You’re back in the saddle at work. Maybe you took a few days off for the holiday…maybe a few weeks. Either way, there’s only one way to describe your current mindset: out of it. An unwelcome, San Francisco-style fog has settled over you when what you really need is motivation, purpose and a clear head.
It’s actually December, with all of its over-the-top fanfare, that workers consider to be the most stressful month – so says 42 percent of professionals who participated in a survey by insurance company MetLife. Yet your January daze might feel equally challenging…just in different ways. Somehow coming back from a holiday pause to the world of schedules, deliverables, and customers just feels hectic. And despite research on increased productivity after break-taking (from minute-long breaks to full on vacations), this stupefying phenomenon happens predictably to many – sometime in early January and can pervade the whole month.
To get back your focus and mojo, follow these steps:
1) Think Micro To-Dos: Jon Acuff, author of Finish: Give yourself the gift of done, advises as a rule to “cut your goal in half.” So, for example, rather than cowering in fear at your to-do item to “Start the Market Research Project,” your task could become “Build the market research project timeline.” In a survey of 1,000 people Acuff queried, he found that 60% of respondents achieved more when they made their goal manageable. Just as powerful, 90% said reducing their goal made them feel happier.
2) Single-task like crazy: As you set out to build that proverbial timeline, don’t simultaneously start opening new browsers to check Facebook, the headlines, or begin your online order on Amazon. You already knew this, but the chronic “switching” that comes with multitasking is proven to hurt your output. Instead, resolve that your smaller sized to-do will make it easier for you to be distraction-proof. Laura Van Der Kam, author of What the most successful people do before breakfast, sums it up: “Do one thing at a time….Focus until you finish and then move on.”
3) Protect your time like a Mama Bear: By simply “decluttering your obligations and relationships”, as SJ Scott and Barrie Davenport, authors of Declutter your mind put it, you have a powerful focusing weapon, something you’ll need if you’re trying to reduce the scatterbrain effect. The authors recommend purging any commitments that you can drop without serious consequences. Go ahead and say no to (or defer) that meeting that doesn’t have to happen now. You’ll need that time to gain momentum on your micro to-dos anyway.
4) Activate your own pride button: Most of us take satisfaction in upholding a certain standard of work or output level. When we’re not meeting that bar of productivity, we can leave work feeling like self-conscious, unfit slackers. To combat this, consider how you connect a feeling of care or belief to a particular project. Maybe you can navigate toward a task or project you like better and will naturally give more to. Maybe you can pick off a project that will bring you closer to the fruits of your labor – not further from them. Author Simon Sinek, author of Start with why, reminds us: “What we do for others has a direct impact on how we feel about ourselves.” When you demonstrate care about it, whatever “it” is, you’ll do more of what it takes to deliver something prideworthy.
Motivating yourself to do better – when your mojo is naturally lacking – can remind you of something pretty fundamental.
Your own self agency.
You steer your actions. And right now – this minute – you have a brand. You’ve worked hard to build it. And now your future reputation depends on you to sustain it.