You're in the middle of a project at work. Suddenly, you have a question. You google it. An ad pops up in the sidebar, you click the ad, and somehow you've just wasted a half hour shoe shopping. Social media, the news, and cute pictures of baby animals—all of these distractions are available to us with just a couple clicks. You might even be in the middle of an awesomely productive workday, only to snap out of it and realize you've lost a whole hour aimlessly scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed. Crud.
Literally happens to all of us almost every day. Whether you work from home or have a traditional 9-5, being distracted at work can keep you from accomplishing your goals and staying productive, even when you're trying (so hard!) to get better at staying motivated at work.
Even worse? Your workday becomes even longer because you're not getting in and getting your work done. This is especially true if you set your own schedule or work from home. Distractions result in more time working—time you could be spending doing fun stuff like hanging out with the kiddos or spending time with your spouse!
Well, no more! Welcome to the new uber-productive You. The You who comes in and gets it done! You're about to unlock 12 keys to staying motivated at work!
ONE BIG productivity secret? It’s all about creating a work routine. This means setting up a simple schedule to ensure workday success: one that helps you block out distractions and ensure that whenever you're working (even if your job isn’t traditional), you’ll be able to get more done and step away feeling accomplished, rather than feeling like something important you missed is still hanging out there on your to-do list.
When you feel accomplished at the end of the day, you feel GOOD, right? You feel proud of what you got done. You're doing great and kicking butt! Thing is, dragging your feet and procrastinating can often leave you with an unsettling feeling of dread. It can make you feel like any moment your boss is going to realize you've been slacking off. Or if you’re your own boss, it can make you feel like you’re never going to hit your work goals and your clients are going to slip through your fingers. In short: being unproductive is a huge bummer.
Here's the deal: you don't need to adopt ALL of these work routines. Baby steps! Just try to pick up one or two good habits and put them into play this week. See how much more accomplished and better you feel when just one or two tweaks to your routine really help you stay motivated at work all day.
So get ready to get ‘er done! Adopt these work routines to become more focused and motivated at work!
1. Be On Time
One of the first and most important keys to staying motivated at work is to be on time. If you plan to start working at a certain time, stick to it. If you need to report to your office by 8:00am, but you know your boss doesn’t get in until 8:30am sometimes, still be on time.
Being late makes us feel frazzled, like we’re starting out the day disorganized. Being on time (or even better—being slightly early) helps us start out prepared and ready. Who wants to start the workday feeling like they can't catch up!?
You're gonna hate me for this one, but if you're late to work because you hit the snooze button too many times, try Alarmy (Android, Apple). This FREE app makes you do math problems or take a picture of a familiar item (like your toothbrush), essentially forcing your brain to wake up and get your butt out of bed. It's super rude you guys, but it totally works!
2. Prioritize & Get Your Toughest Job Done First
If you want to be super productive, do the hardest job first. Choose your biggest task for the day or the one you’re most likely to put off—then just suck it up and do it!
Once that big ugly job is out of the way, the rest of your day will be a breeze. You’ve already accomplished the hardest task, so even if that’s the one thing you got done, you can still feel great and stay motivated at work for the rest of the day.
3. Don’t Check Your Inbox First Thing
When we come in to work or sit down at the computer, what’s the first thing we do? Start checking our email. Then we end up replying and responding and going back and forth and suddenly half our day is eaten up with emails. Trying to get back to your focus and motivation after that is tough.
Don’t let this happen to you. Instead, refer back to #2: get the biggest thing out of the way first. THEN, hit up your inbox. In an emergency, someone will usually call anyway—most emails can wait. If you’re really worried about missing something, give your emails a cursory read-through, then close the browser. Only respond if it cannot wait for an hour or two while you get your toughest job done.
4. Stick to a To Do List
Productive people are list makers and list prioritizers. If you want to remember something or get something done—write it down! Even if you’re not a checklist lover or a planner-addict like me, using an organizer or simply jotting stuff down on a piece of paper can help you really get more out of your day.
When you make a to do list, take it to the next level by prioritizing your tasks. What is your #1 task, #2 task, and so on…? What do you NEED to get done today? Adding a priority to each task ensures you complete the most important things first and don't forget all the smaller tasks you might have to put off until tomorrow. It also helps you block out your time and determine how much you need to do as well as when you'll be able to get it all done.
5. Close Out Distractions
Turn off notifications for anything you find distracting. If you’re tempted to look at Pinterest or Instagram every time you get a notification, disable those push notifications on your phone or put your phone away while you work. Close out your email in your browser window as well. (I know that’s a tough one.)
Cutting out distractions while you work can help keep you from being tempted to look at the latest social media posts or chat back and forth with a friend about how boring work is and how unmotivated you’re feeling. (…we’ll get into that more coming up!)
If you use Chrome, I highly recommend the FREE Chrome plugin StayFocusd. You can set it to block Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter—whatever is sucking most of your work time. It allows you to set time limits or completely block out whatever distracts you most. Easy and free.
6. Work in Time Blocks
Time blocking sounds fancy, right? Well it's one of the best (and easiest) keys to staying motivated at work through a long day. It’s simple: you block out time on your calendar in 15 or 30-minute increments. Just decide what you need to do, then make a time block for it. You can even set a timer to help you stay focused during each block.
Once the time is up, move on to the next job. If you finish early, move to the next block or take a short break. Then note for future scheduling that this task required a little more or a little less time.
If time blocking sounds right up your alley, you might want to try the Pomodoro Technique. You simply pick one task, set a timer for 25 minutes, work on your task until the timer rings, then make a checkmark on a piece of paper. After each checkmark, take a 5-minute break. When you've ticked off 4 checkmarks, you've earned a longer 15-30 minute break. This technique will keep you focused, yet refreshed over your entire workday. It's pretty rad.
7. Take a Break
It might sound counterintuitive, but like I just said in point #6, if you want to get more done, you MUST take breaks. We aren’t made to be automatons who can focus endlessly on one task. Staying motivated at work isn't a marathon to the finish line. In fact, after about an hour of working (even less in some cases) on a job, our work suffers if we don’t take a break to refresh.
Step away from the keyboard or take a quick couple minutes to do some deep breathing or another relaxation technique. Look away from your task. Take a bathroom break. Whatever you need to do to give yourself a breather. When you come back to your job, you’ll have a little energy boost and feel refocused.
8. Get Movin'
Our brains and bodies are connected. So if you want to get your blood flowing and your brain firing on all cylinders, you have to move. Now that doesn’t mean you need to go for a run on your lunch break or get up and do jumping jacks every half hour (although that isn’t a bad idea).
Simply moving around your office a little—stretching or standing up and “shaking out” your body can help get your blood pumping and your mind refocused. Take a 10-minute walk around the block. Add regular fitness to your life, especially during your non-work hours to keep your body healthy and your brain sharp!
9. Stay Hydrated
If you’re hitting that afternoon slump…you know, when your brain feels foggy and you feel tired and maybe even a little headachy…you might be dehydrated. Regularly drinking water while you work is really important. It helps with focus and your overall health.
Our bodies are made up of mostly water. We need water for our system to work properly, yet so often when we’re working hard, we forget to hydrate. Drink up and keep yourself feeling brighter and more alert—plus, it can give you a good excuse to get in some movement when you have to go to the bathroom!
10. Eat Away from Your Desk
We’ve all eaten lunch at our computers before. (Hellooo, sad desk lunch.) I’m just as guilty of this one as the next gal. Unfortunately, when we eat in front of our computers, we aren’t taking the noon-hour opportunity to reset. We’re telling our bodies and brains that lunchtime is work time, and work time is all the time. Again: bummer. Repeat after me: “I deserve a lunch break!”
Instead of taking a break, we get into this mentality that we have to stay in “work mode” when we’re at work. It might feel like we’re getting things done by eating at our desks, but stepping away can actually help us be more focused when we return. It’s also good for your waistline—distractions can even cause us to overeat! Plus, let’s face it—when we grab something from a vending machine or eat at our desk it feels like a punishment. We start to think, “I’ve been working so hard, I deserve this treat” and we grab a doughnut or a bag of chips. Bad for productivity AND bad for weight loss goals.
11. Stop Saying, “I Can’t Focus” or “I’m So Distracted”
P.M.A. people—that's positive mental attitude! It’s amazing how when you say, “I’m feeling tired,” you actually feel more tired. Or when you say, “Ugh, I’m just not focused today,” you become totally unmotivated to tackle the rest of your to do list. Rather than declaring what you “are” or focusing on the negative, try reframing it.
Say, “I was just distracted for a minute, but now I’m back on task,” or “I’m really focusing on this project so I can get it done!” and watch what unfolds. I'm telling ya, you'll be amazed how this simple change in your mentality shifts your thinking. You might even start applying this concept to other areas where you need a little boost. (Try: “I am awesome at budgeting!” even when you feel like you totally suck at it.)
12. Leave Organized
When you’re done working for the day, take five minutes to organize yourself. Clean up your desk, file away your papers, and jot down or update your to do list so you're all ready to go for tomorrow. Review tomorrow’s calendar and shift anything that needs to be adjusted.
It can be tempting to scoot out the door the minute time is up, but it takes only five minutes to ensure you can start out successfully tomorrow, right off the bat. Put your desk in order, sign off any programs, and do a quick look around your workspace to make sure it’s organized.