15 Of The Best Things To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

Do you ever have those days when your brain goes on hiatus and you have no idea what to do? You're sitting on the fence about everything — or just one thing in particular.

Maybe you're having your morning coffee or sitting at your desk at work wondering . . .

  • What should I be doing with my life?
  • What's the best choice for this situation?
  • What are my priorities?
  • How should I make the best use of my time today?
  • How can I resolve this problem?

And your brain responds with, “Duh. I don't know what to do.” You getting nothing. Crickets. A blank space where grey matter should reside.

It's like your ability to make a decision, to choose, or to take mindful action has just been erased from your cognitive operating system.

Every option you consider feels like eating chalk. Every action you start to implement seems uninspired and empty. What's happening? Why have you flat-lined?

Help! I Don't Know What I Want to Do

We've all had times when the answers to your most pressing questions or problems just don't materialize. I'm not talking about those days when you're sick or tired or PMS'y or stressed out.

I'm talking about a regular day when things should be ticking along normally, but out of the blue, you've morphed into a piece of dry toast.

When I'm in these situations and try to force myself to choose or decide or act, every fiber of my being resists my efforts.

things to do when you don't know what to do

The resistance then sends me into a panic because I'm not accomplishing, or I'm stuck in limbo about a decision and can't move forward.

But over time, I've had to accept there will be days when I don't know what I'm doing with my life or even my day. I will be confused, indecisive, unmotivated, or uninspired.

I've found ways to make the best use of these fuzzy or uncertain days and acknowledge that maybe my brain is trying to send me a message — like, “Give me a break!” Or maybe just, “Give me some time to sort this out.”

What to Do When You Have No Idea What to Do: 15 of the Best Ideas

1. Stop fighting it.

Just accept you are having a fuzzy, confused, indecisive, non-action oriented day. Who knows why. It doesn't really matter. It's happening, so maybe your subconscious knows something you don't.

Maybe your brain needs to recharge. So be kind to yourself and accept that sometimes our “inner knowing” knows best. If you fight it, you are simply adding more stress and unhappiness to your day.

2. Talk a walk.

Or a run. Or a bike ride. Just get outside and get some modest exercise. Get the blood pumping, the endorphins going, and your body moving.

There's just something about being outside and moving around that clears the head. And even if it doesn't fully restore brain function, you'll burn some calories and feel better physically. That counts for something.

3. Do mindless tasks.

If you can't think of something truly productive or make an important decision, then just clear your desk. Or load the dishwasher. Or clean out your email.

Pick some simple task right in front of you that doesn't require hard decisions or intense thought. You'll still be accomplishing something, even if it isn't the big thing you think you should be doing or deciding.

4. Learn something new.

Use this time to read a blog or book or listen to a video or podcast about something you want to learn or become more proficient at.

Don't put pressure on yourself to learn something complicated or difficult. But just read or listen and absorb what you can without stressing.

things to do when you don't know what to do

Perhaps whatever you are drawn to learning will open your mind about the thing you are confused about. It might open doors to a new path forward or give you an answer you were seeking.

5. Borrow a brain.

If you're at work or a place where you need to perform (or risk the wrath of others), then ask someone you respect and trust to help you out.

Tell them you are having an off day, and you need some guidance on a decision or priority action. Sometimes it helps to have someone tell you what to do without having to decide.

Or you can borrow the brain of a mentor or counselor to help you sort through your inertia or confusion. Having someone ask you probing questions that you may not have considered goes a long way in clarifying what to do next.

6. Try meditation.

Sit quietly for 10-15 minutes, breathing slowly and watching your breath. Allow your thoughts to drift by without judging them. Continue to focus on your breathing, gently pushing thoughts aside as they arise.

Meditation can calm and balance you and help clear your mind of the racing thoughts that might be blocking your ability to focus and function. With a clear mind, there's more room for ideas and answers.

7. Do something creative.

Creativity promotes problem-solving and reduces stress and anxiety. It puts you in a state of flow that fosters clarity and insight.

Give yourself an hour break and go do something creative, something you might feel passionate about. Draw, cook, garden, paint, play an instrument, dance, write a poem, anything that allows you to get in a creative flow.

Whatever you do, don't judge the creative process or attach meaning to the outcome. Just enjoy the relaxation of the activity.


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8. Help someone else.

If you don't know what to do for yourself, then do something for someone else. Offer to help out a co-worker or a neighbor. Write a letter to an old friend. Call someone who's been going through a hard time. Spread a small ripple of good.

things to do when you don't know what to do

It's hard to feel like you aren't achieving something — even something small — when you are making a difference in someone's life.

9. Write a list.

When we are feeling confused and fuzzy, sometimes it's helpful just to put it down on paper. Write down all of the decisions, choices, and actions you are mulling around. Just make a list of them.

Organizing them on paper helps you organize your brain. You may not be able to take action today, but you'll have the list handy when your brain revives tomorrow.

10. Take the first logical step.

Maybe you are confused or indecisive, but you have an inkling about the best first step. Or you have a series of possibilities, and one of them stands out just a bit more than the others.

Go ahead and take the first logical step, even if you aren't sure it's the right step.

Taking one step forward in the direction of a possible choice or outcome isn't going to up-end your life. In fact, it could provide more clarity and focus.

We can get so stuck in our heads that taking any action at all feels frightening. But action creates momentum, and that may be exactly what you need to move forward.

11. Try journaling.

Use this time of uncertainty to get all of your thoughts and feelings down on paper. Ok, so you don't know what to about (fill in the blank).

  • What are the options?
  • What are the possible outcomes of the options?
  • How will those outcomes impact you and those around you?
  • Which option makes you feel the most and least stressed?
  • Why does a particular option stress you?
  • Is that stress worth the potential outcome?

Write it all down and don't think about it. Just get it on paper and out of your confused brain. Then put your journal away for a few days and come back to it later to read what you've written.

You may find you've gained insight as you reread your thoughts. At the very least, you've reduced some stress by releasing some of the mental tension.

12. Do some research.

You aren't the first person in the world to have experienced your particular issue or problem. Google it, and you're likely to find gobs of information and stories of people who have faced the same decision or have sought the same thing you're seeking.

Just reading that you're not alone is comforting, but better yet, you may find some answers in the actions others have taken related to your situation. You may also find forums or social media groups where you can get feedback and ideas.

13. Look to your past.

You haven't hit this brick wall with every problem or decision in your life. There have been times when you've known what to do, made the best decision, or forged a path that worked out for you.

things to do when you don't know what to do

Think about some of these specific situations in the past and ask yourself how you knew what to do. What led you to the choices and decisions you made and how did you previously overcome inertia, indecision, confusion, and self-doubt?

Are there any past tools you used that might help you now?

14. Reduce your options.

You can have so many options or choices in life that you feel overwhelmed. Choice overload is a concept that was first presented in Alvin Toffler's 1971 book, Future Shock. Having more choices can result in dissatisfaction, regret, and the fear of missing out.

You feel paralyzed with indecision and unable to act. These feelings can create that foggy sense of not knowing what to do about anything, even some of the smallest choices you make during your day.

Minimize decision fatigue by streamlining your options — both related to the thing you don't know what to do about and in your life in general. You can easily minimize your options in the food you eat, what you wear, and the routines you follow every day.

15. Do nothing.

Whoa, what a concept. What if you took a mental health day. Go play hooky. Sit in the park and read. Watch a movie. Meet a friend for lunch. Allow yourself to have fun today without guilt or stress.

Or maybe you decide to allow life to unfold as it may without having to choose or decide. Sometimes things just work out the way they are supposed to.

If you do nothing for a while, some of the things you don't know what to do about will resolve without your

What will you do when you don't know what to do?

Inevitably you'll have a day or a month or even a year when you don't know what to do with yourself or your life. This time of confusion and uncertainty can be painful and frightening because most of us are accustomed to figuring things out without too much difficulty.

But you don't have to let this period undermine your self-confidence or make you question your judgment.

Practice one or more of the 15 steps outlined here, and make the best of your lack of clarity. Be patient and recognize that life is forever changing — with or without your input. You won't be stuck forever.


If you want something really life-changing to do with your time, please check out my Path to Passion Course.

15 things to do when you don't know what to do


17 thoughts on “15 Of The Best Things To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do”

  1. This post came at a perfect time for me–just as I’m feeling like dry toast. 🙂
    When this happens to me, I almost always go with number three, the mindless tasks. Setting my house or inbox in order seems to have the same effect on my brain.
    If that doesn’t work, I give myself permission to veg for a while. The combination seems to do the trick for me.

    Reply
    • Hi Amy,
      I’m so glad it came at the right time — amazing how that happens sometimes! I love what you say about setting your house in order has the same affect on your brain. That is so true. Our minds can mimic our actions. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I have left work as of last October and because I am now responsible for my own direction and motivation each day, the idea of being able to get myself started takes on an added importance as I have no employer who is watching me arrive each day. I do freelance work so I am accountable but I am able to decide when I work.

    When I get like this, your #3 and #2 work best for me.

    I do mindless tasks, like pay bills, mail a letter, clear my emails….and then a small sense of accomplishment starts to grow in me. So then I start to do other things and it is self-perpetuating and I get back on track.

    The other thing is that I go for a walk/run and while I am doing the exercise part, my brain can get quite creative and motivated. So that puts me into an upward spiral also.

    Great post! Despite the ‘dry toast’ start! (loved the dry toast analogy)

    Reply
    • Hi Kelly,
      I do that exact same thing — go out for a run. And as I’m running, I get all of these creative ideas.Amazing how that works. It adds some jelly to that dry toast. 🙂

    • Hi Lianne,
      I love the quiet cafe idea! That sounds lovely. Reading is always a good de-fuzzifier!

  3. Excellent list, and I’m definitely going to have to remember the ‘dry toast’ analogy. For me taking a walk is like turning on the mental faucet. In fact I’ve learned to bring either a mini recorder or pad and paper with me because all these ideas start flooding my brain. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
  4. Great post Barrie.

    I often find myself in nowhere land.

    I need to do more for myself- like taking a long work or being creative.

    Life is to short to be wrapped up in thinking all the time.

    ty

    SW

    Reply
  5. I’ve recently had a bad few weeks of this happening, not only indecisiveness, but I didn’t want to do anything. Full stop.

    First, it bothered me, as I had a long list of tasks to get on with, but then I just let go of all the guilt that came with this feeling of “I must do something important, otherwise I am no good”.

    Then I figured that I truly NEEDED a break….

    I’m pleased to say I am all back to ‘normal’ with new ideas and inspirations.

    In the meantime I ‘pottered around’, went for long walks, watched movies, decluttered, cleaned and tidied. In short, I pretty much employed all your above advice naturally. It’s priceless and it really works…

    ASH

    Reply
  6. When my mind goes blank and I can’t think of what to do, I get ready with intention, grab my headphones and some music, choose a general direction, and I walk. It’s lovely having a phone with the ability to play music, get directions, and take pictures because the directions can help this process (obviously) and the music motivates it; the photos – for me – inspire further action. Sometimes while I’m out on an adventure, I decide I want something. I live in California, and once in a while, this thing it will be a burrito; I never would’ve thought of burritos if I had stayed home. There’s something about being out experiencing life that bring such ideas to thought. At this point, it will become a quest to find the best burrito! And often times ill discover a place I’d have never otherwise found; bonus if I can write there and extra bonus (for future writing endeavors) if they have a clean, useable restroom!

    This is actually how I canvassed Los Angeles and was a fun way to meet people whove become dear friends, and become intimately acquainted with my city.

    Reply

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