It can be challenging to buckle down and accomplish everything on our “to-do” lists—especially when we aren’t motivated. Sometimes it’s easier to binge-watch Netflix than to continue working after an already grueling, 8-hour day.
More often than not, deadlines are imminent and we must learn to endure. To get started, implement some of these strategies to stay productive despite feeling burned out.
1. Check Yourself
Are you exhausted? Hungry? Frustrated?
Before you dive into your workload, listen to your body and emotions, and discern what it is preventing you from achieving your goals.
If it’s a quick fix like eating a snack or processing something that happened during the day, resolve the issue before you begin working. Otherwise, schedule a time later in the day or week to further explore the matter. Oftentimes resolving an issue you’ve been avoiding can provide the right fuel to get you back on track.
2. Start with a Small and Doable Task
Generally, getting started on work is oftentimes the most challenging part. Instead of being overwhelmed by your to-do list, start with a small, doable task that you’ll be able to complete in a short time manner.
Newton’s first law of motion asserts that a body in motion will stay in motion. In this scenario, engaging even on a smaller scale will allow you to enter into motion by taking a smaller action, thus propelling you to continue.
3. Change Your Scenery
Being in the same place for the majority of your work can drain productivity. Instead of confining yourself to the same area, opt to work in a new corner of the office, at a different coworking table, or work remotely if possible. Try different coffee shops, book stores, or outdoor patios. If you’re stuck in a cubicle or at a desk, be sure to set timers to take periodic breaks during the workday to freshen your perspective.
4. Look for Triggers
What’s leading to your lack of productivity? Is your work boring, frustrating, or lacking structure?
Know the triggers and/or times of day that lead you to lose focus.
Note your peak “productivity times” and accomplish your top priorities in that frame. In traditional office settings, I’ve noticed that most people are productive before lunch—and not so much afterwards.
5. Time Block Your Calendar
Time blocking is a method where every component of your workday is scheduled on your calendar. It’s also a helpful tool to block off your personal time as well. To ease the stress of not having enough time, consider planning your day around your top three priorities.
6. Use a Project Management Tool
To stay on task, ensure you’re using a project management tool like Wrike, Trello, or Asana to help you track your priorities. Even when you don’t have the capacity to continue with a project, use a tool to note your ideas and better sort your list. Instead of being overwhelmed by everything you need to do, spread out tasks and prioritize what steps can be broken down into smaller tasks, and what can wait until later.
7. Set Limits with Timers
Instead of forcing yourself when you’re unmotivated to begin a task you’re dreading, use timers to break down the project. For example, when writing a long proposal or report, set a timer for 15 minutes to work on an outline. Then set another 15 minutes to work on the introduction and conclusion. Then another 20 for the body of the report, and so on.
8. Get Rid of Distractions
Removing distractions is a must. Turning off cell phone notifications, email notifications, or block social networking sites. Get out of your house or office and work in a quiet space—like a library—so you’ll have silence and no interruptions.
When all else fails, delegate. Ask a team member to help you go over projects with a fresh set of eyes. Hire a neighbor kid to do seasonal yard or housework if you feel burned out in your work and personal life.
If you have the resources, hire a freelancer to help you wrap up large projects so you can get what you really need—a nap and some peace of mind.