This post is part two of three on the topic of productivity.
More times than we care to admit, we get stuck in an unproductive cycle of half-hearted work and discouragement at getting hardly anything done. Sometimes, it’s almost impossible to figure out how to get unstuck.
What we really need is a kick in the pants to get us moving.
But more often than not we aren’t willing to admit that we’re stuck, so we struggle on alone. It then becomes up to us to get going again.
Just Get to It
Even if you’ve done your best in planning out your day–so you have a track to run on first thing–the motivation for getting to it sometimes just isn’t there. By setting yourself up for success as much as you can, it becomes easier to get unstuck.
Here are three things you can do to find motivation:
- Make a checkable to-do list. This could be optional, but when I have a game plan for the day—complete with boxes to check off as I get each thing done—those little wins are more fun. I generally would do this at the same time that I write up a game plan for the day. This wouldn’t work for all people, but I find it helpful.
- Use cues that are already in place. Is there a certain thing you drink at your peak creative times? Do you listen to a certain kind of music? Or do you have a certain hat you wear every time you want to be “in the zone”? Almost everyone has a certain routine they go through that makes the job easier to start. Find out what that is for you—what signals to your subconcious that “It’s time to work now!”—and go with that. Make use of the signals you already have–the job will be much easier.
- Just start. One of the best ways to get unstuck is to start anyway. Even though you have nothing to give to your project, work on it anyway–a breakthrough is almost always right around the corner. Start. Even if you’ll erase all that work in two minutes. Conquer the first step, no matter how small. Just start.
When You Still Can’t Get Unstuck
Yes, there are some days when everything you do still doesn’t put you on the getting things done trail.
Here are four things I do when that happens:
- Take a break from the computer. Computers have an amazing tendency to produce fried brains. Step away from the computer for several minutes. Take a short walk to check on the garden, read a book to a sibling, or get a drink. Take some time away to refresh and refuel. If you need to, time your break. It doesn’t have to be long—only five minutes or so—and your brain will thank you when you’re done.
- Hold a personal war. For writers, this might be a word war—so many words in 10, 15, or 30 minutes. If you’re working on math, challenge yourself to get X amount of problems done in a certain length of time. Keep track of how well you’re doing, and try to race against your previous record.
- Reduce surrounding distractions. Is there something around you that badly needs to get done, and you know it will keep bugging you until you fix it? For me, that might be an unmade bed, or a messy desk. If it will only take 5 minutes or less to fix, then do it. You’ll be able to focus better afterward.
- Reduce internal distractions. Is there something nagging at the back of your mind that you don’t want to forget, but at the same time if you take care of it now you’ll lose your momentum all together? Write it down. Any thoughts, questions, to-dos, or ideas. By jotting them down, you can keep your brain less cluttered and focus better on the project at hand. Later, you can come back and to attend to them. (*Be sure to read my third and final post in this series, Resources, to find out about one worthwhile tool I use to help with this!)
Creativity and getting things done is an absolute joy when you’ve had a productive day. Gaining the momentum you need to get into the zone can be difficult and time-consuming. Whatever you do, don’t spend an hour on Facebook or Pinterest—that only leads to a feeling of guilt and helplessness at the fact that you’ve lost so much time already at the beginning of your day.
Try different methods, throw out what doesn’t work, and over time you’ll find a process that works for you.
Question: What works best for you to get “in the zone”? What are some methods you’ve learned over the years to get things done efficiently?