Are you in a productivity slump right now? With the end of the school year and summer weather on the horizon, it’s easy to fall into a rut and feel totally, completely unmotivated.
Changes in schedules and seasons have a tendency to throw my carefully crafted daily routine right out the window, leaving me feeling overwhelmed and less productive than I should be. Although I am always on a mission to find little ways to be more productive, I’ll admit that I still get sidetracked. Although there are days when I get into a rut and feel unmotivated, I have gotten much better at noticing my lack of productivity and getting back on track quickly.
When I start to feel my productivity and motivation dip, I fall back on a few essential habits that help me be more productive. These six productivity practices are the key to keeping me focused and working toward my goals even when distractions try to push me off course.
6 Ways To Be More Productive
1 | Attack each day with a realistic plan.
I am the queen of massive to-do lists, but having a list longer than the lines for rides at Disney is not the best motivator. Instead, focus on creating a realistic to-do list that you can accomplish during the day. This will force you to prioritize tasks so you are focusing your energy on the most important things first. If you finish your to-do list early, you can always work ahead and tackle something else. But it’s best to limit your daily to-do list to a few key items that must get done today.
2 | Work on the most daunting task first.
We all have tasks that we dread doing, but pushing them off for later doesn’t help the situation. Unless you have the luxury of delegating it, it’s truly best to get it over with right away. Mark Twain famously said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” What he meant is that if you do your worst task–a live frog–first thing in the morning, you will be able to go on with your day knowing the most painful part is already behind you. It’s all downhill from there! Instead of putting off that dreaded to-do until “later,” go ahead and work on it right away in the morning.
3 | Break down big projects into bite-size steps.
One common frustration I hear from others is not having enough time to work on big projects. This often results in them getting pushed off day after day. If you look at your to-do list and your eyes quickly glaze over with overwhelm, your tasks are probably not specific enough. It’s understandable that you feel overwhelmed when your tasks are so broad that you don’t know where to begin.
To combat this, break down large tasks and projects into small steps. You may not have the five consecutive hours it would take to complete a large task, but you’ll more easily find 15 minute pockets of time in your day that can be used to check off a small piece of that larger task. Let’s say, for example, you have a big presentation do give at an upcoming meeting. Rather than add it as one item on your to-do list, take a few minutes to write down all of the little sub-tasks you’ll need to complete. Fill your to-do list with sub-tasks like creating an outline, doing research, designing the powerpoint, editing the handouts, etc.
4 | Use your timer.
I am constantly using the timer on my phone during the workday, and I recommend trying it out for yourself! First of all, use a timer to keep yourself focused for small periods of time. Rather than bounce around between projects, commit to working on one for 25 minutes straight. This time management strategy is called the Pomodoro Technique
You can also use your timer to track your work progress throughout the day. Being overwhelmed and unmotivated often stems from feeling like you’re not accomplishing anything. So log how you spend your time during the day and review it later to remind yourself of all that you accomplished. It is very motivating to see your progress!
5 | Switch up your surroundings.
Don’t get stuck working in the same place all the time! If you’re in a rut and need a burst of energy to be more productive, pack up a project and change your scenery. It can be motivating and less distracting to only take supplies for one thing with you and go work at a library or coffee shop for an afternoon. I also like to clean my workspace when I’m feeling stressed about my to-do list. There’s something about having a clean and organized work area that does me so much good. I’m able to focus much better with a clean desk.
6 | Take breaks and move around.
No matter how busy you think you are, allowing time for short breaks during the day is so important! If you’re feeling sluggish, get up and walk around the block or up and down the stairs at the office. Grab a good beverage and come back to your desk ready to focus. The 15 minutes you spent taking a break and moving around can do wonders for your productivity. When I’m feeling unmotivated, I usually find that a short break is all I need to recharge so I can come back to work ready to be more productive.
Bonus Tip | Create A Weekly Routine
Whenever I experience a change in schedules or a general slump in my productivity, I devote a bit of time to reworking my weekly routine so I can be more productive. If you struggle to stay organized, I highly suggest creating a weekly routine. It’s a plan of action you can follow week after week, a way to ensure you won’t get to the end of the week and realize you didn’t get nearly enough done. It’s also a way to carve out time and give yourself permission to take breaks for fun stuff! Having a weekly routine in place is definitely one of my productivity secrets!
We all have sooo much going on that it is easy to feel like we’re never productive enough. If you find yourself feeling unmotivated, fall back on these tried and true strategies to be more productive. They are all basic habits, but they can be easily forgotten when you get overwhelmed and distracted.
What’s one key strategy you use to be more productive when you’re feeling unmotivated?