We've all been there - one minute you're amped about how on-top of your To Do List you are, and the next, your energy deflates along with any motivation to keep chipping away at all your tasks. Whether it's applied to daily obligations or longer-term goals, the sneaky voice that whines 'ugh, I don't feeeeel like it' is a productivity roadblock that, if it starts to feel at home, can move in permanently and leave you perpetually scrambling.
The trick is to get a handle on that inner sloth as soon as she starts rearing her little sloth head. This is much easier to do if you plan ahead. But, maybe even the idea of constructing a plan for what to do when you don't want to do anything feels daunting. I gotchu. Making plans to make plans is sometimes the most stressful part of making plans at all.
So here are some simple, actionable ways you can set up your future, less-than-optimally motivated self to stay on top of every deadline, every communication, every project in the pipeline, so you can maintain your momentum and get shit done like the brilliant mastermind you are.
Know Thy Laziness
Without even realizing it, we rationalize our way out of productivity all the time, so harnessing some self-awareness to figuring out exactly what triggers these brain snags is the only way to get our laziness in check. Are you overestimating how much time and energy tasks will require, thus psyching yourself out to the point that you just avoid getting started? Or, maybe you haven't applied a sense of urgency to more open-ended projects, so in turn you give yourself permission (on the reg) to just put them off.
Whether it's an unorganized workflow or an out-of-sync time management schedule, establishing exactly what it is you're resisting is vital. Likewise, try getting into the habit of recognizing when throughout the day (or night) you naturally feel most motivated and focused, as well as when you feel like:
Getting clear on when your Prime Time (as well your Nope Time) is will help you work more strategically.
As much as we may not think mindless social media check-ins factors into our productivity, all that scrolling and double tapping is inevitably weakening your workflow. If willpower alone is enough for you to resist the tempting distraction of incoming messages and account alerts, kudos, you're a self-disciplined unicorn who probably should have written this instead of me. For the rest of us, I recommend eliminating the possibility that our tech-addicted brains will go rouge by simply turning off all push notifications for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat...errrything.
Rest assured: nothing is going to happen on your feed that you can't engage with in a few hours. Fight the urge to even peak at social media while you're working, because let's be real...'I'm just gonna check Facebook' is a slippery slope that almost always ends with you angry-commenting on your annoyingly Conservative uncle's posts, or backstalking photos of your recent trip with friends. Just do your future self a favor and put the phone down.
And since it's probably safe to say that your laptop plays some role in the whole 'work' thing you're aiming for here...consider downloading SelfControl. It's an application that temporarily blocks access to predetermined 'blacklist' sites of your choice like email, social media accounts and other internet black holes that might hinder your focus (...hi Buzzfeed Animals section). Even if you restart your computer or delete the app, you still won't have access to those sites until the timer expires. Hardcore, sure, but effective, especially since it doesn't even give you the option to bow out early.
Rip it Like a Band-Aid
This one shift can make all the difference in how much you manage to get done vs. how much time you spend bitching about everything you need to get done. Whatever method of scheduling/task organizing you use (I'm a physical-planner-supplemented-with-phone-reminders kinda gal myself), many experts say you should consciously address the most daunting, unsavory tasks before you cross anything else off your daily To Do List.
So instead of starting the workday with your relatively easier tasks, say, social media automation or proofreading content, you should force yourself to take on the tasks you're dreading most, say, a dangerously approaching presentation deadline or that blog post you've been procrastinating for the last two weeks.
I say force because, frankly, it's not going to be fun at first. If you have a single self-indulgent bone in your body (and I think most of us have many), you should expect a ton of mental pushback. That internal whining and rationalizing is totally normal, and it doesn't mean you're a schmuck or that you 'can't'...just that you have to actively push through your mind's protective instinct to delay the 'pain' it's been conditioned to associate with the work you're putting off.
Kindly remind your spoiled brain that the longer you two avoid the harder task, the more arduous it'll be when you finally get to it. So buck up, and before you know it, this straightforward approach to facing challenges could spill into other parts of your life, too.
For a lot of us, where we work is a huge contributing factor to how well we work. Finding your personal sweet spot between 'chaotic clutter' and 'sterile minimalism' might take a while, but it's worth figuring out, since this is where the magic happens. Take a few minutes before you settle into your work zone to do a quick assessment (and, if need be, adjustment) of your desk.
Make sure everything on it either inspires your productivity and/or serves a direct work-related purpose. If it doesn't fall into either of those categories, it probably doesn't need to be there.
Timing is Everything
Without a preset scheduling structure of some sort to guide you, even if your work is consistent, there's really no way to hold yourself accountable. All those tasks and ideas and larger goals, they sort of just float around arbitrarily without being bound to any specific timeline, and that, my friends, is exactly how shit does not get done.
Optimizing how you work is essentially the difference between being in the middle of the ocean drinking champagne on a yacht, and being in the middle of the ocean with only a deflated lifejacket.
....Same ocean. Slightly different stress levels.
Likewise, time management is what keeps your productivity afloat in a sea of procrastination, so try not to take it for granted. There are lots of ways to track your time, but a great, lazy-proof option is The Pomodoro technique. It's an old-school time management method that breaks larger tasks into several timed intervals (usually 25 minutes each), separated by short breaks. It tends to be an incredibly effective way to get shit done, since the idea of focusing on something for just 25 minutes vs. the idea of simply 'completing a task' in an open ended way, feels way more manageable. The beauty of Pomorodo is that those 25 minutes of uninterrupted, on-task focus results in much more efficient work than, say, spending 4+ hours distractedly bouncing between several tasks. Working smarter, not harder, ya dig?
Well, there ya have it. I hope implementing some of these ideas helps you stay motivated and on track, but remember that balance is the name of this (and just about any other) game. You'll get more shit done on some days than on others, and that's totally okay. The idea is to take advantage of your truly motivated moments in the most efficient way, and develop habits that help set future you up for success (even if she'd rather nap with her dog or watch Bravo) .