Getting motivated, staying focused, and achieving productivity aren’t always easy. Especially this past year, as many of us have found our work and home lives fused together and the stress of pandemic life has weighed on us, it’s no big surprise if our motivation to get things done has flagged. There are many things that can get in the way of accomplishing our goals, from physical needs to distractions and scattered thoughts to losing sight of why we’re working towards these goals in the first place. It’s completely understandable if your productivity has seen a dip in this difficult time, but there are a few ways to help make your everyday to-do list seem less overwhelming. Whether you’re looking for a solution that’s physical, mental or emotional, I hope some of these tips help clear some of the obstacles in your path and help you appreciate your own ability to get things done!
There’s a very real connection between your body and your brain. If your brain is feeling muddled, sluggish and unmotivated, a dose of physical movement might be in order. Rather than trying to brute force your way through these unproductive lulls, try listening to your body and taking a break. Get up, go for a walk, or even just dance around to a favorite playlist to get your blood pumping. You’ll probably find that when you sit back down to your work, your mind feels clearer and more focused. If you don’t have a favorite playlist to get pumped up, we suggest this one we hand curated with fun, upbeat music to get your day started with a boost of energy.
It’s also always important to pay attention to your physical needs– when we’re sitting down working for long stretches, we can fall into unhealthy patterns, teaching ourselves to ignore our basic needs. If you start to feel a bit fuzzy, take stock of your physical condition. Do your eyes need a break from the screen? Did you drink enough water yet today? Have you eaten and used the bathroom recently? Even little, low-frequency needs like this can build up if ignored and make it harder for you to feel comfortable and focus.
A lot of the conversation around staying motivated can often skew negative, focusing on how we’re not doing enough, producing enough or working hard enough. Comparison can make us feel like everyone else is more on top of their lives and that we’re falling behind; we tend to compare everyone else’s successes with our failures and find ourselves lacking. But fixating on our shortcomings and punishing ourselves when we don’t get as much done as we wanted to rarely helps to fix the problem.
Adjusting your expectations can help to shift your perspective; nobody is perfect and giving yourself breathing room when you need it will yield much better results than setting impossible goals. Embracing a positive outlook where you’re proud of yourself for what you accomplish instead of disappointed for never doing enough can make you feel better and more motivated.
A little positive reinforcement can also go a long way! Give yourself little rewards and treats when you accomplish goals. Stashing your favorite treat or setting aside your favorite show to dip into after you check off your to-do list will be a great way to emphasize your accomplishments and help yourself feel more positive throughout the day.
We often underestimate how much our environment impacts us mentally and emotionally. Little things like opening your blinds to let in natural light, lighting a candle or putting on a playlist can lift your energy level and create a space that encourages you to get things done. Music is a great way to change your environment, providing you with a soundtrack to feel motivated. Here are a few of our favorite songs that keep our spirits and spaces light and engaging.
If you’re not Type A by nature, you probably have tasks occur to you that get forgotten right away. It’s so easy to lose track of everything we’re supposed to do, which is why keeping a physical to-do list in a prominent place, like on a notepad on your desk or on a whiteboard, can make life easier. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you know you have a lot to do. Getting it all down at once, and updating it as things occur to you, can help everything seem more manageable and keep you on track.
Big objectives can feel impossible; if you’ve been putting off a lofty goal, try to break it into smaller, more approachable pieces. When you take big tasks one step at a time, it’s easier to visualize having success and means you won’t find yourself accidentally sucked into a 12-hour project you didn’t anticipate. Creating a natural rhythm for yourself with steps you can accomplish a little at a time will transform these tasks from insurmountable obstacles into completely do-able goals.
Sometimes we can feel unmotivated when it comes to our goals because we’ve forgotten why we are even working towards them. Getting a degree can seem undesirable if you’re focusing on how boring the coursework is, and fixing up a room in your house might not seem worth it if all you see is hours of labor ahead of you. Instead of focusing on the things that stand in your way, it’s handy to do some visualization. Think about why you wanted this thing in the first place, and how you’ll feel once you’ve accomplished it. Visualize yourself finally working in the career you’ve always dreamed of, relaxing in your new living room that’s perfectly suited to you. These positive images can help motivate you through the gritty day-to-day.
If you have a tendency to jump from thought to thought or get distracted easily, you can actually use this to your advantage! Set yourself up with several different goals to accomplish at once and then jump between them to your heart’s content. You get all the satisfaction of procrastinating and the stimulation of switching tasks while still chipping away at your to-do list!
Often when we’re feeling unmotivated, a single rogue thought can be enough to derail your progress. Our brains can tell us that the new thought is urgent and tells us to prioritize it above our other objectives. If this happens to you often, try keeping a notepad on hand to write these thoughts as they come. This can be a way of reassuring your subconscious that these thoughts are important and that you’re going to give them time and thought— later.
One factor that can have a huge impact on our ability to accomplish goals is a good support system. Accountability really does work— if you have a close friend or family member checking in with you and encouraging you to see things through, it keeps your goals at the top of your mind and can create some positive associations with getting things done! If you’re having a hard time finishing a project or sticking to a new part of your routine, try mindfully discussing it with someone you trust and ask them to check in with you regularly about it. Often our friends are kinder to us than we are to ourselves, meaning that you’ll get extra positive reinforcement out of this support that will help you on your path.
One of the biggest things to remember about motivation is not to turn it into an opportunity to judge or feel bad about yourself; that defeats the whole purpose! A little empathy goes a long way, and that counts double when we’re talking about our relationship with ourselves. When we’re on our own side, figuring out ways to help ourselves and create the best circumstances to be motivated rather than getting frustrated or disappointed in ourselves, we allow ourselves to feel our most motivated. Hopefully a few of these small changes help you access the more productive you and allow you to recognize every accomplishment as something to be proud of.