Published on February 2, 2021

How To Motivate Yourself When You Are Overwhelmed in Life

How To Motivate Yourself When You Are Overwhelmed in Life

Like the majority of us, I imagine, I was very happy to wave farewell to 2020. Nothing much changed on the 1st of January, of course. The Covid pandemic rages on, businesses are still struggling, jobs are still being lost, and people are unable to see their loved ones in many corners of the world—many people feel overwhelmed in life.

That certainly didn’t change when I woke up on the first day of a brand new year. But there’s something about the first day of a new year that brings a renewed sense of focus. I’m optimistic that we will see some semblance of normality return this year, and that optimism grew as we kicked 2020 out of the door.

I’ll join millions of “resolutioners” in making promises to myself about improvements I’ll make this year. We—those who do this every year (however long we last)—are riding on that wave of new year optimism and the feeling of a “new start.”

But how do you stay motivated on anything—whether it’s resolutions, healthy eating, running a business, or getting out for a run—when the world is practically on fire around you?

I’m no psychologist, but I like to think I’ve got plenty of experience in maintaining focus and motivation regardless of what’s going on around me. I’ve spent years honing my productivity skills and tried countless tactics that both succeeded and failed at helping me stay driven when I feel overwhelmed in life.

So, let me share some of the things that I’ve found most successful to help you stay focused on what matters to you regardless of what else is happening in the world.

List What’s Overwhelming You

Lists are very powerful things. I often find that when I’m feeling overwhelmed in life, I lose sight of specifically what is causing me to feel this way. When I feel like this, I list what is making me feel overwhelmed.


The list is very often not as long as I expect it to be and often, feelings of being overwhelmed come down to just one or two things on my mind.

What Can You Control?

With a list in front of you, it’s time to take a look at what you can influence.

For example:

  • If too many pressing deadlines is something on my list, I will speak to clients and I will see if I can change some things, or perhaps I’ll stop taking work that month
  • If I’m feeling overwhelmed by non-work commitment, I work out what I can cancel and just cancel it

On the other hand, if it’s something I cannot control (like a pandemic), I grant myself the permission to sit with it—to just be ok with not being ok with it.

I go through my list and I take action to change anything I can change (even if it’s just an email to delegate a task or move a deadline). It’s something that helps me feel a little more in control, though I accept this is something that will be different for everyone.

Set Micro Goals Each Working Day

Feeling overwhelmed can really lower productivity and stop you from doing things you need or would ordinarily want to do. One way to overcome that, I’ve found, is to set very achievable micro-goals for each working day.

So, if one of my goals for the day is to complete a lengthy report, I will break it down into sections and segments that might only be 30 minutes of work as opposed to a whole day of work. I can then visibly see progress towards this goal (and I’ll be honest, I do love ticking things off a to-do list).


I’m a huge fan of micro-goals, which have consistently helped me to get through tasks quicker and break down what seems like overwhelming tasks into smaller jobs.

Prioritize Tasks and Goals

Got too many micro-goals to complete in a day? Prioritize them. Order them by the most important thing on that day and if you need to move some deadlines around or get some help, then do it.

Personally, I give everything a priority score from 1 to 3, with 1 being the highest priority and I work on my 1s first. A wider scale of priority levels might work for you or even just 2 levels.

Take Some Time for Yourself

This is the thing I always find the most counterintuitive. When you’re busy, the last thing on your mind is probably taking time to just go and do something for yourself. But I find that getting away from my desk and walking for 30 minutes clears my mind, and I return more focussed and more able to be productive.

Other tactics can help you to become more productive too but certainly, a quick walk is a useful one for me. Meditation is proven to lower stress levels.[1] It is something that can be done wherever you happen to be, guided by online help or one of the many meditation apps available.

Some people like to run. Some like to play games on their phones. Whatever your thing is—something that you enjoy and makes you feel better—take time out to enjoy it for yourself no matter what’s going on and how busy it seems you are.

Stop Multitasking



can reduce your productivity and increase feelings of being overwhelmed in life.[2] The reality for most of us is that concentrating (or trying to) on multiple things at once means we don’t really get to focus on any of them. We’re slower, more stressed, and tick less of our to-do lists. So, tackle one thing at a time.

But What If You Have to Multitask?

Based on the above, I do not like multitasking. I’d much rather focus on a single task at once. But I share that now 6 days into another lockdown where I live and thus, homeschooling.

Ever homeschooled a 5-year-old while his 3-year-old brother shoots Nerf bullets at him and his baby brother tries to destroy everything in sight? I tried that last week. And I tried to finish some 2020 performance reports over the course of the day too.

I’m not going to lie. It was a bit of a disaster. On the second day, I decided to be a little less ambitious. I’m not going to get reports done while I’m tackling the carnage that is homeschooling. But staying on top of my emails was a little easier to do.

I did it by working in time blocks, taking a little inspiration from the Pomodoro Technique. I didn’t have the full 25 minutes to do complete Pomodoro blocks. But as the baby slept, I saw my opportunity to split up the older two in separate rooms, set the younger one craft tasks, and let our eldest continue with the school tasks set for him.

I told them I needed 10 minutes. And I worked in complete silence without any distractions to clear my inbox over those ten minutes. I managed 6 such stints over the course of the day around baby naps. It was enough to keep my inbox under control.

So, even though you may be multitasking, rather than trying to do multiple things at the same time, you should try to work in blocks of as many or as few minutes as is practical for you.


Have an Accountability Buddy

A close friend of mine and I both embarked upon some health and fitness goals last year. We caught up regularly on Zoom or similar to talk progress and sent one another screenshots from our fitness apps to “report” activity.

Having an accountability buddy is very helpful in reaching goals. We encouraged one another on those days when we just weren’t feeling it. For me, it has been one of the single most important factors in me sticking with these changes 7 months on.

I also have similar relationships with people relating to work tasks. I’ve talked to lots of people (many of whom are freelancers) who struggle with productivity and procrastination, particularly since the start of the pandemic when we’re facing so many other challenges. So, I have two people who I regularly catch up with and talk about how much of my to-do list I’m getting through and they do with me, too.

Don’t Be Afraid to Share

Are you feeling overwhelmed in life? It’s normal and acceptable, particularly in times like these. Talk about it, share your feelings with a trusted contact and ultimately, be kind to yourself.

More To Help You Stop Feeling Overwhelmed in Life

Featured photo credit: Christian Erfurt via


More by this author

Stacey MacNaught

Small business owner, public speaker and marketing expert obsessed with working smarter.

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Published on September 3, 2021

6 Friday Motivation Tips to Help You Stay Motivated

6 Friday Motivation Tips to Help You Stay Motivated

You know the feeling—that “I still have another whole work day to get through” feeling? It sucks. The worst part is knowing that you have to get up, get to work, and be productive when you feel checked out, unmotivated, and would rather go back to bed. The trickiest part about it is that even though you may know intellectually that you’re not the only person who has ever felt that way, at the moment, it can feel very lonely.

If you feel the Friday funk and want to shake it off, try these six tips to lift your Friday motivation.

1. Eat a Solid Breakfast and Plan to Eat Lunch

The first thing you can do to lift your Friday motivation is to eat a solid breakfast. We have all heard the phrase, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” It turns out that it wasn’t just something our parents were telling us to get us to eat before school. Studies have shown that eating breakfast can help with improved memory, recall, mood, and visual-motor functions.[1]

However, researchers have found evidence that the benefits of the micronutrient boost provided by breakfast do wear off after a while. Just like a car with a full tank of gas that runs out after a long journey, the body needs to be refueled. Therefore, planning to eat breakfast and lunch on a day when you are not feeling your best could give you that extra boost you need to get through the day. Skipping meals can lead to low blood sugar, which can leave you feeling weak and tired.[2] If you are already struggling with feeling motivated, not eating is only going to make you feel more sluggish and less inspired to get anything done.

2. Prioritize What’s Urgent

I have always been a fan of the cheat sheet. No, I’m not a cheater, but I love knowing what needs to be done. No one wants to waste any precious energy trying to figure out what should be done when you are already feeling unmotivated.


No matter who you are, there is a high probability that by Friday, on any given week, you have at least one or two items that were supposed to be completed earlier in the week but just didn’t get done. Here is my quick trick for figuring out what’s urgent.

Just ask yourself these three questions:

  • Are there any projects with deadlines that have passed already but are still due?
  • Which of those projects is the most overdue?
  • Of the overdue projects, which will take the least time to make significant progress or complete?

This should help you to easily identify at least one task that you can spend time working on diligently, knowing that you are getting something important done.

3. Tackle the Low-Hanging Fruit

Another way to refresh your Friday motivation is to tackle the low-hanging fruit. There is nothing wrong with doing the easy stuff first. Maybe you are so burned out and the urgent tasks will take too much energy. There is nothing wrong with knocking out the obvious easy things. Emails, filing, data entry, document reconciliation, follow-up calls, editing or revising written work, and research are all low-hanging fruits—these are all straightforward tasks.

Getting these easier tasks done will give you a sense of accomplishment. You can leverage this sense of accomplishment to help you tackle some harder tasks or get all the easy tasks done so the following week, you can dedicate your time to the harder projects.


4. Give Yourself at Least Two Scheduled Breaks

Give yourself at least two scheduled breaks during the workday. Life is stressful. Feeling like you have to work when you don’t feel up to it is stressful. Let’s not compound it by forcing yourself to sit in front of the computer all day with no breaks. The days of believing that “lunch is for punks and working 80 hours a week is what you should be doing” are fading away—if not already a distant memory for some.

In fact, scientists discovered that, although “taking short breaks throughout the working day may not have as obvious an impact as taking a holiday, research has found significant benefits. Studies have found that breaks can reduce or prevent stress, help to maintain performance throughout the day and reduce the need for a long recovery at the end of the day.”[3]

Before you sit down in front of your desk for the workday, set three alarms—two 20-minute breaks and one lunch break. You aren’t proving anything to anyone by forcing yourself to be miserable in front of your computer. You deserve flexibility and compassion. Let these breaks be a radical act of self-care.

5. Listen to Some Upbeat Tunes

Another way to improve your Friday motivation is to listen to some upbeat tunes. Music is medicine. It is not a mystery that the vibrations of sound can affect our mood. Ancient communities knew this and embraced it through practices like chanting, the use of singing bowls, chimes, bells, and other sound instruments as tools for healing. Practices like Kirtan and Bhakti yoga use chanting to heal and shift energy. The Hindu and Buddhist religions use bells and chimes in many of their spiritual healing rituals. Throughout the modern world, we have adopted the use of signing bowls for energetic healing.

Most people could recall at least one moment in their lives when music or sound has helped shift their mood. Music has been shown to have a direct effect on the listener. Studies show that listening to music while you work can lead to an “increase in both mood and quality of work”.[4]


If you are feeling super unmotivated, the solution to your problem may be throwing on your favorite album in the background while you try to get a few things done. If you can’t work while listening to music with words and you do not like classical music or traditional jazz, explore genres like Trip hop, house, ambient, Beach House, JamBand. You may also enjoy artists like Bonobo, Thievery Corporation, and Grammatik.

6. Give Yourself Something to Look Forward To

As a yogi, I’m all about being present in the moment. But sometimes, the present is a little too intense, and being super present is not going to help to improve your mood. In those moments, tapping into the power of positive anticipation can be your secret weapon because “knowing that something good is coming your way pushes you to accomplish those tasks you may not necessarily want to do.”[5]

We all love to be rewarded, especially when we are doing something we don’t want to do. Giving yourself something to look forward to is the way to guarantee that you will be rewarded for the hard work of getting through the day.

The reward doesn’t have to be immense. It can be something small like getting ice cream, going for a walk, spending time with friends, or vegging out with your phone on do not disturb for a few hours. I used to employ this trick a lot when I was in boarding school. The time between semesters in new England would feel so long especially in the winter that my friends and I would let ourselves get excited about little things like drinking lime rickeys at Brigham’s. Believe it or not, it worked.

Try it the next time you get the hit with the Friday funk. Think about something you can look forward to no matter how small, and notice how it shifts your energy.


Final Thoughts

As the adage says, “this too shall pass.”

Friday is just a day like every other day before it will end. One thing you can count on is that time waits for no one, so despite how difficult it may feel to get through, know that the time is on your side.

No matter what, Friday will wind on. The best thing you can do to improve your Friday motivation is to make sure that your body has the micronutrients it needs to power through the day, identify what’s urgent, tackle low hanging fruit, give yourself time away from the desk, throw on your favorite tunes, and think about the fact that you have the entire weekend to look forward to.

You got this!

More Tips on How to Improve Your Friday Motivation

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via



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