Staying productive has got to be the most challenging aspect of running a creative business, hands down. Whether I was freelancing or simply trying to write a blog post like this one, actually starting and feeling motivated has always been a huge struggle for me. Getting the client, defining the task, these are the easy parts. The hard part starts when you actually have to sit down and get some serious work done. Suddenly, doing the dishes sounds very appealing and your hunger kicks in right when you’re staring at that blank document. But I’m here to tell you that there’s hope, my friends! Here are a few tips for staying productive even when you feel completely unmotivated.
Make to do lists your friend
To make the most of my day, I find it helps if I have a short to do list drafted the night before to keep me on track. Whenever I skip this (usually out of pure laziness) I find I’m aimless in the morning and generally get stuck sifting through email until about 11am. Instead, if I have a few defined tasks planned ahead of time I can easily visualize my day and prioritize accordingly. Crossing things off this list is also super satisfying and gives you a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
Satisfy your hunger
This one is so important, make sure to eat breakfast first thing so you’re not distracted by your own hunger. I am a huge hypocrite when it comes to this, as I rarely actually eat breakfast right when I get up. But then you’ll usually see me keeled over with hunger pains halfway through the morning. Not a pretty sight, or feeling. I really want to make it a priority to eat something healthy and satisfying first thing in the morning. Having some snacks prepped like pre-cut fruit or these delicious, gluten-free breakfast cookies makes it so much easier to get some food down, even when you’re swamped.
Work in focussed bursts
Have you ever heard of the Pomodoro technique? This method breaks down your work day into 25 minute intervals, separated by short five minute breaks in between. First pick a task to work on, set a timer (I like this free one for Mac) for 25 minutes, work on your task until the timer rings and record your status, take a short break, and then start another “pomodoro”. Make sure to take a longer break (for 15 – 20 minutes) every four pomodoros. Using this technique will really help you gauge how long tasks actually take you and allow you to realistically set timelines.
Unplug from social media
Pinning, scrolling, tweeting and facebooking are all lovely ways to mind melt when you’re not motivated. But you’re only procrastinating the inevitable. Turn off notifications on your phone, or better yet, leave your phone in another room. Even an Instagram like can trigger your curiosity and completely derail you from what you were working on. Reserve checking social media for your five minute pomodoro breaks, and then actually stop when your five minutes are up! Once you quiet all that noise it’ll be so much easier to focus, I promise.
Nothing’s more of a buzz kill on your productivity than a cluttered work environment. Tidy up your desk and tame your email so you can think clearly and breath a little easier. I recently overhauled our main email account with twenty different filters so that only important emails make it to our inbox, and the others are organized nicely. It’s pure bliss! You might want to get on this one right away.
Don’t force it
Some days you’re just not in the mood and that’s okay. Get away from your desk, go for a walk, take the afternoon off, just give your mind a break and try again tomorrow. After all, you can’t force greatness!
How do you stay productive when you feel unmotivated? Let us know in the comments below!