Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.
As winter approaches, I find it more challenging to find motivation to focus on finishing projects. As it appears, cold and rainy days pair better with a blanket than a laptop. Productivity reaches its all time low for the year. Nonetheless, not wanting to carry this year’s tasks into 2020, I convinced myself to sit down and get some work done. Feeling unmotivated and stuck during a project is very common. Quite frankly, there is nothing wrong with feeling that way. We are all entitled to take time off, to practice self-care and concentrate on things that make us happy. It becomes a problem when we want to work and do our best to stay focused yet things get in the way. The unproductivity in itself is not harmful, but when it is accompanied by concern, anxiety or depression, it can be. Here are a few tips to consider when we feel unproductive but have the will to get back on track.
1- Know yourself and the way you work.
Your time and your tasks need your full attention. Because we all run out of time on a daily basis, it is necessary to set time aside for the tasks that we want to accomplish. If you know to be a morning person, creating time earlier in he day can be helpful. If you know that you need the house to be quiet while working, maybe it’s better to set up work hours when nobody is home and the dog has already been walked. Have you thought about categorizing your tasks? Sometimes we realize that we have put time aside, the house is perfectly quiet and nobody is in need of our attention, yet we can’t seem to start. That’s probably because all tasks aren’t created equal. Some might require more energy while others can be done through multi-tasking. Figuring all this out can definitely be overwhelming! Don’t skip this step. Prioritize your tasks in a way that makes sense for you and evaluate how long each might take. If your work requires research first, it’s important to know it and schedule it beforehand. Knowing how you work will help you increase productivity in the long run. For example, how well do you work with deadlines? Do you prefer starting with easier or more difficult tasks? Does a to-do list help? Knowing the answers to these questions will ultimately lead you feeling more motivated and even enthusiastic about the work itself.
2- Distractions are everywhere.
That’s just a fact and most likely, they are not going anywhere. It is up to us to reconfigure the way we work. This means understanding how we spend our time and whether or not we are aware of the distractions surrounding us. For instance, working on a laptop can give us access to social media platforms in seconds. Targeted ads could lead us to read useless articles, make compulsive purchases or even reply to emails that are not on our to do list. Identifying those distractions and recognizing our weaknesses will help us remove ourselves from wasted time online. Decluttering the space that surrounds us is an essential first step. As our workspace gets cleaner from distractions, so does our mind.
3- Take breaks when needed.
We have all felt burned out. When our work piles up or requires us to become a little bit more creative and think outside the box, we can get stuck. When it feels overwhelming, it becomes very tempting to give up. Then, the vicious circle of unproductivity hits and the longer our breaks become, the less productive we feel. Breaks are essential in any kind of work. They allow us to reset physically and emotionally from the tasks ahead of us. But in order for it to count, a break needs to be restful and limited. If we take a break from task A to finish task B, we are not taking a restful break. We are just postponing task A. When we rest, our mind and our body need to be in a state that gives us a sense of peace. Reading a book, going on a walk, listening to a podcast, having a yoga session are all activities that can be restful to both the mind and the body. Breaks need to also stay limited in time. If it’s too short, it might not make a difference in the way we feel. If it’s too long, it becomes a technique of avoidance. Only YOU know what kind of break you need. Ideally, you would schedule it in advance after knowing what works best for you.
4- Set goals and keep them in mind.
When we no longer feel productive and want to quit, our initial goal(s) can help us get motivated and redesign the way we think about a project. Perhaps we’ve been so focused on micromanaging our own work that we forgot the reason why we even started the project. Keeping goals in mind or written somewhere in full sight can help us stay focused and remember the long-term vision of our project. Set realistic short-term goals. They will help you stay on track and keep yourself organized daily. Short-term goals are often necessary steps leading us to the bigger picture. Therefore, set up long-term goals as well. If that seems harder for you, think of where you would see yourself in a year from now. Having long-term goals will be your motivation on days when you are lacking ideas. It will also be the determining factor in the choices you make along your journey. We are only as productive as the best efforts we put in. Listen to yourself. Be aware of the signs that your mind and body are sending to you, they matter.