I’ve been on a quest for motivation and productivity lately. Adulting has kinda gotten me down the last few weeks, and I’ve had a hard time keeping myself focused. I know that this slump is mostly in my head, and yet I can’t seem to push myself to get the words on the page. Have you ever had one of those days? I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
Thankfully, some slumps can be prevented with just a little bit of habit adjustment. How many of these things are you guilty of?
Bad Habit #1: You stay stuck in work mode.
This is one of my biggest problems when it comes to work: I get focused for an extended period of time, and I can’t shake the habit of agreeing to extra work. After all, we’re taught that working harder helps us get ahead… Right? The problem is, working harder and longer hours isn’t the way to move up the career ladder – working smarter and more effectively is. One finished job is worth more than ten you don’t finish, so focusing on the things you can do quickly and well is more likely to get you ahead. It’s not about having the most potential and the least backbone, it’s about balancing your life so you’re not so burnt out all the time.
Instead of trying to stay busy all the time, focus on a few things you want to do – as well as a few things you need to do. If there’s something you can delegate to someone else, do it. If there’s something you can accomplish in less than five minutes, do it now – don’t put it off until some predetermined time. It’s worth taking a little time to sort out your schedule and find balance – you might be surprised at how much more time you have once you’ve prioritized.
Of course, not everyone has complete control over their schedule – but you can make a choice not to accept extra work that won’t get you closer to your goals. For example, a coworker wants to leave early to attend a party, but there’s a networking opportunity at that party and you also want to go. You have the right to not accept the extra work so your coworker can go in your place. (This choice will, of course, depend on your long-term goals – just make sure you’re making the decision for yourself, and not for someone else.)
Bad Habit #2: You rely on willpower to tackle big tasks.
Many of us tend to set really big goals, with the intention of doing them through an act of sheer willpower. There’s only one problem with that plan: Willpower is not an unlimited resource. Using your willpower as a crutch is going to leave you even more disappointed with yourself if you’re not able to meet the goals you’ve set for yourself. Instead, you should break the goal into a series of small, seemingly-inconsequential tasks. These smaller tasks won’t take as much willpower to talk yourself into, and you may find yourself doing more than you set out to do.
Obviously, a bunch of little tasks versus one big task is completely a mind trick – but it’s one that’s been known to work for most people. Your mind sees the longer list of smaller tasks, and you tell yourself that you’re choosing to start with the first one. There doesn’t need to be an obligation for anything other than the first step. If you don’t make it past that first step, at least you have the accomplishment of knowing you got started. (But, due to some type of psychological momentum, you’re more likely to keep going once you get started.)
Don’t get me wrong – willpower can be a great resource, and when you’re consistently reviewing your goals, you can keep your willpower a little stronger than those who don’t review their goals. Start your day on the right foot, with a full glass of water and a mind free of distractions – I find it helps to journal a few pages of mindless drivel before I get started with the “real” work, but your warm-up routine may vary depending on the nature of the tasks you need to do. If your tasks require a little more manual work, try warming up with some stretching and a jog. If they’re more mentally draining, start with something to clear your mind, such as stream-of-consciousness writing or meditation.
Bad Habit #3: You neglect your emotional and spiritual health.
We tend to think of the sections of our life as completely separate. If we’ve got big goals in our work life, we may put off some goals we had in our social lives. If most of our goals fall into the love life section, we may ignore the goals we set for our personal development. Understanding that there aren’t actually as many borders separating the different areas of our lives is a good first step in understanding our success as a whole.
Try finding the balance between the different areas of your life. Consider your physical health, your surroundings and living situation, your finances, your career, your social life, and even your love life. Try to come up with a number that represents your happiness in each of these areas. Take a look at which areas you’re the least happy in, and try to focus on those things for now – it’ll be a bit easier to focus on the others if you’re starting from a higher overall happiness.
We all know that our happiness is made up of a bunch of different things, but for some reason, when we make goals, we tend to feel like that one area will magically boost up the other areas. It’s true that some goals can cross over into multiple sections, but your average goal is probably only going to tick one or two boxes. Make sure you think of some ways you can boost your happiness in the other areas, too, because everything is connected in the grand scheme of things.
Bad Habit #4: You aren’t friendly with your coworkers.
It’s bound to happen at some point: You meet a coworker you absolutely can’t stand, and you go out of your way to avoid being around that person. Maybe it’s not even something they did, but rather something completely inconsequential that just irritates you to the core. You spend so much time distracted by your irritation with this bothersome coworker, you can hardly get any work done when they’re around.
In that example, it’s pretty obvious to see how hating on your coworkers can be a distraction – but there are actually a few more reasons why it’s a good idea to get in nice. Any time you have the chance to interact with people in the same industry you’re in (or in the industry you want to be in), it should be treated like a networking opportunity. Because it is a networking opportunity. Even if you can’t stand this person now, there’s a chance they could be helpful to you in the future, and it’s always a good idea to have someone on your team.
Even if you’re in an industry you don’t plan on being in forever (such as fast food or low-level retail), networking with your coworkers has an immediate benefit that you might like: Higher morale. When your entire team is happy, your entire team is going to be more productive – and for people who have a large chunk of their time taken up by work, “work friends” might be the only friends you have regular time for. Don’t screw it up by working against them!