We all have ‘off’ days from time to time. Whether you didn’t get enough sleep or aren’t excited about what you need to accomplish on any given day, here are five steps to staying motivated so you can get the job done.
- First visualize your goal and document the reasons for attaining it. Sometimes getting started is the most difficult step because before we begin, our brain plays tricks on us according to a study by John Bargh, an award-winning psychology researcher. He concluded that we don’t start with the most meaningful tasks because our brain attempts to simulate real, productive work by focusing on smaller tasks.Start by visualizing how it will look and feel to accomplish your goal. For example, a person charged with proposing an employee reorganizational plan would picture herself standing confidently in front of the audience, explaining the re-org. Next, write down the reasons for wanting to attain the goal. It’s best to actually pen these reasons because studies show that when we write by hand and manually connect the words, our brains are more actively engaged in the process.
- Organize the goal into digestible chunks. Dale Carnegie implored people to, “Decide just how much anxiety a thing may be worth and refuse to give it more.” To avoid feeling overwhelmed and anxious, break-down the goal into smaller, realistic steps. This is not only critical to completing the overall task, but sharpens our concentration levels and inspires us to keep going. Thanks to neuroscience, we now understand that each small step triggers the brain’s reward center which releases dopamine, the feel-good chemical.
- Change course as needed. When your energy levels wane, it’s time to take a break, ask someone for help or re-energize yourself. Dale Carnegie said to, “Cooperate with inevitable,” so have a strategy ready in case you veer off course. It may be wise to move to a new area in which to work where you feel inspired. Perhaps playing your favorite song will pump you up. It could be that having a quick conversation with a colleague is just the boost you need to bounce back on track.
- Use all available resources. Sometimes we get hung up on one, small task that ends up usurping entirely too much time. Research shows that most people are too reluctant to ask for help due to their human instinct to not seek advice, according to a Scientific American In the interest of time and sanity, however, it makes complete sense to ask for help or input. If you aren’t sure whom to ask, ask around first. Odds are high that someone will gladly give you the answers you need to move forward.
- Sleep on it. If time and space permit, take a power nap between 20 and 40 minutes long to unleash your brain’s natural energy. Peak power nap times are between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. according to Sleep Expert Dr. Phyllis Zee of Northwestern University.