Over the past few weeks, most of my client calls have at least touched on the topic of staying motivated at work. I hear you.
The weather is warmer, the days are longer, and the golf course is calling for me. Motivation to sit at the desk flags.
This is a predictable story, so this year, I’ve decided to put pen to paper and share what works for boosting my motivation and keeping my productivity high. If you’re also looking out the window wistfully, perhaps some or all these ideas will work for you.
Fifty minutes is the perfect amount of time to maintain mental focus. Educators know this, so most classes are scheduled in fifty-minute blocks. Therapists also embrace the 50-minute hour. It’s a wise practice for everyone. Fifty minutes of work followed by ten minutes of recharge time and brain rest sharpens your focus and improves your attention span for whatever comes next.
It’s a good idea to step away from your desk and your phone during your break and move around. Walk around, talk to people, or listen to music. Keep a pen and paper handy. Good ideas often emerge when we’re doing something else.
This Harvard Business Review article studies the science and the benefits of taking breaks at work. If you’re a manager, consider building break time for you and your team into the workday to keep productivity high and burnout at bay.
The fifty-minute hour requires attention to scheduling, especially if you have a shared calendar. But even if you embrace the 50-minute hour once or twice during your day, you will see a positive difference in your energy level, focus and output.
2) Attention analysis and biorhythms
An attention analysis tells you where and when you spend your time so you can better prioritize your work. It’s easy to perform, and most people find the results illuminating.
Start by printing out your weekly schedule. Calculate the percentage of time spent per activity, i.e., managing staff, admin work, project tasks, strategic thinking, etc., during a typical week. Does what you’re doing accurately reflect your priorities, or could you manage your time better? Are there tasks that should be delegated or eliminated? Taking control of your calendar and being strategic about how you spend your time is a motivating activity.
More on the Art of Time Management: 4,000 Weeks by Oliver Burkeman
The second part of the exercise is to look at your scheduled meetings as they relate to your energy levels throughout the day. If you are a morning person, do what you can to frontload your day with your most intense work to take full advantage of your high-energy periods. Overall, you’ll get more done and feel more accomplished.
A thank you to my friend Don Waisansen for this simple hack that helped me manage through an especially busy time at work.
3) Downsize your goals
This idea is simple. Choose three small things you want to accomplish in a week. They can be related to work or your personal life. They can be as simple as scheduling a fun activity for yourself or completing a project. The key is to make the goals attainable. When we achieve even a small goal, motivation increases.
4) What If?
We all face challenges at work. For the most part, we approach and solve them the same way each time. One of the best ways to stay motivated and keep things interesting is to ask a colleague or friend to help you overcome a challenge with a new idea. Conversations that begin with “What if we could” are work daydreams to embrace. Open-ended conversations with colleagues build and strengthen relationships and help you reconnect with what’s possible.
5) Get outside
The weather is nice, enjoy it. Whenever possible, do walk-and-talk meetings. If you’re working remotely, find places away from your desk that inspire you and expand your thinking. For me, it’s parks, gardens, and quiet corners of museums.
Writing this post reminded me of the stuff that keeps me productive and in good spirits at a hectic time in my work life. I hope it helps you too.