I don’t know about you, but there’s some days I can hardly get myself out of bed. The prospect of yet another day of pointless work….
Or I get out of meetings late in the afternoon and it hits me how behind I am. REALLY behind. So now I’m staring at the computer screen, wondering where to get started. Maybe I’ll just forget it all, come back tomorrow morning, and hope things will look better.
1) Cycles are natural. First, realize that there are natural cycles built into your days, your weeks, your years, your tasks, and your projects. It’s nature’s way to help make things more interesting, and to focus on different things at different times. For me, my most productive concentration time is mid-morning, so I try to work on my deepest tasks around that time.
2) Exercise. I have to admit that I’ve never been very dedicated to exercise. But when I take some time to go for a walk, my energy improves. I get more creative and focused.
3) Start with a routine. Having some common activities every day can help you feel grounded – both at home and when you start work. But pay attention to whether each element of that routine is helping or hindering you. Checking your e-mail when you first get out of bed may not be putting you in the right frame of mind.
4) Break the routine. Doing something unusual can help you to become more creative, even excited. I did an experiment one time where I drove to work a different way for two weeks, listening to a different radio station each time. It was interesting to see different scenery and to ponder what alternatives I’d been ignoring. It really changed my frame of mind when I got to work – just because something had changed in my routine.
5) Eat more balanced meals. Your mother told you this too, and with good reason. Get yourself out of the extreme cycles of burning short-term energy, followed by the inevitable energy crash. Stay off the sugar, energy drinks, and fried foods.
6) Take a break. Sometimes the most valuable way to get motivated is to change your frame of mind and body. Get up, move around, go talk to somebody. Give yourself permission to goof off for a few minutes.
7) Take a first step. Perhaps it’s the magnitude of the job ahead of you that’s keeping you from taking that first step. So just get started. Develop the outline. Call somebody. Start moving that pile of rocks. Often the momentum of getting started will help you take step two, then three. And it probably doesn’t matter so much WHERE you start – just get moving.
8) Tell someone what you’re doing. Many of us can feel quite alone in our work, which also means that when you’re not getting anything done, nobody notices. Sure, your boss will beat you up next week, but hey, that’s next week. So tell a friend or colleague what you’re working on and when you’re trying to get it done. It’s surprising how often this simple act will help get you motivated and focused.
9) Clear up the jumble in your brain. People are often at a standstill because of the number of things that are running around in their heads. Get the noise out of your head, and down on paper. Make sure that you’ll come back and review the list later – guaranteed – and then you’ll be able to clear some mental space to work on a single task. When something else occurs to you out of the blue, go ahead and add that to the list so you can continue to concentrate.
10) Do some sprints. If you know you have to do something unpleasant, just commit to it for ten minutes. Then work on it with full energy and concentration. After the ten minutes are up, take a rest and celebrate the progress you’ve made. Then decide if you’re up for another sprint, or want to focus on something else for awhile.
In my experience, the largest challenge is to realize that I’m lost, or stopped up, or overwhelmed. Once I realize that, then it’s not hard to take one of these actions to get moving again.
What are your favorite ways to get productive again, with focus and energy?
by Carl Dierschow