How do you spark motivation without a deadline or pressing to-do list? I asked this question on Twitter, and got zero responses. Perhaps I should have set a "reply by" time.
This can be a more acute condition for freelancers, but it can occur even when overemployed (say, juggling a full-time job with freelance work). In general, early symptoms include you feeling like you should get Getting Stuff Done while being unsure what constitutes said Stuff exactly, and what would let you know it's Done. This can result in complications such as Paralysis, Task Metastasis, Avoidance, and in some cases, Minor Self-Disgust. Maybe the last is just me.
When you're overemployed, this is a less chronic condition, because pretty soon someone will yell at you. And it's clearer what preventative actions you can take before things get to that point: break down large tasks into small ones (for example: "build a house" starts with "stand up from your desk"), figure out if team members are going to need anything from you and in what order, etc.
Even without the unknown unknowns, we're talking a serious paradox of choice. When I don't have a pending project, I've no idea which way to turn. It's all potential, and any choice might preclude another path taken. It can get existential up in here.
It's like Walker Percy's Hurricane Theory.
When, say, a baby is in peril, we are free to act because we know we must. But if we're hammocked on a sunny afternoon... what do we do when we don't have a "must"?
How do you figure out what you need to do when you don't need to do anything?
And that's 500 words.