The Days When It’s Just Not Happening

This week I’ve been having a lot of trouble getting to sleep.  Every night over the past few days, 11pm rolls around and I’m just not tired.  I go to bed and just lay there or I stay up until like 2am reading and watching TV.

It’s been hard.

It is especially hard for me because this is not something that I deal with very often – I usually put my head down on the pillow and within a minute or two I’m fast asleep.

I’ve looked at all of my routines, tried turning off devices, only drinking water after about 6pm and doing every conceivable thing to wind down, but it hasn’t been happening.

Last night was the worst.  I found myself not tired at 3am and deciding that I just had to go to bed and try to get some sleep.

I woke up this morning at about 8:30am and I feel like a wet bag of human excrement today – there really isn’t a nice way to say it.  It’s not quite hungover, it just feels like I’ve gone through having the flu for a few days and my body is worn out.

In fact, mentally, I’ve got nothing.

I’m driving to Canberra tomorrow evening for work and so I won’t have time tomorrow to get emails done or anything like that.  This means that not only do I have to do today’s email, but I also really need to get the “Week That Was” email done today as well.

Except I’ve got nothing… The mental reserves tank is pretty much empty.

I started writing an email for today and got about halfway through it and deleted it.  It was garbage, I wasn’t saying anything and I had no idea where I was taking the narrative.

So I’ve been working for like an hour and a half and the only productive things I’ve done are updated some plugins on the Casual Marketer website (pushed one button) and written this much of this email.

That’s a pretty weak effort.

The reality is, I have to push through.

I talk about it a lot, but consistency is a big piece of the success puzzle and if you want to be successful, you can’t work only when you’re feeling it.

I have a few tips and strategies that I’ll share with you that I use to get myself going when I’m having days like this.

The first one is that I try and find a handful of things that I can do without thinking that much and get a positive outcome.  That’s why I updated some plugins – it doesn’t take much effort to login and update plugins, but it is something that I can successfully complete.

Why is that important?


It is being proven by neuroscientists who study the brains, personalities and behaviours of successful people, that one thing these folks do is they give themselves opportunities to have success because that starts the ball rolling and makes pushing through easier.

I wasn’t getting anything done, so I did something that I knew I could do.  It ticked a box that needed to be ticked and it didn’t require me to put much thought into it.

Right after updating Casual Marketer, I went into my overall site management tool and updated a bunch of plugins across my portfolio of sites.

Again, it was one button push, but it started me moving forward.

Then I spent ten minutes replying to emails that people who get the daily emails send me with their thoughts and comments.  It gets my brain working in a more narrative fashion and puts me in the writing place.

Then I started writing an email but had to abort because it was terrible.  But that’s ok because I was writing and doing stuff.

Momentum is key, moving from small success to small success.

The next thing I try and do is take copious amounts of notes about ideas I want to work on, particularly writing tasks.

I have an Evernote notebook with “email ideas” where I dive in and write stuff down throughout the day as things come to me.  I also have a bunch of “pages” setup in Casual Marketer where I’m working on long-form content pieces.

The idea is that when I’m stuck for an idea, hopefully, something from those notes will jump out at me and light the creative spark.

I must admit, today that didn’t happen, but 90% of the time it does.

Related to that is the third thing – I keep lists.

I’ve talked about this before, but I tend to keep a bunch of small action item lists laying around my work area on notepads and scraps of paper.  I focus on writing down actionable tasks that can be done in one sitting and then I scratch them out as I do them.

This helps a lot of the time when you’re at loose ends because it focuses you on the things you need to get done.  The secret to doing this successfully is to break the things down into small parcels of work that you can successfully complete in one sitting.

It would be no use for me to write, “Create new lead magnet” as an item on those lists because that’s not going to get done in one sitting.

What happens when you keep lists of big items is that you overwhelm yourself and you never start because you gravitate towards the smaller easier things.  That’s your brain looking to find ways to be successful.

Today, these lists didn’t really help me because I just need to get today’s email done and tomorrow’s – I can’t really work on anything else until those things are done and frankly, I’m a bit of a tired wreck right now so it’s probably better if I don’t work on anything.

My last strategy is to be kind to yourself.  If I wasn’t going away tomorrow, I would give myself a mental health day.  I’d literally take the day off, go to the mall, go to the beach or just lay in bed and listen to a book, but I wouldn’t be doing work.

Obviously, you need to be careful about stuff like this because we’re all a little bit lazy and if we make it easy for ourselves to avoid doing stuff that is a bit hard, then we’ll find ways for that avoidance to become the norm.

But that said, some days you just need to push away and do nothing.  This is especially true if you’re building your online business as a side hustle and you’re juggling family, a job and maybe a few other things.

Some days you just deserve to do nothing and give your brain a break.

So that’s it – we’re all going to have days where we have nothing in the tank mentally and physically.  I’m having one today and I just turned out this email which has got me in the rhythm of writing so now I’ll dive into tomorrow’s.

Momentum, progress and keeping things small and achievable.

If you can do that, you can push through the mental fog every time… And if you still can’t, then take a day off, I give you permission.

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