I have a job that I like with development chances that I appreciate. I genuinely believe I am lucky to have it.

It's just that I am being so damn distracted and giving only 5% of my effort instead of giving it the effort it deserves, that's hurting my performance and development.

I'm an average Joe, I lead a normal life, nothing tragic is happening in my life and at the same time it's not going easy. So I don't really have a permissible "excuse" for me slacking off so much.

The only way I find myself motivated is when I feel in danger of failing something or getting into trouble. This might work for some tasks, but it's silently ruining my professional life.

Has anyone had this same problem and was able to solve it ? I would appreciate any advice.

  • kid, you just need some discipline. it's easy to get - just give yourself small tasks "focus for 20 minutes on this" and then increase it.
    – bharal
    Feb 9, 2021 at 12:42
  • 4
    It's a a mental shift, you need to train yourself just like anything else. Or get a govt job, you'd fit right in.
    – Kilisi
    Feb 9, 2021 at 12:43
  • 3
    Have you considered talking with a psychologist about this? Inability to focus unless under some kind of external deadline could be in the "executive dysfunction" category of problems and is one of the symptoms of ADD.
    – Erik
    Feb 9, 2021 at 12:54
  • Are you working from home right now? Is that part of the problem? Not everyone works well from home, myself included. Feb 9, 2021 at 13:12
  • @StephanBranczyk especially right now with all the worries of the virus. I find myself being unmotivated and all a lot more frequently now Feb 9, 2021 at 13:15

3 Answers 3


There are a few possibilities here.

Other people have mentioned the possibility of ADHD. I would also like to mention the possibility of an anxiety disorder (which can cause you to feel "paralyzed" in the face of starting a task) or depression (which can cause you to have low motivation and energy in general). I recommend seeing a good medical professional (such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, etc.) to see if one of these applies. There are also good books on each of these topics that can be very helpful.

Another possibility is procrastination. There are books about procrastination available, many of which are quite effective. Procrastination can be driven by anxiety (e.g. doubting your ability to do the work, anticipating that the work will be much unpleasant than it actually will be, etc.), feeling overwhelmed by the task, perfectionism, lack of clarity about the task, or a number of other factors. Getting Things Done has some advice on clarifying tasks to the point that they're "actionable," and there are a number of excellent books and workbooks. I recommend getting a book or workbook on procrastination if this applies to you (preferably one based on CBT - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - so that you can learn to challenge the thoughts that are driving the behavior).

Remember: procrastination is a mental management problem, not an indication of laziness or some other character defect. You can learn skills that will help you to reduce this behavior so that you can function better in your job and in your day-to-day life.

Another possibility is a misunderstanding of where motivation comes from. I recommend reading Why We Do What We Do by Edward Deci or Drive: the Surprising Truth behind what motivates us.


There's certainly phycological possibilities (ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, etc). Certainly, all the changes to normalcy and near relentless repetition in life those changes have created due to COVID have messed up a bunch of us. Back in the day, if I needed to focus and do work, I would take my laptop or tablet to Starbucks and I'd be super productive. As we approach a year of COVID, I have just been much less productive for 12 months :(. There was something about that environment that I just wanted to work. I worked all over town, so in 2019, I frequented probably 15 different Starbucks locations.


Make sure your working environment suits you. Your chair is comfortable, you actually like the keyboard/monitor/laptop you are using. You are dressed to enhance your comfort from a temperature perspective. Use headphone if you need to drown out others. Or play rain or city sounds if it's too quiet. I have an ultrasonic humidifier/essential oil diffuser with different color lights on my desk ($15 on amazon)

Turn off social media notifications, or use the web interface instead of the app. Limit the number of platforms you use and limit the number/types of people you follow. Screw your cousin's friends in Florida that went to a party at a beach house when you're stuck in your 600sqft apartment in Seattle or San Jose or Austin. Envy/irritation from looking at others is counterproductive when you're trying to be productive.

A lot of people take up working out as a way to focus or help motivate themselves. There's a lot of natural processes that happen in your body that a walk or run or strength training can activate that have positive affects on your body and brain.

Get enough sleep. You need to get 7-8 hours regularly at a minimum to perform. If you are having trouble sleeping, don't have any caffeine 6-8 hours before bedtime. Make sure you have the temperature at a comfortable setting. Most people sleep better if it's a bit cooler. If you are waking up more than once at night, get an at home sleep test done. You may have sleep apnea. It's very common, especially among those with allergies or overweight, but even normal skinny people can have it. I've had a cpap now for 6 months or so, and most nights, I sleep the full 8 hours until my alarm goes off. They also have humidifiers and filters that make the air more pleasant to sleep with.

For the past few years, I was having more and more days where I was just lazy or tired or unfocussed or foggy. I was using coffee to help mitigate these days, but I realized it coincided with pollen/allergen counts/seasons. It got so bad, I started taking allergy shots a year ago. And, I really think this has helped me.

Find something that calms and re energizes you. I've had stressful days, and on my lunch break, i'll just watch 15 minutes of mindless tiktok videos. I can't tell you how relaxing I have found this to be.

This is probably not your answer, but sometimes, nothing beats a cup of coffee for my productivity. Just make sure it doesn't have a bunch of sugar and maybe only a small amount of cream.


IMHO, this may be a symptom of a larger problem.

Be true to yourself and see if this behavior pattern affects more than just your professional life.

if yes, you may need a doctor, some illnesses affect concentration and can be hard to pinpoint.

If not - this may be a symptom of burnout - and that is not good to be left untreated.

Good luck and keep us posted :)

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