Have you ever experienced an afternoon slump? I have, and I don’t like how it feels. I have good news if you’re looking for ways to make better use of unproductive time. There are easy and effective ways to get back on top.
Over the years, I’ve refined three easy and rewarding hacks you can use to make yourself feel better and increase your work productivity. Keep reading to find out how.
“There’s nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” -Hamlet
The best way to improve your productivity is to do work that makes you happy. But how can you do this if you’re not already in your dream job? Your perspective has a lot to do with productivity, and you can alter your perspective and use it to learn how to stay motivated.
No matter how much you love your job, there will always be tasks you look forward to more than others. I like to start my day with one of my favorite tasks as a treat. Once my motivation is up, and I’m feeling optimistic, I like to tackle the harder and less interesting tasks. Completing one of these makes me feel strong and competent and puts gas in my tank. Most days, this method keeps me on top of my game.
But what about when you just can’t stay focused or motivated? Sometimes this means you’ve been pushing yourself too hard, and you need to take a break. That’s why it’s so important to have a healthy work and life balance.
When I’m wondering if I’ve been working too hard, I find a task I enjoy and run through it. Does it make me feel as good as I anticipate? If it does, then that’s a sign I’m not burned out. When my favorite tasks lose their luster, it’s a sign I’ve pushed myself too far, and I need to change things up.
You can have a lazy day every once in a while. It’s healthy, and it can help you increase your productivity. Professional coaches will tell you that taking things easy from time to time can help you recharge your batteries and gain new insights. This is one of the reasons it’s important to take regular vacations.
Overcome Feeling Unproductive
Even when you’ve got your fundamentals straight, you still need an extra kick now and then. I practice these three tricks regularly because they never wear out:
My first kick is to recognize my accomplishments. When I look at how much I’ve already gotten done, it makes me feel really good. That can sometimes be all I need to jump back in and go full speed ahead. They also help me keep my eye on the ball. It helps to remember that the bigger the project, the more work and time it will take. I get rid of the expectation that I’ll achieve everything in one shift.
My second kick is to pick two tasks I can finish today without asking too much from myself. Once I get those done, I can continue based on how I feel. I find that completing a few tasks gives me more energy and motivation. Go with your gut. If you’ve already done a lot today and feel tapped, finish those two extra tasks and give yourself a reward.
My third kick comes in handy when I’ve been sitting at a desk for hours or haven’t moved much. Get outside for some Vitamin D and endorphins. Go for a walk or a short run and get some sunlight on your skin. It’s not just a break, it’s a treat. I love being outside, and when I’ve been concentrating hard all day, a short run in the sun is more rejuvenating than an energy drink.
Framing a walk or a jog as a treat also helps keep me motivated to work out. Exercise should be fun, and you should look forward to your routine. Remind yourself that working out feels good and makes you happy.
Learning how to get motivated is the first step to increasing productivity. I’ve collected some great organizational tools you can use to help you make the most of your time. They use a wide variety of approaches. Because everyone is different, what works for you may be different from what works for others. I’ve carefully selected a variety of different methods I used. Take a look and try the one you like best:
The Eat That Frog method helps you reorient to your most important task. Spend a few minutes on your highest priority task early in the morning or return from breaks. You’ll be amazed at how much progress you can make.
The Eisenhower Matrix is another simple trick. You organize your tasks by urgent, not urgent, and important or not important. This filters them into four boxes. Pick a task from your “urgent and important” box that you know you can get done quickly, and get to it. If all the tasks are big and difficult, see if you can break them down into smaller tasks and pick one.
Kanban is a visual system that comes from the Japanese word for “signboard.” You take a whiteboard or corkboard and divide it into three columns. Label them “To Do,” “In Process,” and “Complete.” As you make progress on each task, move it from one column to the next. When I need motivation, I look at all the completed tasks I’ve done to get me excited to do one more. If you’re having trouble moving tasks from one column to the next, break them down into smaller bites.
Unlearn Unproductive Habits
If you want to learn how to be less lazy, the first step is to change your self-talk. Avoid dragging yourself down by calling yourself lazy or other unproductive terms. When you lack direction, focus, or have become tired, you have good reasons not to be charging forward at full speed. So when you feel lazy or unproductive, look for the reason. Accurately describing the situation makes it easier to solve problems and can help you develop a good work-life balance.
Lift yourself up instead of tearing yourself down. Remind yourself you need to refocus and congratulate yourself for noticing an opportunity to improve. Look for a small task that you know will help. Every little accomplishment will help you focus better and make progress.
The people around you matter too. Recognize the people who lift you up, encourage you, and spend more time with them. Spend less time with people who drag you down, if you can.
I recommend you build a habit of using my three tricks to kick unproductive feelings to the curb. Try my method for thirty days. Keep track of your progress and see how much happier and more productive you feel.