Staying Productive When All You Want to Do is Curl Up on the Couch

Readers had questions. I have answers!

After my last post on the winter blues, I heard from many readers that they don’t exactly have winter blues, but they do notice that at this time of year that staying productive and motivated is much more difficult. Some people mentioned also that with everything going on in the world (think politics, health crises, lack of good health insurance and more) that they find themselves down in a way that exceeds their normal state at this time of year.

So today, I wanted to share some of the specific questions I got, along with some suggestions for keeping your mood and energy levels up as well as for being more productive and focused during the longer, darker, winter days.

1. Is it normal to be unmotivated in the winter? I feel so badly about doing nothing when I have cleaning to do, calls to make taxes to tend to…

This is a hard question. Actually…it isn’t. YES IT’S NORMAL. Was I yelling? Damn right I was.

It is not only normal to feel unmotivated in the winter, it’s normal to feel unmotivated when you have a to-do list that feels impossible to get to even on a good day, week, month, or year. My first comment will be to get my book. Seriously. I’m not even going to give you a shameless self-promotion caveat here. My book walks you through a process of understanding what is most important so you know what not to do on your to-do list.

But beyond this, even if you do know what to do and it’s not so daunting, it’s not only FINE to spend time on the couch doing nothing…it is imperative for your mental and physical health to have down time when you have absolutely nothing scheduled.

That said, an inability to move forward with tasks is upsetting and can be related to depression, or just feeling down. If you suspect depression or you try these tips and tricks and they don’t work. please see your physician (I can work with you on this locally in Portland or as a team member online.)

2. Are there things that can help with setting your circadian rhythm when you’re not going to sleep when it gets dark or waking as the sun rises?

Yes! One of my favorite things is the combination of the blue light box by Philips, and the Daylight alarm clock, also by Philips. I have links for those here but you can also just search them on Amazon. If you’re having issues with staying productive and energetic at this time of year then this is a great way to work with your body’s natural rhythms to support a more energetic state.

3. I’ve heard that activity trackers can be helpful but they’re so expensive, do you have any other ideas that can help motivate me when I just want to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea instead of getting outside?

Regarding trackers, for the record, a recent study showed that as a rule they don’t actually help you lose weight or get more fit.

That said, I have personally had a great experience with wearing a tracker. When I first started wearing it, I was appalled at how sedentary I was on my work days so now I keep an eye on my steps and if by early evening I haven’t hit 10k steps (that’s my arbitrary personal minimum goal although as of posting this I’m at 39 days of over 15k!) I go out after dinner. If the weather is seriously beyond dreary or too icy I get on my treadmill or my mini-elliptical I recommended in my last post. The treadmill wasn’t cheap but after getting it my back pain got so much better I stopped my massages and regular physical therapy and it ended up paying for itself. The mini-elliptical is under $100–not in reach for everyone but a good investment.

As for trackers, the prices have gone down so much in the last few years. I have a misfit shine which I wear on my ankle because if I wear it on my wrist it doesn’t count my treadmill steps. My husband has a fitbit watch which he loves. My sister wears a little clip-on fitbit around her neck that was super inexpensive. Also, if you have an iPhone and you are keeping it on you all the time, your steps will be tracked in your Health app already.

As for motivation I recommend finding someone who also wants accountability and either walk or exercise together or check-in regularly. When I’m in a particularly bad spot I email a friend and agree to send $50 to an organization I hate if I don’t get off of my butt and go to the gym.

4. I feel like I’m tired all the time in the winter, no matter how much sleep I get. What can I do to increase my energy?

First of all, feeling tired can be a symptom of clinical depression so if you think this is a possibility, please go to your doctor to get screened. As for specifically what to do, first up is sleep. That means seven to eight hours for most people, and for some, it means eight to nine. If you have trouble sleeping it’s important to get help to figure out what the problem is, and fix it. Conditions that can negatively affect sleep include sleep apnea, thyroid issues, hormone imbalance, menopause, anxiety, depression, and more. This is something that I typically address in appointments with my clients and you can address with your own physician or health provider.

If you want some help working this out, to see if you’re dealing with normal winter blues, depression, or other health issues, please feel free to contact me. You can find information on my virtual consults here, and for local appointments (Portland, OR) see my office website.

The take-home

Remember it’s normal to turn inside a bit in the winter. Quiet nights on the couch. Hot tea and close friends. Early to bed. Sleepier nights. Don’t begrudge yourself the lovely introspective time that winter affords. But if you need a little more va-voom, try some of these tips, they’ll help. If you need more of a boost feel free to sign up for my FREE 7-day (a tip a day by email) Energy Infusion. It’s full of great, easy to implement ideas for increasing your energy and staying productive.

Yours in health,



Staying Productive When All You Want to Do is Curl Up on the Couch

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