Sometimes, it feels like I can’t get anything done. The thought of working on one more thing makes my brain shut down, and the weight of missed deadlines lies heavy on my shoulders.
I’m not unfocused or unproductive because I don’t like what I’m doing; in fact, when I dig past the surface of these feelings, what I find are feelings of excitement, interest, and passion. It’s hard to get excited when I feel overwhelmed by the weight of the tasks I have to complete today, but it’s time for me to figure out how to keep myself in a state where motivation is easy – not difficult.
If you’re feeling unmotivated too, here are some tips to get you back on track:
1. What’s in it for me?
Motivation is a complicated thing. It comes and goes based on our focus, stress levels, happiness, and even the weather. But when we’re unmotivated, often times we have trouble figuring out what’s worth being motivated about. One technique I use is to start at the end. What do I want out of this problem or project? Why am I doing it in the first place?
For example, right now I’m working on a series of blog posts that require research and outlining – tasks that are both easy to put off because they’re not immediately productive. To motivate myself to get started, I began at the end: by thinking about what would be different once I was done.
I’m building a website to feature my blog posts and shop products around a specific concept around which I’ve built a body of work. Starting a new series on that site means both designing more merchandise and having more content for people to read, things I enjoy doing. So now it’s easy to imagine why the work is worth doing, and how it’ll lead to future projects that are even more fun.
2. Make lists of everything you want to accomplish today/this week
It can be hard to know what’s most important when there’s so much on our plates, especially if we’re feeling unmotivated. If you have trouble prioritizing, start by making a list of everything you want to do today not just what needs to get done, but also the tasks that sound good or are important to you.
This might seem obvious, but often times we don’t take time to think about each task because we jump into work without taking a breath. It’s easy to forget that the things we want to do are just as important as what needs doing — maybe even more so when it comes to motivating ourselves.
3. Concentrate on one task at a time
It can be hard to focus in our multi-tasking culture, but distraction is the enemy of productivity. One study found that it takes an average of 25 minutes to refocus on a task after being distracted — and the more distracting the interruption, the longer it takes us to get back up to speed.
So instead of jumping between tasks when you’re feeling unfocused, concentrate on one thing at a time until you finish it — even if it means letting other, less important tasks go for now. We all know how satisfying it is to cross off the items on our to-do list, so you can use that feeling as motivation to power through any distractions.
4. Break large projects into smaller steps
We’re often more productive when we work on multiple things at once until we get distracted. Again, the key to focus isn’t going from task to task; it’s concentrating on one thing at a time until you finish it completely.
To make this work for me, I break large tasks into doable chunks that can be completed in 1-2 hours. Looking at the big picture is overwhelming and makes me want to procrastinate, but it’s easy to be productive when I know what small step comes next.