It's Wednesday morning. You went out with friends last night, which seemed like a brilliant idea in the moment and quickly escalated to a wildly good time, but now you're paying the price to productivity. You're utterly exhausted due in part to dehydration and largely attributed to lack of sleep, you can't quite satisfy your insatiable appetite, and you've managed to complete zero out of never-ending tasks on your to-do list.
Motivation is nowhere to be found, a flighty friend who ditches your plans last-minute when you need him most. Productivity seems like a foreign term – on hump day, nonetheless, the day you use to catch up on Monday and Tuesday's procrastination and get ahead before weekend brain kicks in on Thursday and Friday. This scenario is all-too-familiar to most, and it's not the only situation in which we find ourselves hungry for motivation, any semblance of it at all.
When you've set a goal to exercise more, motivation after a long day of work is inevitably lacking. Motivation to remove yourself from your comfort zone and arrive on time to your blind date is often hard to conjure up. There are numerous circumstances in which you might find yourself in need of a nudge to get the wheels turning and feel accomplished, whether it applies to work responsibilities, personal goal-setting, or any other area on which your to-do list touches.
In search of advice for how to be productive when you least feel like it, I consulted with Dana Humphrey, founder of Whitegate PR; Stephen Twomey, MasterMind DBS; Alison Kero, CEO of ACK Organizing, professional organizer, and speaker based in Brooklyn, NY; and Marc Cenedella, CEO and Founder of Ladders, Inc. Here's what they told me.
1. Shut Down & Restart
If you're sitting at your desk finding it difficult to get started on a project or meet a deadline, hit the restart button. "Close your laptop screen, turn off the phone, look at the window at the great big world, and forget everything else for five minutes. Putting it all away is actually the best way to get revved back up," as Cenedella says.
Walk away from your desk or computer and clear your mind before revisiting your work. If you find yourself feeling more inclined to nap than hit it hard, fresh air on your face will revitalize you; a full glass of water will reawaken your spirits.
"When exhaustion hits, it's your body telling you to rest. Stop fighting it and rest. Take a short walk around the block. Nap for 10 minutes. Have a cup of tea and take some deep breaths. It's okay to rest and it's smarter because you'll be more productive if you take care of yourself and allow for breaks, than you ever will be if you continue to push against your intuition and drive yourself hard when you should be gentle with yourself," according to Kero.
2. Get Your Blood Flowing
"Get up early and workout. Get the blood flowing. Envision success and what you want your life to look like. ... I wake up at 5:00 a.m. Take my pre-workout. Then I lace up my shoes (I work out at home), and sit on the weight bench and grab my personal development book. After reading I visualize my ideal lifestyle. I invite success and all the things I want into my life. I then proceed to sweat like a madman for about 30 minutes. Then write for about 20 minutes before jumping in the shower. ... Now my blood is flowing and I am “pumped” about taking on the day," Twomey reveals.
Even if it's as simple as leashing up your dogs and going for a quick walk around the block, incorporate some sort of activity into your morning to get into the right headspace and feel prepared for the day ahead. If there's no reason to get outside before you get in the car to head to work, hop out of bed and do a little dance to start your day on a positive note.
"Gotta have a jam. Keep a playlist handy with two or three favorite, can't-fail-to-get-you-dancing, bubbly-in-a-good-way songs. In case of low energy, hit repeat," Cenedella shares.
3. Clear Your Mind & Take Action
"Do it anyways. Seriously, if I don’t want to do something, I make myself do it, because I know that if I can overcome that mental block of lack of motivation, that greatness and the next mental breakthrough is just around the corner," Twomey states.
The best way to cope with lack of motivation is to take action. When you least feel like being productive, power through and achieve something – anything.
"Know that no one is going to do it for you. If you want anything in this world, you have to work for it. I like the phrase from Fitness Expert Shaun T: 'It doesn’t get easier, you just get better.' When you are first trying to develop habits to help you be productive, it is hardest in the beginning. Once you develop those habits and internalize them, then you get better, the process does not get easier," Twomey adds.
4. Be Mindful Of What Hypes You Up
"The best way to get motivated is know and understand what motivates you. Is it beautiful objects from far away that you found on Pinterest, or photos of family and friends on Facebook, or keeping your Snapchat streak going into the triple digits? Whatever it is, be mindful about what enthuses and motivates you to get productive," Cenedella tells Bustle via email. Turn to your most consistent motivating factors to amp you up when you need it most.
5. Remember Why You Do What You Do
"America's first self-help guru had his own blog, 'Poor Richard's Alamnack,' signature look (beaver hat), and favorite currency. Yep, Benjamin Franklin was a pre-modern, post-modern, self-help celebrity. And his advice for getting a great start each day was to ask each morning, 'What good shall I do this day?' Seems like a good way to keep the important things in mind, and if you say this to yourself with a straight face in the mirror each morning, at least you'll get a laugh," according to Cenedella.
Keep it simple, and ask yourself what you intend to do everyday and why. It serves as a daily reminder to keep on trucking. "I revisit my 'why' every morning and visualize my ideal lifestyle," Twomey says.
6. Reiterate Your Daily Intentions
"Daily reminders are in my calendar. One message that pops up to me daily is: Remember to be nice to your body. Get enough sleep, stay hydrated, eat healthy, use sunscreen, and exercise often," Humphrey states.
Leave messages or daily affirmations on sticky notes around your home and office to brighten your spirits or reawaken your motivation when you need it most. Daily affirmations can be any variation of mottos, mantras, or quotes that remind you to live your best life.
"At the end of the work day, go over all the positive things that happened during the day. It will help you stay motivated and focused on what is working, rather than what went wrong," according to Kero.
7. Stay In Tune With Gratitude
"Wake up and write down or say out loud what you are grateful for. It helps start the day on a positive note," Kero says. Take nothing for granted. If you have a job at which you're finding it difficult to be productive, be grateful for that job, first and foremost. Be grateful for friends and family who will support you, whether you succeed or fail. Use gratitude as a source of motivation.
"At the end of the work day, go over all the positive things that happened during the day. It will help you stay motivated and focused on what is working, rather than what went wrong," Kero continues.
8. Work In Increments Or Time Blocks
"Maybe the whole project is too much to think or do at once but if you do a small amount for a small amount of time, you'll eventually get it done. Breaking down larger projects can help you get motivated despite yourself," Kero suggests.
If you're overwhelmed by a lengthy to-do list or a big project, break it down over the course of a day, aiming to complete a task step by step, hour by hour. It's also important to incorporate breaks in order to avoid feeling wiped out and to ensure you're thinking on your feet, to the best of your ability.
"Use your phone and turn on alerts throughout the day that have you standing up, moving around, taking some breaths and then returning to work. These breaks will help keep you refreshed," Kero mentions.
If you've managed to build up clutter in your workspace over the course of a day, Kero adds, "Tidy up as you move throughout your day, rather than collecting a huge mess and making it harder for you to focus in the afternoon."
9. Reconnect With Peace Of Mind
"All motivation comes from re-connecting with who you are. Meditation, music, meaningful conversations all serve to give you energy by reminding you of who you really are and who you really want to be. If you can be aware of the best ways to get the real you disconnected, relaxed, and then re-energized, you'll go far," Cenedella tells me via email.
If the root of your lack of motivation and productivity is a crowded mindset, walk away from the task at hand or clear your mind of all concern and recenter yourself.
According to Kero, "The first step is to start paying attention to what thoughts are going on in your head and how they are affecting your decision-making process. Once you start being aware of those thoughts, you can then start clearing out the mental/emotional clutter that is preventing you from being a productive person. Using positive statements such as, 'I am a productive person.. I can do anything I set my mind to' will also help you focus on the positive. Being in positive environments will also help you get into a more positive mindset because the energy of a positive environment will have an impact on you, as will negative environments so it's best to leave those if you're looking to be productive."
10. Take Each Day One Step At A Time
"Limit your to-do list to something that is actually reasonable. I used to pile my to do list for each day with way too many tasks, and I always felt overwhelmed. Now I limit the important things to do each day and try to really complete them all or 90 percent. I have less stress," Humphrey shares.
Though your to-do list may be growing, seemingly never-ending, remember there is only so much one person can do in the hours of the day. In order to perform everything to the best of your ability and commit to your goals 100 percent, focus on one thing at a time, one day at a time. Only you are the creator of the stress you experience.
11. Set The Proper Atmosphere
"For maximum productivity and motivation, it's best to be in an environment that allows you to think and breathe. If you are forced to work in a cluttered environment, go outside before starting a project and take some deep, long breaths. It will help you to get into the present moment and be more focused. The air will also serve to help you feel motivated in body, mind, and spirit," Kero states.
While light, temperature, distractions, and a number of other factors contribute to how conducive an environment is to productivity, you have the ability to tune it all out and focus on what's most important.
As Twomey adds, "An environment affects you only if you let it. If you work in a windowless room, then get a sun lamp to help offset the vitamin D you are missing. If your coworkers annoy you, then wear headphones. If you can develop a bullet proof mindset, then you choose to let things affect you. In life, the only things that can affect us are the things that we choose to give power over us."
Trailing on Twomey's last statement there, take control over your mind and body to hinder distractions, stress, and outside factors that aim to get in the way of your success. Aim to achieve your goals, remember gratitude, and shine with positivity, bringing you one step closer to becoming the person you want to be every day.