We've all been there: whether our to-do list is overwhelmingly long with a bunch of small-but-annoying tasks or we have a huge project we're dreading so much that we can't even get started, sometimes it's hard to motivate ourselves to be productive. I've often found myself wishing that I could feel as enthusiastic about household chores and deadlines as I do about, say, watching five seasons of 30 Rock on Netflix with a pint of ice cream in hand. There are countless distractions, thanks to our phones, social media, and the fact that there is literally always something good on TV. Still, it's completely possible to motivate ourselves and finish the day feeling accomplished. We just need to follow some simple steps, and know what to tell ourselves to increase our productivity.
So, first things first: Find a spot where you know you can be productive. Although I love working from home, on certain days I need to go to a coffee shop or library because there are fewer distractions there. Unless you're waiting for a super important phone call or text, just turn off your phone for a few hours, because it can be one of the most dangerous and time-consuming distractions. If you're doing research for an academic or professional project, you'll probably need to leave your WiFi on, but only leave tabs open if they are relevant to your work. That means closing Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media site that has popped up since I typed this sentence.
But even when we take all these precautions, sometimes we just end up sitting there staring at a blank screen. When you're feeling seriously unmotivated, here are five things to tell yourself that'll help you get (and stay) in gear:
1. "You Can Relax For Real Once You're Done With Your Work"
If you procrastinate on your to-do list because you want to watch TV or FaceTime with your best friend, chances are you won't be able to fully enjoy your activity of choice. It's pretty impossible to relax when you know that you have work or chores to do once your hour of TV is over. Although it's easy to blow off work in favor of a more enjoyable or relaxing activity, chances are it won't feel like actual relaxation if you have work hanging over your head.
It's way better to check a bunch of items off your to do list or make some serious headway on your work or school project, then kick back with the knowledge that you totally deserve this relaxation time because you put in all the hours you promised yourself you would. Remind yourself of that.
2. "How Will I Feel At The End Of The Day If I Didn't Accomplish What I Needed To?"
No one wants to go to bed feeling like they've had a totally unproductive day — especially if there were concrete things we needed to accomplish and didn't. Thinking about how you'll feel when you're getting ready for bed with the knowledge that tomorrow you have an even more overwhelming to-do list is a good motivator.
3. "It'll Be So Satisfying When I Get This Done"
Visualize what your task will look like after a few hours of serious hard work and productivity. Instead of a blank word document, you'll have at least a few pages of your school or work assignment done. Your apartment may be a colossal mess in the morning, but imagine how good it will look once you've spent a few hours cleaning and organizing. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing the results of your productivity, whether the task at hand is academic, professional, or domestic.
4. "I Want To Do A Good Job, And Procrastination Will Prevent That"
Let's be honest, we can usually get something "done" — even if we've procrastinated until the last minute. If you wait until the night before a 10-page paper is due, you'll be capable of typing up ten pages of something and turning it in. But no one really wants to do a sub-par job at school or at work.
Simply completing a task is different than actually accomplishing something that you can be proud of. You'll be disappointed in yourself if you finish a project and know that you could have done a way better job if only you had paced yourself and allowed enough time so that you could look it over with fresh eyes a few times before turning in the final product to your professor or boss.
5. "My Reward Will Be..."
Work hard, play hard! It's super important to be productive, but remember that once you've accomplished what you set out to in any given day or week, you owe yourself some relaxation and downtime. Not only is it healthy to have a good balance between work and play (or, in my case, work and reading, or work and Netflix), but it can also serve as a great motivator when you're losing steam and you want to give up.
Before you hunker down to get some seriously impressive work done, think about what your reward will be once you're finished. Whether it's a movie and wine with your best friend, finally curling up with that book you've been dying to read all week, or making yourself a nice meal, it's always good to have a reward at the end of the tunnel. Keep reminding yourself that you have something enjoyable to look forward to — and that you'll only be able to fully enjoy it if you can rest easy with the knowledge that you totally earned your downtime.