If you’ve ever finished something big, whether it’s you’ve written a book, finished school, quit your job, created a videogame or finished anything else that previously would take up a huge part of your time and now does not anymore, you might know this situation:
Even though you might have had big plans for how to fill your days you just can’t motivate yourself to do anything. You feel a bit confused, maybe go through a lot of emotions. You feel most content when you’re just resting and taking time off. If you try to be “productive” you get distracted easily and you have a hard time getting into the creative flow. You wonder what’s wrong with you and maybe beat yourself up because you feel like you’re wasting time. This is not your normal state of being but started after you’ve finished your last big project.
What’s going on?
At first, relax. This phase is totally normal. You’re only adjusting to your new situation. And this can be quite confusing! Just think about it:
- you need to adjust to another direction/different goals
- you need to adjust to another schedule
- you might need to adjust new people
- you need to adjust to new priorities
And there’s more: All the needs that were fulfilled by your old project will have to be fulfilled in a new way. At the same time all the needs you couldn’t fulfil with your former projects and lifestyle are bubbling up now and are looking for your attention.
It’s normal to need some time and some resting. Maybe one of the needs you neglected while working on your former project was to rest some more/to take more time off or to do more “fun stuff”. Then you can’t be surprised if you feel a few days only like playing video games.
How long will it last?
In my experience phases like these don’t last very long. Maybe a few days or a week. It depends on your willingness to work with yourself, though.
The longest phase
The longest phase I felt like that was after I quit school in 2008. School ended practically in May, if I remember, after that we wrote a few tests (Abitur). I think after the middle of June pretty much everything was done. After that I fell into the phase I described and didn’t get out before the end of August! Why did this phase last so long?
You see, the problem was that when I quit school I was very eager on doing my own stuff which is why I practically planned to work my ass off. When I couldn’t motivate myself I would beat myself up which made me feel like a loser which made even less motivated. The surprising news is it all went away in less than two days:
I remember trying to motivate myself, trying to swim against the incredible strong stream of my own inertia. It was about the middle of August and I thought about what I had reached in the last two months: Pretty much nothing! At this point I felt like it was just too hard to go further in this direction: Trying to be self-disciplined was just too hard and I got almost no results – it was a daily fight without a winner.
So I said to myself: “You know what? It’s not worth it. Just do what you want to do – don’t try to force you to do anything anymore, don’t try stick to any plans anymore. You probably will be happier otherwise and you can’t get any less productive than in the last two months anyway.” I don’t know what I did first. Maybe I played a video game or went for a walk or played some tunes on my guitar. But I know that I listened to my impulses and to what I wanted at that moment and just went for it. I continued this strategy for the next 48 hours and – voilá, I was healed. I felt motivated, inspired and couldn’t stop doing stuff! I finally felt alive again!
So this is what I mean when I say to you must work with yourself when you’re trying to get out of a phase like this: You have to accept that it might not be the best thing to just start working on your new project at the moment. You have to allow yourself to take some time for yourself or you might end up sabotaging like I did. You probably won’t need a lot of time – like I said 48hours cured me from two months – but this time is essential.
How to get out of the down-phase
This is how you do it:
- Observe how you feel and accept it – even if you feel really down; allow yourself to be down!
- Try to feel what you need or want. Is there something you want to do (look especially for something you think that would fulfil a heart’s desire at the moment)?
- Allow yourself to do it! It’s okay and it will help you.
- Whether what you want to do is sleeping, painting something, watching comedy, taking a walk, reading a magazine, playing paintball or something entirely else – just do it!
- After you’re finished with your first activity search for more that you want to do. Do that also!
- After some time of doing things you want to do without thinking about being productive and working, you probably want to do more work related things automatically (you will get more work related ideas, feel like it’s a good time to work, be less fulfilled with non-work-related things); follow these impulses, too!
- Yes, you did it! You brought yourself out of a down-phase in no time!
Next time a project is going to end, don’t let yourself fall into a down-phase. Instead jump right into it! Allow yourself to need what you need. Allow yourself to be confused. Allow yourself to go for anything you didn’t go for before. You will be surprised how much strength and inspiration you will take with you from phases like this.
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