6 Easy Tips to be Productive When You Aren’t Motivated

No matter what you’re doing, it can be hard to get motivated to do something. Whether it’s returning to work or tackling a project at home, sometimes it can be hard to get going. That’s why we made this list of how you can get going, even when you really don’t feel like it.  We dived down the internet rabbit holes and nearly everyone agrees on these top five easy tips on how you can be productive and get results!


Schedule the Time Wasters

The “Time Wasters” are any tasks that can make you feel busy without you focusing on your goal. For some people, administrative tasks are easy time-wasters. Answering emails or catching up with coworkers can easily eat up your morning. For other people, it’s side projects or a project that isn’t the main priority. We all have something, but it’s important to make sure we consciously set them aside in order to get things done.

Try doing those things at a set time and don’t deal with them outside of your schedule. This will allow you to be proactive, instead of wasting your time being reactive.


Make the To-Do List for Today and Prioritize

Whether you’re returning from the weekend or having a long lunch, it can be easy to feel like you’re overwhelmed. Making a to-do list will help you focus on what has to be done right now. Which project has the soonest deadline? Which assignment makes the most sense to work on? It’s easy to get distracted by other things, so be sure to remove any other temptations and focus.

Some people get carried away with enormous projects, so if things feel overwhelming, make it a list just for today, or just this hour. Whatever you need to do to remind yourself to stay on task.


No More Multitasking

Being busy can feel like being productive. The truth is that it may be eating away all of your power reserves. The truth is only 2.5% of all people can actually multitask productively. The chances are that you and most of the people you know can’t multitask productively. Humans who try to multi-task increase their amount of cortisol, the stress hormone. A study at the University of London found that the stress of multitasking while performing cognitive tasks experienced significant IQ drops. That’s similar to those who skipped a whole night of sleep or who smoke marijuana. Switching from one thing to another repeatedly stresses your mind and your body, so try just doing one thing at a time.

Here’s what Gloria Mark, the Professor in the Department of Informatics, told Fast Company:

“You have to completely shift your thinking, it takes you a while to get into it and it takes you a while to get back and remember where you were…We found about 82 percent of all interrupted work is resumed on the same day. But here’s the bad news — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.”

That doesn’t even include the time it takes to deal with the interruption itself! With a few interruptions, it’s very easy to completely lose your focus and have the whole day slip away.


Plan and Take Regular Breaks

While it can appear self-defeating, the truth is that to keep energy levels up and to keep your mind fresh, it’s important to take small breaks. Some research has shown that working in 90-minute intervals is the most ideal for maximum productivity, known as “strategic renewal”. Try working for 90 minutes and then take a 15-minute break. If that’s too much, shorten the time of work to an hour and readjust. There’s also the Pomodoro Technique, which is 25 minutes of straight work and then five minutes for a break. You may have to try a variety of different schedules to see what works for you. Some people have trouble with rigid work-break-work-break schedules and 25 minutes isn’t always enough for every task. If this isn’t for you, at least schedule short breaks for yourself to prevent mental and physical fatigue. For your most productive results, it’s important to keep your mind and attitude fresh.


Plan an Achievable Win to Get Started

Just seeing a large project that has to be done can be demotivating, which can be paralyzing. Studies have shown that your motivation to complete a task is increased by two things: how important the work is and how likely you’ll finish it. Basically, your attitude about whether or not you think you’ll finish it will determine if you have enough energy.

The best thing to do here is to break down a large project into smaller parts. Tackling one part at a time will make it easier for you to see each one as a goal, and therefore easier to count as a win.


Just Get Started

Instead of waiting around to feel motivated, just dive into the project and get started. Just starting alone is often enough to keep going, but it does require starting first.

“To get motivated to start doing something, from my own experience, the most effective trick for me is to just do it (sounds trite, but it works). As soon as you think something needs to be done, jump into it, doing it immediately (of course, provided the conditions are feasible). You must not think about anything else, suppressing all other thoughts, keeping your mind blank, acting like a robot. Yes, it sounds weird, but it does work! Otherwise, you will debate whether you should do it now or there were too many issues with doing it, or there are other more pleasurable and exciting things to do over this boring task.”
-Bob Win

As much as starting is difficult, it will get you going and make it easier to keep going.


In Conclusion

Okay, you’ve put aside the time-wasters, made a list of today’s priorities, stopped multi-tasking, planned when you’re going to take a break, and you’ve got an achievable goal lined up. You have all the tools to set yourself up for a strong success! It’s time to get started!


Do you need more tips? Check out 5 Ways to Excel at Work to Get Promoted

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