For most people, motivation comes in bursts.
One day you’ll be blasting through your task list, destroying every item on the menu with barely an opportunity to even realize what you’re doing. You feel like nothing can stop you because, well, at that point nothing is stopping you.
Then a slow day hits and it feels like your mind is trying and failing to wade through molasses. Productivity is a state of mind, but if you can’t get into that mindset then you can go days, weeks, or even months without making significant progress.
You might get a decent amount of work done overall using this ebb-and-flow model, but that pales in comparison to keeping a consistent level of productivity and motivation. That’s where this article comes in.
Today I’ll take you through exactly how to stay motivated each and every day, letting you breeze through your task list (or at least make some serious progress) without letting yourself slip into bad habits.
As with any plan, however, it all starts with a little preparation…
Set your schedule the day before
The first and most important part of staying motivated all day every day is to have that motivation in the first place. You can’t stay motivated if you sit down with none to start with.
That means planning your days beforehand so that, come the morning, you can get up and go straight away without having to spend energy deciding what to do next.
In all my years of working remotely, I’ve found that nothing saps your motivation quicker than having to make decisions. Thus, to maintain your momentum for as long as possible, you need to clear those decisions up so that you don’t have to face them straight away.
This in itself will let you get up, start your daily routine (for me that means a run, shower, some breakfast and a large black coffee) and plunge headfirst into your first task of the day to make some immediate progress.
Speaking of your first task…
Tackle your biggest, most important, and ugliest task first
Everyone and their grandmother has heard of Brian Tracy and his method to prioritize tasks by now. The way he advises you to organize your day (which I wholeheartedly agree with) is to “eat the ugliest frog first”. No, you don’t have to eat an actual amphibian.
All this means is that when setting your schedule up you need to take a look at the tasks you need to complete and assess which is the most important, difficult, urgent, and unappealing. This should be the task you work on first.
This is because you’ll have the most motivation in the morning when you haven’t yet spent all of your energy (physical or mental) on smaller tasks. If you fill your mornings with clutter and tell yourself that you’re “just getting things out of the way” to focus on the big task later, you’ll only run yourself dry before making any real progress.
Putting off a big task in favor of smaller, less important items is almost as bad as getting straight-up distracted. You need to avoid distractions to work effectively, and that means ignoring the smaller items which can wait until later.
Also Read: Dealing with Distractions at the Workplace
Instead, set out your tasks in a definitive list the night before and make sure that the ugliest important task is the first to go.
There’s even the added benefit of getting a motivation boost if you manage to make some decent progress on that first task, so it’s a win-win either way.
Take short, regular breaks
Next up, you need to take short, regular breaks. Sometimes it can feel counterintuitive to stop mid-flow, but the point of this is to make sure that you don’t end up burning out too early and slowing to a crawl.
It doesn’t matter if you’re using the best productivity apps in the world – if you’re running yourself ragged, your mind will stop dead in its tracks.
I used to have a policy of “skip breaks if you’re on a roll” to try and make the most of when I found inspiration or had a really good train of thought. Unfortunately, most of the time I crashed and burned before finishing my task or the extra work I did was of a far lower quality than my regular output.
Simply put, your brain needs a chance to rest in order to process the information you’ve given it, and to really think through the problems you’re posing. Not to mention that it’s all too easy to forget to eat and drink if you just sit at your desk all day, which will only make you crash faster.
Even if you just take five minutes every hour, take the time to walk away from your workstation and get some distance from what you were doing. If you work digitally a lot, don’t even use your phone in your break. The same goes for if you have constant noise surrounding you – go somewhere quiet and just let your mind wander.
In other words, take a break from both your work and the environment you’ve been working in.
Change task types as you go
Sometimes taking a break isn’t enough, and your mind will completely rebel against the thought of going back to a particular task. This is when you need to think about changing to a task which is completely different and makes you think or act in a different way.
Think of it as giving a particular part of your brain a longer break, but still working on something else in the meantime. This can also help you better categorize your tasks into separate slots when drawing up your to do list, since you’ll need to think about what each entails and thus how you can work on several different kinds of projects every day.
For example, a typical Monday will have me researching one blog post in the morning, writing the bulk of another around noon, and editing a third come the afternoon. By changing duty I’m allowing different parts of my mind to tackle a topic, and by using three different topics I’m giving myself time to process the new work I’ve done on each individual post before going back to it later.
Alternatively, you could switch between working alone and tackling a group project such as brainstorming ideas for blog posts.
Habits breed dedication, not the other way around
While this isn’t a tip perse, I wanted to end on a thought which has stuck with me throughout my entire remote working career; that people aren’t born “dedicated” to working hard. Instead, their habits are the things which build up that dedication and motivation.
This might sound a little cryptic, but instead of forcing yourself to try to work through a task and dedicate yourself to the bitter end, it’s far easier (and more beneficial) to set out a regular habit to settle into which lets you progress at a consistent pace.
No more massive peaks and dips in productivity – consistency is key, and forming regular processes and habits is the best way to achieve this.
Author: Benjamin Brandall
Celoxis is a comprehensive project management tool that helps companies streamline management of projects, timesheets, expenses and business processes, specific to their organization. Over the last decade, Celoxis has specialized in delivering improved collaboration and increased efficiency for teams of all sizes, both in SMB and Enterprise segments. To know more visit www.celoxis.com