I hate to break it to you, but it’s halfway through January already. How’s that New Year’s resolution going for you? Are you still going strong, or is willpower beginning to fade?
The first week of commitment to something new is always a honeymoon period for me. It’s full of excitement and motivation, and I’m proud of every temptation I manage to resist. It gives me something to think about to get me through dull days at work, and something to look forward to doing later- like cooking a healthy meal, writing another post, or finishing a song I’ve been working on.
Then, I get to the swampy middle. It’s a dark place, full of alligators and mosquitos and undead voodoo priestesses. All of these dangers once seemed cool and exciting and I thought I was strong enough to handle them, but like a character in an adventure novel, I begin to long for the comforts of my mosquito-free couch and the safety of losing myself in a Netflix binge. My motivation wanes. The goal seems further away than it ever has. I’ve given up and gone back to my couch lots of times when I get to this point- but there have also been times I’ve slogged on and reaped the rewards. I highly recommend the latter, it’s worth the tiny bit of sanity you lose along the way. In case you’ve also found yourself in the swampy middle lately, here are some tips and tricks that work for me to get me past the ‘gators.
1. The 15 minute rule. You can sit around and wait for motivation and inspiration to do that thing you just don’t feel like doing right now. That is an option. Unfortunately though, if I waited to do things only when I felt like it, there would be a lot of things that didn’t get done- and nothing would ever happen on time. I like to enforce the fifteen minute rule on days when I reaaaaaally don’t want to sit my butt in my chair and do something. Turn off all distractions, put your phone across the room, and set a timer for fifteen minutes and work on it. If you scrap everything you’ve done at the end of the fifteen minutes because it’s awful, then fine. If you don’t do anything else after that fifteen minutes, also fine. At least you did something- and, once you get started and are able to focus, you might even find you’re in the mood after all.
2. Find your best time. The last summer of college, I didn’t have that many obligations. I didn’t work every day, so I got to wake up when I felt like it, go to sleep when I felt like it, and work on my own projects when I felt like it. I found that between the hours of about 11:30 and 5:30, I’m not nearly as productive as I am earlier in the morning and after dinner hours.Learning this was absolutely invaluable though, because it meant I could scheduele dates with friends and time in the sun during my least productive hours for a break, and then make sure I had the rest of the day free when I knew I’d get more out of my time. I realized slogging through the afternoon when my brain decided to be uncooperative was not beneficial to everyone, because by the time I got to the evening, I was desperate for a break and got half as much done as I wanted to. Learn when you’re able to work best (even if that means waking up at 5am or staying up too late on a work night), and then make the best out of the hours you know you’re at your most creative.
3. Create a deadline. If there’s never a deadline for you to finish your goals, it’s easy to procrastinate and put things off indefinitely. If you set yourself an end date (or multiple end dates), you can hold yourself accountable and it makes it easier to know what you should be schedueling in, and when, in order to meet that deadline. It also helps to compete or work with a friend. If you know someone else is going to be counting on you to do your part, or if there’s a real and mostly immediate consequence for not achieving your goals, (like having to listen to your friend gloat about beating you), then you’re more likely to hold yourself to it.
4. Break it down. Sometimes, a goal can seem too daunting. For example, if your goal is to read 50 books in a year, that can seem like a lot. Even breaking it down to one book a week can seem like a lot when you have work and other obligations! A great way to reduce anxiety is to break a goal down into its simplest steps. You could break each book down to a certain number of pages a day, and then commit yourself to reading 15 pages at breakfast, or 30 pages on the bus ride home. Break it down to its most easily achievable minigoals, and it will feel a lot more easy to swallow- and you’ll feel good for achieving something, even if you don’t meet every mini goal along the way.
5. Find some support. Even if your family and friends are on board with your goals, it’s even better to be able to have a community around you who’s going through the same thing or trying to achieve something similar. If you can’t rope some friends into helping you achieve your goals, look online for message boards or twitter chats or subreddits (or create some of your own) to talk to people doing the same thing to help motivate you and keep you accountable. With the whole of the internet at your fingertips, there’s no excuse to go through it alone!
What are some tricks you use to help you stay productive? Let me know in the comments!