Why Am I Feeling Unmotivated? How To Encourage Yourself To Be More Productive

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated April 28, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

There may not be a single, correct answer to how to find motivation. Many individuals express feeling motivated by happiness, money, family, fame, passion, love, necessity, and more. However, there may be times when it feels like nothing is motivating you, and you're feeling stuck. You might experience days when getting out of bed to handle routine tasks, like basic chores or checking emails, seems like an insurmountable obstacle. These periods may accompany low emotional state, boredom, or feelings of self-judgment.

The word "motivation" can often describe why we care about a task or value. We might rely on motivation to drive our productivity or help us accomplish important tasks. In our careers, personal life, and social lives, we might use motivation as a goal to shoot for and the energy to get us there. When motivation suddenly seems to leave, it may feel like you're a boat without a rudder or a car without gas.

Are You Struggling To Feel Productive In Your Life?

If you're feeling unmotivated, know you're not alone. In recent surveys of American workplaces, only 36% percent of people reported feeling motivated and engaged at work. There are several causes and remedies for motivation, including those listed below. 

Why Do I Struggle With Motivation? 

At times, the reasons for your lack of motivation may feel apparent, such as personal challenges or when you lose sight of long term goals. Other times, you might not understand why you no longer feel motivated. If you're having trouble pinpointing the problem, there are a few common causes that could be impacting you, like negative people or the inability to realize progress. If you think you might be experiencing a mental health condition, reach out to a mental health provider for further professional guidance and consider incorporating strategies like regular breaks, gratitude journal, and exercise to help you feel good and move forward. 


Feeling unmotivated is a common symptom of depression. However, feeling unmotivated on its own is not enough to diagnose depression. Often, a lack of motivation will be one of many symptoms, and may be seen in concurrence with feelings of despair, lethargy, difficulty focusing, or trouble socializing with others. 

Depression is a common mental health condition, affecting roughly 5% of the world's adult population. However, it is treatable and has many available support methods, including therapy and prescription medication. 

If you're worried that your struggle with motivating yourself could signify a more significant mental health condition like depression, consider contacting a therapist to address your concern.

Feeling Overwhelmed

A lack of motivation, sometimes called avolition, may involve the sense that whatever important things you are responsible for are too overwhelming, and there's no strong reason to achieve them. You might experience this when trying to address a significant task, like a job responsibility or a long research paper for school. Or you might experience it while tackling several minor problems that combine to form a long list of most important tasks. In either case, once analysis paralysis sets in, every way of approaching the problem could seem wrong or stressful.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, approaching the situation with patience, self-compassion, and self-empathy may be beneficial. If your feelings of overwhelm are due to feeling pressured, taking action by putting the pressure off might reduce the feelings of overwhelm. You can try to do this by practicing affirmations, taking regular breaks to focus on yourself, or splitting the tasks into manageable workloads, focusing on a single task at a time. This process might mean moving the task to another day when you feel better and are making progress.

Mental Burnout

Mental burnout might be referred to as emotional exhaustion, "hesitation of motivation," or compassion fatigue. These terms can point to the feeling of having reached the end of your rope and needing to spend time doing nothing for a while. It may happen if you've had a busy week or worked long hours without a break. It can also be an experience for students and employees who feel the long-term burnout of working in one area for years. For caregivers, burnout might come after caring for another person's mental and physical needs for most of your day alongside your own needs. 

In recent times, burnout has reached an all-time high. The American Psychological Associations' 2021 work and well-being survey found that three out of five employees reported work-related stress and lack of motivation and were more likely to develop a mental health condition. Outside stressors, like the Covid-19 pandemic, may contribute to the prevalence of burnout. People might feel overworked or stressed dealing with the financial, economic, and emotional challenges of a stressful worldwide situation. 

Looking At The Big Picture

When you find yourself feeling like "I have no motivation to do anything", you might consider whether this is a rare occurance or something that you've been experiencing frequently. It can be normal to have an off day, and you might want to take a break if you are. 

However, if a lack of motivation is beginning to feel like part of a significant pattern in your life, it may be a symptom of a more profound concern. If you have difficulty interpreting the cause behind your motivation issues, it can be helpful to speak with a mental health professional who can help you get to the root of the problem. 

How Can I Be More Productive? 

Learning to encourage motivation can feel challenging. Since emotions may not always be controllable, focus on what you can control, such as your boundaries, your body, and your surroundings, when you can. 

Know Your Distractions And Get Rid Of Them

When you're unmotivated, you may struggle to start a task. After conquering that hurdle, you might feel stressed if distractions get in the way. Researchers studying the psychology of productivity recommend removing distractions to improve your attention span and productivity.

Identify your distractions to get started. If you check your phone every five minutes, habitually turn on a TV show in the background, or are exposed to environmental factors sapping your attention, you might find your attention wandering. 

Be honest with yourself about what needs to change. Put your phone on silent for an hour if you can. If you struggle with self-discipline, consider downloading an app or program that blocks certain apps or stops you from using your phone until you finish a specific task. 

Choose Your Space Wisely

Think critically about how your environment affects your productivity. You may not be able to choose your workspace, but there could be changeable factors. Many people may feel confined to offices, cubicles, or classrooms that aren't conducive to their productivity. However, consider bringing decorations, wearing comfortable clothing, or bringing a photo of someone you love to these environments.  

Studies of productive workspaces have found that seemingly minor factors, like bringing green plants to your workspace, can increase happiness and productivity. If you're unsure where to start, feel free to experiment. Not everyone will have the same ideal workspace, so take the time to figure out what's best for you. 

Write Down Your Goals

Writing your goals down may make them feel more achievable. At times, the abstract nature of problems in our heads could make them much more challenging to keep track of. By constricting those issues to a piece of paper, you can hone your focus and reduce distractions by other thoughts and ideas. In a study of the effectiveness of writing down goals, researchers found that people were 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to achieve the goal they put down on paper than those who didn't. 

Work In Bite-Sized Chunks

A common culprit of avolition is the feeling that the task ahead is so unmanageable that there's no point in considering it. Consider breaking your goals into manageable tasks or "chunks." This "time chunking," as some have called it, has proven to be both practical and psychologically beneficial to people experiencing issues with motivation.

One study from 2011 found that regular chunks of work, separated by brief breaks, significantly increased subjects' attention span and productivity. So, for example, people working in 25 to 30-minute chunks, with short 5-minute gaps in between chunks, showed much better focus and attention levels than those who tried to stay hyper-vigilant for the entire duration.

Learn To Accept Unproductive Periods

Lastly, try not to pressure yourself into constantly feeling motivated. Feeling unmotivated may be your body or mind signaling that it's time to take a healthy break. If you find yourself struggling to motivate because of burnout, step back, take a breath, and decide how to proceed in a manner that balances productivity with your mental well-being.

Life isn't necessarily about being as productive as possible in every single moment. Be kind to yourself, and try to feel optimistic about taking a break when you need it

Are You Struggling To Feel Productive In Your Life?

Therapy Can Help You Reignite Your Motivation

Talking to a therapist might help you figure out why you're struggling with motivation and build habits that can improve your productivity. For many, a barrier to counseling might be finding the time to schedule an appointment, commuting to an office, and committing to weekly sessions. In these cases, you might feel pressured or stressed to get started. 

If you relate, online therapy might benefit you. You can attend therapy from any location, including your bed, if you're not feeling up to a physical session. You can also choose to speak to your therapist over live messaging and phone or video calling. 

Online therapy has effectively addressed some underlying causes of motivation issues, such as burnout or depression. A recent study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal of online-based treatments for mental illness described online mental health services as "empowering, clinically efficient, and consistent with the way that patients interact with healthcare." The study praised online therapeutic care's availability, cost-effectiveness, and professionalism. 


You may not feel motivated all of the time, and most people experience this fluctuation in their ability to stay driven. However, a lack of motivation may cause significant stress in your daily life. Understanding the source of your motivation issues and finding strategies to help you cope with them can be essential for focusing on the most important things in your world.

Managing distractions, your environment, writing down goals, and working in chunks are all potential strategies to boost productivity. Try to acknowledge that you don't need to feel motivated constantly, and avoid falling into a perpetual state of low motivation. Taking a break could be beneficial to your mental health. If you need it, support is also available through counseling.

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