When you have all the time in the world but no motivation to do anything…

When I retire, I’m going to take up fly fishing…

When the kids are grown and flown, I’ll start that new hobby…

When things calm down a bit, I’ll clean out that closet…


While I’m stuck in quarantine, I’ll improve my life, my business, my home, my relationships, my….


In 2018, I published a blog post called Productivity and Motivation: Do you GottaWanna to Get’erDone?


If we were all OKAY right now, I’d simply repost that article and call it done.


But, we’re not all OKAY now. We are under a global blanket of stress and uncertainty and death and fear and anger and frustration.



I am NOT OKAY. Are you?


My friend, Linda*, one of the most accomplished people I know, said that all she can do is stare at the wall and talk to the cats right now.


My friend, Cathy*, one of the most positive and upbeat people on the planet, was almost in tears about how much more difficult it is to perform her job remotely.


Even though I am worried that my business will not be solvent by the end of summer, I am spending all my time and money on a book that I’m giving away for free.


Many of us are NOT OKAY. Some of us are not behaving rationally (or productively) right now.


I should be working on that project I had planned in January that would enable me to launch a new product line.


I feel an unattainable pull, as Julie Bestry playfully put it, to “entertain and educate and dazzle your entire family, becoming a 24/7 cruise director on the Good Ship Quarantine.”


A few weeks ago, I posted a blog full of seven lovely ways to be productive during social distancing. I’ve done one of them.


Because some days I’m okay, and other days I’m just NOT OKAY.


I’m grateful to writers like Seana Turner who said, “Success will look different than it did two months ago.”


I’m grateful for Julie Bestry’s recommendations to be flexible during this “now normal”


If you’ll remember, I’m also trying to “practice gratitude” <insert sarcastic air quotes> right now. Harrumph.




What can the NOT OKAY people do right now?



Prioritize the “must-dos”


Eat. Sleep. Take your meds. Practice basic hygiene. Those who are working/studying from home must participate in Zoom meetings, answer emails, etc.


Do the things you must do to maintain existence for you and those with whom you are quarantined (be they human, furry, feathered, or scaly).


You may decide to stop here, and that’s okay.



Then, perform the “good-to-dos”


Physical activity. Laundry. House cleaning. Sunlight.


These are good things to do, but you cannot do them unless you have eaten, slept, taken your meds, and maintained what employment you can.


You may decide to stop here, and that’s okay.



Then, make some connections to other people.


Start calling friends and family members. Schedule Zoom-based happy hours with neighbors. Play a board game with your housemates. We are human beings and desire to connect with each other.


Reach out. Don’t wait for others to reach out to you. They may be NOT OKAY.


You may decide to stop here, and that’s okay.



Then, see what you are motivated to do next.


I am a firm believer that action causes motivation, not the other way around. In this era of NOT OKAY, however, I think we need to be open to whatever rational or irrational actions we feel led to do (except for actions that violate social distancing and stay-at-home orders/recommendations, of course).


Leslie Josel, whose mission is to improve the lives of students, taught me a concept in one of her webinars called “attention residue.”  Here is how Leslie describes it:


Sometimes when a student heads home after school or goes to the library once the school day is over, they still have “gas in their tank” to continue at full speed to get homework and/or studying done. The attention residue is left over from being in school all day. And they can still forge ahead to keep working. ~ Leslie Josel


After performing your must-dos, good-to-dos, and have made some human connections, see what, if any, attention residue is present.


If you have some gas left in the tank, use it to do some of those keep-you-busy projects that seem to be filling our social media feeds right now. Or, clean out that closet. Or, download that free story book that I wrote. Or, watch a Captain Corona video.


If your tank is empty, that’s okay, too.


This post is done, my tank is empty. I’m going to watch many episodes of Criminal Minds on Netflix.


Be well, friends.


Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at getproductive@melissagratias.com or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.


  1. Seana Turner

    Thanks for the shoutout, Melissa. It’s true that some of the great plans we have had for “when we have more time” are not panning out, even for those of us who have more time. The weight of the stress of the new, the uncertain, and the unknown is quite heavy, impacting our productivity. I love your revised approach to getting things done! You may get through the first three categories and be done for the day, right?

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      Some days, I’ve barely gotten through category one! And, that’s okay. Thanks for your wonderful writing, Seana.

  2. Janet Barclay

    I also found Julie’s and Seana’s posts very helpful, and so is yours. This is an important message that needs to be repeated – no less important than “wash your hands” and “stay six feet away from others.”

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      I have so not been able to stop touching my face. I think it will take a “cone of shame.”

  3. Leslie josel

    What a fabulous article! Such good nuggets of wisdom. Thank you for including mine!

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      Of course, Leslie. You work is amazing. Thanks for your help clarifying the concept of Attention Residue for me.

  4. Jane Veldhoven

    Thank you Melissa for giving us permission to be okay with being not okay.

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      I think I needed to give myself permission as well!

  5. Julie Bestry

    Oh, Melissa, this was beautiful! Thanks you for quoting me, and for the comforting words you’ve shared with everyone. You have been a bright light for me during these strange days.

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      That goes both ways, my friend!

  6. Heidi Stone

    Thanks for making sense of the basics. Even those simple things can seem enormous when stressed or in unknown territory. You’ve ordered them so well. Hope you are doing good!

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      Thanks, Heidi. As is likely typical right now, I have good days and bad days. I hope you and your family are well.

  7. Rebecca Renner

    Thank you so much for this post, Melissa. I’ve seen other posts on this topic, but yours was the most useful and thoughtful. I will follow all of the links you included as well to learn more. I’ve found a lot of joy in working outside this spring; something I always enjoy, but usually relegate to the weekend. I feel a real sense of accomplishment when I survey my landscaping and how nicely it’s coming along this early in the season. But there’s this nagging in my head that says “go work on your newsletter. Go try to find more business. Go learn something you’ve said you would get around to learning when you had time…” And I feel like a total loser when I start and stop those “really important” tasks. I’m overwhelmed with the process of trying to apply for various small business loans and possibly unemployment just to stay afloat, and working in the yard gives me so much more joy right now. So thank you for saying that it is OK and for encouraging us toward small steps to make progress on the things we “should” be doing. I am glad you are doing as well as possible; you’re a great role model! Is there a way for me to share this with all of my clients? I suspect a lot of them need this now, too.

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      Hi Rebecca! I’d love for you to share a link to this post with your clients. I hope they find it helpful.

  8. Kelly Scoggins

    Thanks Melissa! Good timing. I needed this today!

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      I’m glad it came at a good time for you, Kelly. Be well!

  9. Janet Schiesl

    I’m starting to look at this time and ask “Is this what being retired will be like?” I can see that without parameters of work hours, meetings, etc time can slip away and I’ll be less productive. I hope to learn something about what I want my retirement to look like during this time and have a plan when that happens.

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      Thank you, Janet. I think that we do need to reflect on what we are learning about ourselves during this ordeal.

  10. Amy Miller

    Thank you Thank you Thank you for making me feel human. This is exactly how this all feels and I have felt guilty that my vision of production wasn’t happening. I told my husband last night I just didn’t understand what was wrong with me but you summed it up in a nutshell. I am normal!!!! Thank you so much for doing what you do.

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      Sending love your way, Amy…

  11. Carolyn

    Simply, THANK YOU.

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      You are very welcome. Be well.

  12. Connie M Gratias

    Staring out over any body of water with beverage (individual choice here) in hand, listening to the sounds of nature around you is ok anytime and highly recommended now.


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