your overall well-being before trying to force the matter.

Physical illness or injury should be considered, because it’s far harder to find the motivation to act when you’re full of cold or aching all over.

The same could be said if you’ve pushed your body particularly hard recently – its need for rest might manifest in you not wanting to do anything.

Then there is the mental and emotional side to consider. If you’re under a lot of stress, are grieving a loss, have had to maintain full concentration on something over the past couple of days, or have not got the sleep you need, then it’s natural for your mind to want some downtime doing nothing.

So sometimes you have to just go with the flow and trust that your body and mind know best what is right for you.

Of course, this all depends on how long you’ve felt this way. If it’s a short term thing, you can chalk it down to the things talked about, but if you’ve been experiencing this for more than a week, you should…

2. Consult your doctor.

Short-term issues with your body and mind are one thing, but there might be other things influencing your energy and motivation levels that you might not be aware of.

That’s why it’s important to speak to your doctor to have them check you over physically and assess you mentally.

On the physical side, they can look at your wider symptoms and lifestyle factors that might contribute to an underlying cause for how you feel. That might be a nutrient deficiency, allergic reaction, intestinal problems, or more serious conditions that leave you feeling low and exhausted.

On the mental and emotional side, they can do an initial assessment of how you are feeling, how you are coping, how your life is and how that might contribute to how you are feeling, etc. They may then refer you to a mental health professional if they believe you could benefit from some counseling or medication. You may be suffering from depression or anhedonia or another mental health issue that is causing you to feel flat and drained.

3. Don’t judge yourself or your efforts.

Whatever efforts you make and whatever you manage to accomplish, treat yourself with kindness.

Avoid judging your actions as insufficient. Beating yourself up today will only make it harder for you to motivate yourself tomorrow.

Even if you don’t manage to do much at all, be sympathetic to your situation and show yourself the understanding and compassion you would show a friend who was facing the same thing.

Often we are our own worst enemies at times like these because we condemn ourselves as lazy or pathetic which only makes us feel worse about ourselves which, in turn, perpetuates the cycle of inaction.

If you can manage NOT to do this, you’ll have taken one small step on the path to a more positive mental state.

4. Ground yourself in the present moment.

Sometimes, we put off doing things right now because we spend all our time in our heads. Whether it’s daydreaming or anxiously worrying about the future, or ruminating over the past, we use up all our energy in the imaginary world we make for ourselves.

The moment you step out of that world and into the present moment, you’ll be able to see the tasks ahead of you and actually understand the value in doing them now, not at a later date.

And as soon as you get going on things with your mind focused squarely in the now, you increase your chances of entering what’s known as a flow state, whereby you are so engrossed in what you are doing that you don’t think about other things or even notice the passing of time. This is a highly productive mental state to be in.

How do you shift your mind to the present? Mediation can help, as can compartmentalization. Physical movement and exercise can also be effective. In essence, anything that can get you to stop thinking about whatever it is that is on your mind.

5. Adjust your expectations of what you need to do or can realistically do.

Are you resistant to action because you feel overwhelmed by all the things you need to do or think you ought to be doing?

If so, it pays to look at the expectations you have of yourself and your day and consider whether or not they are realistic.

If you’ve set yourself an impossible checklist of tasks, of course you’re going to feel defeated before you’ve even begun, meaning you won’t want to do anything from your list because it feels futile.

If you’re really struggling, be ruthless and cut at least half of the items from your list. Make a separate note of them if they really do need to be done, but then forget about them for today. Just focus on your reduced list and start ticking things off.

Each morning, carefully consider what your priorities are and then focus on doing those things and nothing else. If you finish them and have time for something else, then you can worry about what to do, but keep your mind on a small list of things to begin with.

6. Act straight away when you think of something.

If lists aren’t your thing or you aren’t yet in a position where you feel able to do multiple tasks in a day, just focus on finding one thing to act on to begin with.

The secret here is to act as soon as you think of something that gives rise to even the smallest feeling of motivation. The longer you leave it to act, the more your mind will find excuses not to do it.

Does the idea of clearing out a load of junk sound good? Get up and open a cupboard straight away and sort through its contents.

Would you quite enjoy a hot bath? Get onto your feet right now, walk into your bathroom and start filling the tub.

It’s a lot harder to stop what you’re doing than it is to not begin that thing in the first place. So don’t think twice if something piques a tiny bit of interest or sparks a little desire – just do it.

7. Just decide to do something, regardless of how you feel.

This one might sting a little to hear, but sometimes you have to just forget how you feel and make a conscious decision to act in spite of the resistance in your body and mind.

You almost have to say to yourself, “Screw you, I’m doing this whether you like it or not.”

Of course, that’s easier said than done. You have to push through all the physical and mental barriers that stand in your way, and if that were easy, you would have done it already.

But it is possible in many circumstances. You just have to get it in your head that you’re going to do something even if you don’t enjoy doing it. Even if every cell in your body is fighting you, you’re going to ignore them all.

And once you’ve done this once, you’ll know you can do it on future occasions too.

8. Start small.

There’s a concept in productivity circles known as “eating the frog,” which basically means doing the task you least want to do first to get it out of the way.

But in your current mental state, you need to take the opposite approach. You will find it much easier to build up your momentum if you start small with some tasks that are easy to complete and relatively enjoyable.

These gateway tasks will then lead on to the ones that you really don’t want to do but have to. You empower yourself with the small initial tasks which gives you more energy and discipline to tackle the bigger or less enjoyable ones.

The only caveat is that you shouldn’t spend all your time doing the easy and enjoyable tasks. Do a few to get yourself in a better headspace, but then move on to something more challenging and/or urgent.

9. Reward yourself for each task you complete.

You may find it easier to do something in the knowledge that you’ll get a little treat for doing it. So find a suitable way to reward yourself for each task you complete.

It’s important that these rewards do not negatively impact any goals you might be working toward, else they will backfire on you in the future. For instance, don’t treat yourself with a piece of chocolate if you’re trying to lose weight.

And avoid treats that will derail your progress and halt your momentum too much. In other words, don’t reward a small task that took 10 minutes with half an hour of gaming or TV.

10. Be kind to your future self.

The person who will pay the biggest price for you not doing something today is you. Only, it’s the you of tomorrow or the you of next week.

Use this as motivation to get things done today. Treat your future self as you would your best friend – you wouldn’t want to harm or inconvenience your best friend would you? So don’t do either to your future self.

Your future self will probably have other things they need to deal with, so try to take as much of the load off their shoulders as you can by doing things now.

11. Do something unrelated to the things that have gotten you stuck.

Is it that you don’t want to do anything, or do you just not want to do certain tasks?

Sometimes we meet resistance when there is something in particular that we don’t want to face. It could be part of a larger goal or project, something to do with your work, or something that fills you with dread.

If the prospect of doing that thing is preventing you from getting anything done at all, put that thing to one side for a moment and dive into something that’s totally unrelated.

This will get you into a more enthusiastic groove. You’ll feel empowered by the tasks you do complete and will feel more able to tackle that thing you are trying to avoid.

Just make sure that you leave yourself enough time to actually finish this thing, otherwise you’ll be more likely to put it off till another day.

For example, let’s say you’ve got a tax return to complete. That’s a boring task that few people enjoy, and you’re using it as an excuse to not do anything at all.

But what about if you mowed the lawn or cleaned the windows first? Then perhaps you could plan meals for the following week. Once you’ve completed those tasks, you’ll be on a roll, mentally speaking, and you’ll be more willing to sit down and fill out the necessary paperwork for your tax return.

12. Have A Shower

Cleanliness is often one of the first things to go when you’re in this kind of mood. The truth is, though, that you’re never going to feel good about yourself if you’re not clean. Cleanliness is next to godliness, and all that. Get a great shower playlist going, lather up, and sing a few favorites at the top of your lungs.

Whether they’re slow, moody ballads or upbeat Latino numbers (careful about trying to salsa in the shower – dangerous territory), it’s hard to feel down when the water’s hot and the music’s good. I personally recommend a bit of George Michael’s ‘Faith,’ which has gotten me through many a tough time.

13. Get Dressed

Again, pyjamas are wonderful and comforting, but if you’re looking to get out of your rut, they need to go firmly in the wash basket and you need to get some proper clothes on.

Clothes for moods like this should be comfy but flattering, and preferably even a bit crazy, or with happy memories associated with them. Brush your hair. Girls, throw on a bit of makeup if that’s your thing. If not, more power to you.

14. Go Food Shopping

As Helen Keller once said, “Happiness rarely keeps company with an empty stomach.” I don’t think anyone will disagree with that. A well-stocked fridge is the solution to all manner of problems.

Treat yourself to a couple of things you shouldn’t really be eating if you must, but major on the fruit and vegetables too. Sugar crashes are not your friends right now, and you need your vitamins to get yourself back to firing on all cylinders.

15. Cook

I know, takeaways seem far more appealing right now, and they definitely have their place, but consuming them night after night isn’t good for your health or your bank balance. Go down a bit of an Instagram hole and find a few wonderfully healthy but also delicious looking recipes to try out.

Don’t go for anything too convoluted, as it’ll only put you off. Preparing a full meal with your own fair hands will give you a sense of achievement. Even if you achieve nothing else that day, you’ve nourished yourself, and anyone else you have to/want to cook for. That’s a step in the right direction in anyone’s book.

16. Make A List

The humble to-do list is a powerful tool. I’m not talking about making a list of all your long-term, mega, overwhelming goals. They’re probably part of the problem, and can be reserved for another time. A slightly more modest list of small things you can achieve today and then cross off is a great way of feeling like you’ve got somewhere.

A pen and paper are far better for this than any fancy digital tool, as there’s nothing more satisfying than physically crossing something out.

Put absolutely everything you can think off on the list. Throw your shower, food shop, cooking, washing the dishes, and washing your clothes on there, along with that email you’ve been meaning to send, that bill you’ve been meaning to pay…

Make them all extremely simple, single actions that can be done and crossed off.

17. Declutter And Clean

Another wonderful one for bulking out the to-do list. There’s a lot of truth in that saying ‘tidy house, tidy mind.’ How are you supposed to clear out your muddled brain if the physical space you’re in is just as chaotic?

Put some good music or one of your favorite podcasts on and get everything back in its place. If it doesn’t have a place, find it one. Dust and hoover.

Better yet, throw things away. I refuse to live my entire life by Marie Kondo’s slightly overzealous approach to decluttering. She says that if it doesn’t bring you joy, you should throw it away, but socks don’t bring me joy and I need them (unfortunately, I’d rather be living on a desert island wearing nothing but flip-flops, but you can’t have everything).  

However, she’s got a real point about how getting rid of physical stuff can take a real metaphorical weight off your shoulders. Try going through your clothes and throwing out anything you no longer want/need/fit into. Do the same with your shoes, books, cuddly toys, stamp collection…

Take it all to the charity shop, and you’ll be doing good for others as well as yourself.

18. Stretch Your Legs

It’s a bit of a cliché, I know, but that’s because getting out for a walk really does work. I don’t know the science behind why a bit of fresh air is so revitalizing, but I’m willing to bet it’s because we humans didn’t evolve to be locked up inside an office cubicle or dingy flat all day.

Whether it’s 5 minutes around the block or rambling for hours on end, it’ll help.

19. Get Your Heart Pumping

If you’re up for it, then some slightly more rigorous exercise is definitely a good idea. We all know by now that exercise releases endorphins in your brain, which make you feel great. Think of it as a happy pill without the side effects.

Hit the gym, go for a run, go cycling, or go along to that exercise class you’ve been wanting to start. If the idea of doing exercise, especially in the company of other human beings, doesn’t seem all that appealing, don’t focus on it.

Focus on getting your ‘activewear’ on and lacing up your trainers. You don’t want to be one of those people that goes around dressed like they’re off to the gym and never goes, so once you’ve got the gear on you’ll probably be shamed into it.

20. Go See Nature

Are you a city dweller? A dose of nature might be just what the doctor ordered. Your local park will do for now, but try and get into the countryside-proper ASAP.

There’s nothing like the mental space you can get when you’re miles from anywhere with only nature for company. Of course, you can take friends along too!

Being in the mountains or looking out to the vastness of the ocean is a great way of getting a bit of perspective back.

21. Ring A Friend

A lot of the above have been solitary activities, although you can always rope a friend in to keep you company (except perhaps in the shower and getting dressed, unless they’re a really good friend).

You might feel like spending time alone at the moment and that’s fine, but don’t isolate yourself completely. Spend your social time with the people that really matter, that you genuinely care about and can be yourself around.

Want to push through these feelings, get active, and do things? Talking to someone can really help you to address and fix this issue. It’s a great way to get your thoughts and your worries out of your head so you can work through them.

A therapist is often the best person you can talk to. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can guide you and help you to address the underlying reasons why you don’t want to do anything.

BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.

While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.

Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.

Online therapy is actually a good option for many people. It’s more convenient than in-person therapy and is more affordable in a lot of cases. And you get access to the same level of qualified and experienced professional.

Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.

You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.

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About The Author

Katie is a writer and translator with a focus on travel, self-care and sustainability. She's based between a cave house in Granada, Spain, and the coast of beautiful Cornwall, England. She spends her free time hiking, exploring, eating vegan tapas and volunteering for a local dog shelter.