Distractions and depressions are a normal part of a productive person’s life.

Someone recently asked:

Some weeks I’m pumped, focused, energetic, and productive. Life is good and I am checking off my goals one by one. Then I have a week when it feels like I get nothing done. I have no energy or focus. I’m watching TV, reading the news, and sleeping in. What do I do? How do i get consistent?

Handling Distractions Motivation
The key to handling loss of focus is not turning bad moments into bad days & bad days into bad weeks.
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The first thing you have to do is realize that this is normal. No one is fully motivated, pumped up, and focused 24/7/365. It’s impossible. I don’t know what you are going through in life, but if there is something causing this relationally, physically, or emotionally, take care of that. If you’ve lost a friend, take the time to mourn. If you’re sick, get your rest. You don’t have to be “on” all the time. “Consistency” is not about going 100% every minute of every day, it’s about managing your up time and your down time and not turning bad moments into bad days and bad days into bad weeks.

Here are four tips to get more consistently focused and motivated:

  1. Know that it’s OK. As I say above, realize this is normal and don’t get down when you’re not up. You read that right, just because you’re not up, doesn’t mean you have to be down. Just because this morning you don’t feel like running through walls doesn’t mean you can’t climb over them. Take a moment to acknowledge that you are sluggish or in pain and don’t allow that to drag you down any further.
  2. Go scorched earth on distractions. Whatever is distracting you, get rid of it. We got rid of cable over four years ago. TV is no longer a distraction. I love sports but I am no longer watching other guys live their dreams on Saturday and Sunday while I’m eating Cheetos on the couch. I’m not watching others win gold medals while I could be writing. Whatever the distractions are, you need to get rid of them. There will be times when you will want a distraction and there won’t be one, so you will just kind of find something productive to do. After a few months, it gets easy. This is similar to trying to lose weight. If you tell me that Twinkies are your downfall…that you eat 2 every night because they are so tempting, I have an easy fix for you…stop buying them! Remove the temptation. I doubt that every single night, you are going to venture out into the cold, dark night, start up the car, and drive just to get your two Twinkies. Eventually you lose the desire and the desire for Twinkies is replaced by the desire to be thin.
  3. When you need a lift, get a lift. Listen to whatever you need to listed to or read whatever you need to read to inspire you. It may be the exact same thing every time or it may be some different things. Whatever gets your motor going. I used to think motivational speeches were corny but now I choose to react to them. I listen to some of the same stuff over and over to the point that I have memorized speeches. But every time, it gets me moving and gets me excited to do what I need to do that day. Find whatever works for you. A movie clip, a certain speaker, a book. Whatever works for you is what is best for you.
  4. Keep a journal. When do you get “down?” Is it after a real high (success)? Is it when you have relational problems? When you aren’t exercising? When you _____? This may take months or possibly years to really pinpoint but do it. I would write it out however you want and also keep a chart. It might look like this:

Date – Emotional Status – Life Events – Today’s Objectives

Over time, this allows you to identify trends and patterns. After 3-4 months (it isn’t a quick fix) you start to see some trends and start to make life changes that raise up your down times, shorten them, and make the time between them longer.

How do you handle distractions and emotional down times?

11 thoughts on “Mid-Week Motivation: Handling Downtime and Loss of Focus

  1. Chance Smith says:

    Now your tapping into my passion! We don’t watch cable either! I love your past time.

    We obviously love getting high on information.

    I use three youtube videos I listen to as part of my morning routine I love podcast on productivity and leadership as I drive into town. It’s hard to get there but the gym is also a great detox, if you can push yourself into doing it. The after effect is great stuff!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Totally, Chance. I don’t particularly love exercising but I do enjoy running. Unfortunately I can’t do it every day if I want to still have bones in my legs haha. But that runner’s high is a great feeling. I love getting to the office with that feeling. It lasts all day!

      1. Exercise does ti for me, but I had to give up running a while ago. But the best is connecting with people that share my passions.

      2. Matt McWilliams says:

        That is a good thing Jim. Even just looking forward to connecting with my men’s group tonight has been pumped!

  2. Carol Dublin says:

    Music does it for me. I have certain songs or albums that really pick me back up no matter what. So I plug in and get busy. Exercise also helps – and sometimes I have to turn off email and social media.

    You are so right about admitting you are having a down day. I’m fighting a cold this week and I”m cutting myself a little slack – ran slower, but still ran, going to bed a little earlier. But not letting it stop me. Great post!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Get better Carol and do cut yourself some slack this week.

      I’ve fought off the last two colds very quickly thanks to a combination of a lot of rest, a lot of natural remedies taken in high doses, and very moderate to light exercise. No exercise hurts me, heavy exercise does too. But I would go for a 30-minute light run/walk. The timer was no where to be found and the mile markers were irrelevant. Just enough to get the blood flowing but not so much to get me coughing. Worked great the last two times. I’ve also found that increased stretching and making sure to walk around the house helps.

      1. Carol Dublin says:

        Thanks Matt, and great advice. I find the first step is actually admitting I’m sick, and that I need to slack off a bit. I’m not one to stop anything, so those are good reminders to keep moving but at a slower pace. And lots of hot tea!

  3. Todd Liles says:

    I have learned to relax. Trust God. And go to work.

  4. Lily Kreitinger says:

    Yay for no cable. Got rid of it two years ago and don’t even remember what it was like. I so relate to this post. It is very true that you don’t have to be “on” 100% of the time. Focusing on enjoyable activities, exercise and down time is critical. This past weekend I spent two hours making jewelry. I “should have” been doing laundry instead. We’ve signed up for a “survive the holidays” weight loss challenge. Last night I spent an hour playing Wii fit with my family instead of surfing the web. Managing time and energy is a matter of managing your priorities. You still have 24 hours a day and a to-do list that’s a mile long. Choosing “what not to do” may be the best way to kick off feelings of depression and anxiety.

    Our culture demands a lot from adults. There are times to stop and breathe and the world will not come to an end.

    Great post!!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Thank you Lily!

      Eric Thomas provides a great reminder in a clip I often listen to called “Twenty-Four”

      He reminds us that Oprah, Richard Branson, and Warren Buffet all have the same 24 hours we do. They are successful because of how they used their 24.

      One of things I have focused on is waking up at a specified time and going to bed at a specified time most days. It’s not about sleeping less to have more time, it’s about defining my time.

  5. Jon Stolpe says:

    We all need to (or at least I need to) learn to “Be still and know that He is God.” When those times of downtime hit, this should be our first focus. (And it should actually be our focus during the up-times as well.)

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