Updated: May 26, 2020
Getting and staying motivated is hard. Add the anxiety of a global pandemic plus the chaos of sharing an "office" with <insert: roommates/family/kids/spouse> and it suddenly feels impossible. But guess what? You can still make today great. You can get more accomplished than you thought you could and it all starts with awareness and intention. Here are 7 ways that I stay motivated. Hopefully a few, if not all, can help you too.
Starting with an easy one here: find a clean, organized workspace. Physical clutter can also clutter the mind. Take a moment to think ahead and gather everything you might need for your workday: computer, chargers, notepad, pens, external hard drive, etc. And then…
Make A (Realistic) Plan
This one is important. I know some people say “shoot for the moon and if you miss you will land on the stars” but I’m calling BS because in my experience it goes more like “shoot for the moon and if you get overwhelmed you’ll end up where you started which is avoiding your tasks and possible moving to your couch to watch Netflix, eat goldfish crackers and scroll through TikTok.” One of the best ways to conquer your to-do list is to make it conquerable in the first place. Look at your day, assess how much time you have, factor in time for distractions, then break down your to-do list into sections. This will require you to have a general understanding of how long each project will take. If you notice that your projects outweigh the number of hours in your day, prioritize and shift a few things to tomorrow. YES, you read that correctly, I am recommending procrastination in my blog post about motivation. But it is STRATEGIC procrastination, so it’s okay, which is what I tell myself. The bottom line is: don’t just start checking and answering emails willy nilly. Plan out your day. Create your to-do list. Then, block off time to complete each task.
Really put an effort into this one. Dedicate your mind to the task at hand. Be aware of distractions and stay in the zone. Put your phone down. Stop scrolling social media. Stop answering every new email in your inbox. It can probably wait 30-60 minutes. I know that many clients, co-workers, bosses love to think that their every email is urgent and should be addressed ASAP, but guess what? Not true. You can even send a note to those clients/co-workers/bosses and explain that in an effort to boost your productivity, you may be delayed in responding to emails unless they are marked URGENT. Tell them I said it was okay. Just kidding. But I really do think it’s okay to set expectations that work best for you. Shifting from the old real word to the new real world for a second: how are you supposed to avoid distractions when you’re stuck in a house with your <kids/spouse/parents/etc.>? I know. It feels impossible. But here’s the strategy: be okay with falling off the wagon on occasion, just don’t let the small distractions derail you completely. Take a break, and get back to it! Which leads me to my next tip….
Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself!
If staying motivated was easy, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post right now. Set your intention, work on it, improve on it, but don’t fall apart when you don’t reach all of your goals. Perfectionism is the enemy of progress. And time spent being disappointed in yourself just leads to this endless overanalysis of “what ifs” which is a huge waste of time and can get ugly quick. Let me demonstrate: “What if I was a better writer? What if I was more organized? What if I was faster? What if I was smarter? What if my Aunt was my Uncle?....” This is a surefire way to go down a rabbit hole and end up no closer to accomplishing your goals.
Fueling your body and your mind is an important foundation of getting and staying motivated. This includes the basics like getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and exercising, but it also includes participating in activities that energize your mind. This could include reading, painting, catching up with friends, meditating, etc. Another aspect of staying energized involves understanding your own rhythm. For example, every day around 3:30 in the afternoon, my brain basically shuts down. I get distracted, lethargic, and find myself doing this thing where I just click through all of my open tabs in google chrome and don’t actually do anything. I’ve learned that this is my brain saying “I NEED A BREAK”. So, I do my best to avoid scheduling any calls or meetings during this time of day. I go for a walk, read, play with the dog, anything but work. It’s not always going to be possible to take a break at 3:30 in the afternoon, but generally understanding the rhythm of your brain and body can help you schedule time to re-energize when you need it most.
Several of the elements above should generally lead to more positivity, but this positivity could quickly be squashed by a few pessimistic bad apples. If you find that certain friends are always complaining or pointing out the negative aspects of their life, you might reciprocate by trashing yours. This is another surefire path to the rabbit hole of negativity. The power of positive thinking and positive affirmation is REAL. While constantly surrounding yourself with cheerleaders isn’t realistic, you could make a pact with a friend and vow to be each others’ cheerleaders. This is your support buddy. This buddy doesn’t have to give advice or understand your job. The singular role of your support buddy is to shower you with positive affirmations. “You got this! You can do this! You’re so smart! Have I ever told you you’re a GREAT dancer?! Your hair looks great today! You’re a good person.” Man, that feels good. It’s all true, too. You are pretty awesome.
Finally, Just Begin!
My last morsel of advice is to simply begin. When you have a big project due, try not to visualize the final product. Just begin. Visualize yourself chipping away at it rather than completing it in its entirety. Get the bare bones down, the guts, the structure, and then revise, revise, revise!
In Summary, here’s your formula for getting and staying motivated:
Make a Realistic Plan
Don’t be Too Harsh on Yourself
And Simply Begin!
Go get, ‘em!