How To Become Your Most Productive Self
By: Martha Sorren
Motivating yourself to be productive isn’t always easy. Some days, inertia takes over and the last thing you want to do is conquer your to-do list. Maybe you have a hard time motivating yourself to do chores around the house or exercise or start that big project for work. But whatever tasks you struggle with the most, it’s possible to overcome laziness and be your most productive self at home, at work, at the gym, or wherever. A great place to start your productivity journey is with this advice from therapists, psychologists, and coaches who spoke to Woman’s Day about how to motivate yourself through even the toughest of tasks.
Psychologist and counselor Victoria Shaw says the first step is to eliminate the word “lazy” from your vocabulary. “I am not fond of the word ‘lazy’ because it feels so judgmental,” she says. “Contrary to popular belief, judging yourself isn’t motivating. In fact, being critical of yourself can actually make procrastination worse. It tanks your mood and lowers your sense of self-worth, depriving you of two things that you actually need to get motivated.”
So if you’re having an off day and you just can’t seem to get going on your projects, turn to the advice of these professionals before getting down on yourself for being “lazy.”
Buckle Down For The First Five Minutes
Therapist and counselor Lauren Cook says that the first few minutes of a task are the hardest. Once the project is in motion, things always get better. “The most challenging part of the day is standing up and starting. Once you get through the first five minutes, you’ll be on your way,” she says.
“Big goals can be daunting, but smaller goals can feel easier to manage,” Shaw says. “If you’re have trouble finding the motivation to head to the gym, start with a walk around the block. If you are dreaming of writing a book, start by writing a few paragraphs a day.”
By accomplishing something, even if it’s small, you jump start the inertia to keep moving forward.
Schedule Breaks For Yourself
Shaw says that everyone needs down time in order to re-energize. “When it comes to boosting productivity, breaks are just as important as the time we spend on task,” she says.
Shaw recommends scheduling breaks into your day to keep you motivated and encourage you to be productive while you’re working. It’s a good idea to keep breaks to a set amount of time. That way, when break time is over, you go back to work instead of taking an unnecessarily long break and finding it too hard to get started again.
She adds that during the time you’ve scheduled to relax for a moment, truly relax. Don’t think about what you have ahead of you, just be in the moment and know that your schedule will remind you when it’s time to start back up again.
Prioritize Your “To Do” List
Professional coach Caru Jones recommends “taking just a few minutes at the start of your day to lay out your ‘absolutely must dos’ for the day” before you get started. With your priorities in order, you won’t spend precious time on less important tasks.
Make Your “To-Do” List Before Bed
If you really want to get ahead of the game, mental health expert Adina Mahalli recommends writing your “to do” list before going to bed. “This will mean that you wake up knowing what the day will look like and ready to check things off your list,” she says.
Focus On One Task At A Time
Joree Rose, a therapist and mindfulness coach, wants people to remember that multitasking is not actually the way to go. “The more you try to do more than one thing at a time, the more you’ll get overwhelmed and have a harder time focusing and feeling accomplished,” she says.
So take that “to do” list one step at a time.
Set A Timer For Each Task
Jones says that if you block out a set amount of time for a task, you’ll channel your energy into completing it in the time allotted.
If you struggle working for a long period of time, you can follow Shaw’s “start small” approach by setting a 20-minute timer for a task and then taking a short break and then returning for another 20 minute session.
Cook says, “Just as you see a dog do a trick for a treat, humans are actually pretty similar. We are motivated by rewards. Choose what would be a good incentive for you (like taking a hot bath or having a scoop of ice cream) and hold yourself accountable to not earn this reward until you’ve completed the assigned task at hand.”
Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Sleep
It’s hard to be productive when you’re tired. Rose says that “not sleeping enough can slow down your brain, making it harder for you to get motivated and stay attentive.”
To ensure that your next day will be productive, schedule in an appropriate amount of sleeping time the night before. Your brain will thank you.
Exercise To Get Energized
Rose says it’s also important to move your body, even if just for 10 minutes a day, to help you “feel more awake and energized, contributing to an overall increase in quality of your life.”
Think About What You’re Eating
Everything we do has an impact on our productivity, including what we eat. Rose says that eating junk food “can actually make you more sluggish,” which can contribute to your overall feeling of laziness. Instead, Rose says choose healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables to fuel your brain and body.
Not getting your daily dose of H20 can impact your productivity levels. Jones says that “being fully hydrated during the day also keeps your brain hydrated and your blood flowing.”
Don’t Be A Perfectionist
“For some people, the pressure to be perfect can get in the way of getting things done,” Shaw says. “In these cases it may feel more comfortable to procrastinate than to risk failure.”
Shaw recommends breaking out of this thought pattern by remembering that “doing something is better than doing nothing.” She adds, “We learn by doing, so the best way to improve is to go ahead and give it a try!”