Even the most ambitious people are bound to feel sluggish and unenthusiastic sometimes. It could be because you're overextended, in a rut, or just plain burned out. To find motivation — and get that kick in the pants you need — try these six tricks.
Worst Thing First
If you’re dreading something on your list, get it done first thing in the morning. Not only will the sense of accomplishment set the tone for the rest of your day, but you won’t waste time worrying about that unpleasant task.
Similarly, working out first thing in the morning is great way to give yourself a mental boost (bonus points if working out is the dreaded item on your to-do list). Even 15 to 20 minutes of walking, lifting weights, running, or yoga will release enough endorphins to make you feel happy and motivated.
Tap Into Your Feelings
It might sound trite, but discovering what really inspires you will instantly revive your motivation. Not everyone finds their higher calling at their day job, but you can find an emotional hook that ties your day-to-day efforts to a bigger objective. Take, for example, 5 am workouts. Personal trainer Kian Ameli says that if you can “find an emotional hook — say you want to lose 20 pounds so you can keep up with your kids because your mom was never able to — you're more likely to get up and get moving."
Everyone’s emotional hook will be different, and it’s up to you to find what inspires you most. For example, Denise Barreto, an author and national speaker, maintains her hook by keeping an "awesome jar" in her office. "I fill it with 'awesome' things that happen to me and my family — anything from how we skipped the line at Universal Studios to when I landed a big contract. Having a tangible and physical accounting of the good in my life keeps me motivated," she says.
Block Out Enough Time for Each Task
If you have trouble staying on track throughout the day — maybe you find yourself perusing social media or online shopping rather than ticking items off your to-do list — take this productivity tip from Jessica Greenwalt, founder of the international design and development firm Pixelkeet:
"I fill up to eight hours of each workday on my Google Calendar with tasks, blocking off a minimum of 30 minutes for each one. I estimate on the high side when trying to guess how much time each task will take to account for delays. Then I use my calendar as a to-do list, making sure I complete the tasks scheduled for the day."
Placing tasks on a calendar is a great visual, not only for what you have to do but also for what you've accomplished. "Knowing that I'm capable of doing what I've done motivates me to schedule another productive day for tomorrow," Greenwalt adds.
Make Your Work Space Work For You
Your work space is a major influencer on your mood: Poor lighting can cause a litany of issues like drowsiness, lack of focus, and eye strain, and a messy desk is a motivation crusher.
If the office lighting isn’t working for you, open the blinds or bring in a desk lamp — like the Sunlight Desk Lamp, which mimics natural light. If your desk is full of clutter, go through your papers every day to keep pages from stacking up, either filing or completing the tasks as you go. And unless you use an item every single day, put it in a drawer.
Give Yourself a Mental Break
When you can't focus, it's time to take a mental moment for yourself. Productivity expert and founder of RegainYourTime Maura Thomas advises that you “just zone out and let your mind wander. Your brain needs quiet time to make connections and generate insights."
If you think you'd benefit from something more structured, try engaging in three-minute segments of mediation three times a day, suggests business and mind-body productivity coach Dina Proctor. "You can use a deliberate visualization technique, like envisioning that you are breathing in calm, focused energy that infuses every cell in your body or imagining stress gently melting from your mind and your muscles," she says.
Sometimes outside forces are required to help us find our motivation. Why not create a competition with friends to see who can reach their goal the fastest? By making a public commitment to these people, you'll be inspired to finish the goal.
Alternatively, you can use the power of social media to create accountability for your goals. It’s as simple as posting a status update: Your network will cheer you on and await news of your progress.
If you want to break outside of your immediate network, consider joining (or creating!) a mastermind group — a group of like-minded individuals who are working toward a similar goal. Ideally, you would enlist three to five people who have similar drive and ambition (but with diverse skill sets or backgrounds) and meet once a month to solve problems, inspire each other, and push one another toward your goals.