First, a confession: I am really unmotivated to work today.
This is rare. Correction, this has been rare since I changed careers and started doing something I actually enjoy. But I'm human, it happens, and the fact that I've been sick for days and have just returned from a business-trip-turned-weekend-away-with-my-husband to face a pile of to-dos definitely has something to do with it. Oh, and the fact that just as I was trying to get energized to start working this morning the Internet died didn't help much.
So here I am, unmotivated to work but needing desperately to start plowing through the to-do list. This isn't a time when I can throw caution to the wind, call it a bad day, and just chill out watching stupid TV (but how I wish!). This is a time when I have to get creative about finding my motivation. And so I figured there's no better way to do it than to post about it here, so you can check on me later - and hopefully share your own tips for how to get motivated at work.
Here are my ideas and tips for getting motivated to do work when you're not feeling motivated:
Re-write your to-do list.
I am not kidding -my to-do list is three pages long. I'm tearing them up and re-writing it. The first five items on the to-do list have to be things that are easy to do and (hopefully) things that are somewhat enjoyable. (Translation - working through a financial model or reviewing a contract does not belong here. Replying to member messages and writing a blog post do.) The second five items on the list are those which HAVE to get done today (whether I like them or not). And that's it - no more for today. I find when I have an endless to-do list I procrastinate more to avoid getting to it. It literally scares me away from working. (Of course, I wouldn't have to do any of this if I'd followed my own rules for creating an effective to-do list in the first place.)
Tell someone that you're unmotivated and need to get motivated.
Public humiliation is a powerful deterrent from procrastination - since I am telling you all that I need to get working it will be embarrassing to admit that I didn't do what I set out to do. A friend recently started a new workout routine and sent me an email to tell me about it. "The next time I whine about not wanting to go workout, remind me that this is important to me," she wrote. Brilliant.
Set a timeline and reward yourself at the end.
We do this with our kids, so why not ourselves? Promise yourself a fun/tasty/enjoyable/relaxing treat for getting a certain amount of work done and you're more likely to do it. Here's mine: If I get through my entire re-written to-do list by 9pm I can watch an episode of Alias tonight with my husband. (Yes, I'm probably the only person who has JUST started to watch the show, but I love it and it's a nice treat to look forward to.) I used to work with a colleague who would have something she called a pre-latte work push - she would work hard for an hour before 4pm, when she would go out and get a Starbucks as a reward.
Change your work location.
I always find it amazing just how refreshed I feel when I change up where I work. When I worked in a corporate office, I'd often take my Blackberry or notebook and go to the common area (cafeteria, lobby if it wasn't too loud) or a coffee shop to do some work. Now that I work from a home office, I have the option to work from different rooms in the house, going to the library, or the local coffee shop (which I call my office away from home). I'm off to go there in a few.
Unplug your computer from the Internet.
Distraction is the worst enemy of motivation - at least this is true for me. When I get going and get productive, getting distracted by checking email is sure to derail me. So as soon as I hit publish on this post, I am unpluggling my PC and not plugging it in until I get done with my to-do list. Seriously - try sending me an email in the next few hours, I'm not responding. (OK, at least for the next hour, to be totally realistic.)
What do you do when you need to get motivated at work? Share in the comments!
Nataly Kogan is the co-founder and CEO of WorkItMom.com, an online community for working moms. For more career tips, to connect with working moms, share advice about balancing work and family, quick recipes, and growing your business, and to read working mom blogs, visit www.WorkItMom.com.