This post may be a bit overdue, since we’re now over two months into quarantining, but my philosophy is better late than never! Working from home and finding ways internally to motivate yourself to be productive and get things done can be hard, and honestly even harder when there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll be completely honest, I feel like each morning I wake up, the day in front of me is a crapshoot. I’ve had days where I crossed things off my to-do list that have been on there since January, and there are some days I don’t even shower.
A lot of people I have spoken to have mentioned having a lack of motivation and not even wanting to get out of bed. It’s so difficult knowing I can’t go anywhere outside of my house. One of the biggest ways I used to be productive was by leaving my house and going to an environment that would motivate me to work. Another way I used to motivate myself was by telling myself I could go to ABC location when I was done or do something with friends if I got this completed. Both of those choices have been taken away from me, and everyone, and therefore make it hard to stay determined. We’re literally in the middle of a pandemic – the world is completely shut down and it is beyond yours and my control.
It’s very easy right now to say, “I don’t know when this is going to end so I’ll just get my sh*t together when I have a deadline,” and its very easy to let the negativity get to you. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that if a boat lets water come into its cracks, it’ll sink, and people are the same way – if we let negativity creep in we’ll sink too. It’s really true, and now more than ever, it is so important to fight the factors in this world that try to drag us down. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings and listen to yourself if you’re having a down day, but it’s also important to try to fight the negativity when you can and not let external factors get the best of you. Because the fact of the matter is, this is all going to end one day. And if you can come out of this just a little bit stronger and a little bit more determined than you were back in March, that’s a success.
Here are some tips to light that fire inside and increase your productivity, even when you’re feeling like increasing the Netflix episodes you can get through today. Obviously, not all of these will work for everyone, and not all of these may be feasible given current living situations, circadian rhythms and certain jobs. But, if you’ve been feeling in a slump, try implementing just one and seeing if it makes a change for you 🙂
Change Your Location
This is SO important. Like I said earlier, I was always most productive when I went somewhere – the library, a coffee shop, a study space, etc. I don’t have that option now, especially living with my family where everyone is in any given room at any given time. I’ve worked all over the house, and found that most definitely my bedroom is NOT the place to try and hunker down and change the world. There needs to be a separation between rest and work, because when the lines get blurred it’s easy to let one take over and crush the other.
When I need to get things done, the first thing I do is go to a different room. This way, I’m not tempted to lay down in bed and take a nap or watch YouTube or anything like that. I try to choose a space that will give me a regular chair and table, so I feel like I’m sitting at a desk. There’s something mentally about acting like I’m in an office or at school that makes my brain go into work mode. I found that if I go to the living room, yes it’s another location but I’m lounging on the couch and telling my body its time to chill, and I don’t end up being as productive. My office of choice has been the kitchen table, the only distraction is the food (a big one, nonetheless) and it was never really a place that I “chilled” at so my brain wasn’t associating it with relaxation. Of course, once libraries and coffee shops open up that’ll definitely be my choice for productivity locations, but until then, this will do.
If you can’t find it within you to work toward your dreams and goals, find something outside of you that will stir you up. I like to start my days listening to a motivating podcast to sort of hype me up and get me excited to work. Hearing other people talk about overcoming adversity and achieving their dreams makes me want to do the same.
I also like to look at my goals as much as possible. That could mean writing them on a mirror or saving them as the background for your phone or computer, or reading them in a journal each morning. Reminding yourself why you’ll prosper more from doing work than scrolling on your phone is a surefire way to kickstart the motivation, or at least make you feel guilty for not working at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday. It’s the same theory as going to the gym – looking at fit people on social media makes me want to get up and go for a run, so looking at my goals or hearing people talk about chasing dreams makes me want to put my blinders on and focus. My screensaver on my computer is a collage of goals I want to achieve over time, and when I had my own place, I had my goals for the season written on my mirror so I was forced to read them each morning. Whatever it looks like for you, a playlist, a podcast, a list, a quote, find some sort of content that speaks to you and inspires you.
At this moment, for example, I’m supposed to be writing a paper for school, getting this blog post done and doing some freelance work for a client I work for. I put on an Ed Mylett podcast episode in the background and subconsciously found myself halfway through this post and my email inbox cleared out. Try it out!
Get Up and Get Moving
Okay THIS is my holy grail of productivity – do something in the morning. If you get your blood flowing, it wakes your body up and honestly works just as good as caffeine in my opinion. I found the days I went straight to work after rolling out of bed, by noon I was ready to go home and knock out for the night. But if I worked out beforehand, even just a 10 minute walk or jog, I instantly felt more on my game and felt better about myself too. I aim to try and get my whole workout for the day done in the morning before work, but I’m human, and that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes I split it up and do half in the morning and half at night, and sometimes I’m so tired that I hit snooze so many times and all I can get is a one mile run or I’m just so low on energy I don’t feel like doing more than a walk, and that’s okay!
When that post-lunch slump hits, you’ll feel a lot better and a lot more awake if you did some sort of physical activity that set your tone for the morning. I don’t feel as lazy and I truly do have that serotonin flowing through my body. Obviously, I feel even better if I got my whole run or a SoulCycle class or something out of the way and the serotonin comes stronger and lasts longer. But doing something each morning not only sets a positive trajectory for the day, but also adds some sort of consistent routine to your life, because your body knows to expect some sort of movement every morning. In addition to all that, if something comes up during the day and you can’t get your workout in at night, or you find you just have too much to do, now you’ve gained back that half hour or hour or more that you would have spent working out, because you got it done in the morning. Moving my body in the morning truly makes me feel like I have more hours in the day, and keeps me motivated and focused as the day goes on as well.
Make a Realistic List
Sure, you may have 578492 things to do on your list, and sure, you may want to get them all done today. That’s not always realistic, especially if a lot of those tasks require a lot of time and energy, or other factors to work out (Still waiting on a response from someone? We’ve all been there). I like to end my nights by making my list for the next day. My to-do list for each day only has three things on there, because I understand that I’m not Superwoman, things will come up that call for my attention and I am going to lose focus quickly. I also hate the feeling of not accomplishing what I set out to do, so why stress myself out and say I’m going to complete all three of my papers today when I know I’m only going to be in the mood for one? Why say I’m going to get all these chores done when I know I’m going to have emails that I’ll need to respond to as well?
I like to do things by hand, so my planner and my lists are all hand-written and on sticky notes. I have one master list that goes with me from page to page and week to week. This has stuff that needs to get done in the foreseeable future, such as bills that need to be paid, papers that I need to work on, deadlines that are coming up for brands or for work, etc. As I go through my day, if something comes up that needs to get done, it goes on that big master list. This way, I don’t forget any long-term deadlines and I know everything is in one place. At night, when I get ready for the next day, I take a little sticky note and make my list of three things to do for the next day. Sometimes they’re simple chores such as doing a load of laundry or getting a workout in if I’ve been putting it off all week. But I’ll also look at my master list and see what from there is a priority for the next day, and then I’ll copy it to my little sticky note.
If I get all three things done for that day, then that’s great and I’ll move on to tackling something else from the master list! But those three things I make sure are my priority, and I don’t move on to anything else until those are done. This keeps me accountable and provides some structure to my day. If I know I need to go to an appointment at a certain time and hand something else in by 5 p.m., this system keeps me from going down a rabbit hole of doing non-priority tasks or forgetting anything crucial for that day.
Stay Hydrated and Satisfied
You had to know some sort of nutrition tip would be in here, right? Again, I’m not a nutritionist, so my recommendations won’t cure or fix anything. But, it is a proven fact that we all need water and healthy snacks are better than candy and junk food. Sometimes, feeling tired means you’re dehydrated, not that you need another iced coffee (unfortunately, I know). Staying properly hydrated not only could alleviate some of your exhaustion, but it’s just better for your body and helps your body function properly, which could have a domino effect of lasting benefits.
Making sure to keep healthy snacks nearby is also a great idea. Munching on carrot sticks as opposed to chips could prevent the sluggishness that hits late afternoon, and having a well-balanced lunch as opposed to an indulgent and comfort style meal could keep you energized and prevent a crash. Again, it’s all about what makes you feel good. I feel better when my stomach is full of fruits and vegetables as opposed to heavy carbs and sugars. I keep protein bars, raw vegetables, cheeses and gluten-free pretzels or crackers around me so I know I’m putting good stuff into my body so I can get good stuff out of it.
What are some of your favorite productivity tips? What motivates you to get out of bed and chase your dreams? Let me know!