The following is a guest post by Beth Phillips. Beth is a freelance writer with a focus on technology. She can be found (productively) typing away on her laptop in Philadelphia, PA.
It’s 9:00 on Friday morning and the last thing you want to do is be productive. Your weekend plans are all you can think about, even though you have a long list of work to complete before you get there.
When your motivation starts to wane, try some of these simple tips to get back on track.
1. Power hour
Oftentimes when we’re faced with a never-ending to-do list, it’s sometimes hard to get started. My brain is more alert in the morning after I’ve had my first cup of coffee. This is when I like to have my “power hour.” Coffee in hand, I tackle smaller tasks that I know I can complete within my first 60 minutes at the office.
Some days it might be an accumulation of small tasks — like sending emails, printing reports, locating files for colleagues — other days I might be able to finish an entire project in an hour. Either way, being able to check off items on my to-do list gives me a sense of accomplishment and the motivation to keep tackling the day’s work.
2. Avoid distractions
This might seem like a no-brainer, but if your job requires you to be online constantly, the lure of cat videos, checking Facebook or reading the recent posts on your favorite blog are all a drain on your time.
It’s easy to turn a five minute break into an hour spent browsing online. My saving grace has been LeechBlock for Firefox (Google and Safari offer similar browser add-ons). LeechBlock lets me designate which sites I want to block and when I want to block them.
Checking email (personal or work) can also be a distraction for many (myself included). To keep from going to my Inbox every two minutes, I stick to a routine of checking emails when I first get to work, before and after lunch and later in the evening before I leave. By regulating how often you check your email, it helps to keep you on task and avoid the distraction of small questions or tasks that can disrupt your focus.
Your brain can only stay focused for a certain period of time before you become mentally fatigued. At that point, your ability to start or finish projects starts to diminish. That’s why it’s helpful to force yourself to take regular breaks and get up from your chair.
It’s easy to get into a groove with a project, and before you know it, you’ve been sitting at your desk for three hours. Though it may sound counterintuitive, moving away from your chair for a few minutes every hour is not only good for your health, it gives you a mental break as well. Web app timer-tab is an easy way to notify yourself when it’s time to get out of your chair and clear your mind.
Office yoga and short walks outside can also boost your productivity once you get back to your desk. I often find that walking away from a project, even briefly, can give me a fresh mindset and new ideas when I come back to project.
4. Have the right tools
If you telecommute or work solely from home, having a designated work space is crucial to your level of productivity. Though it may be tempting to work on the couch with your laptop, chances are you’ll end up watching TV whenever you hit a mental roadblock.
Instead, create a work space that has everything you need, in an area free of distraction, which has all the tools you need to get the job done.
Nothing slows down my productivity more than a slow Internet connection. If I’m in the middle of research or working on a project, a frozen browser can stop my work dead in its tracks. Everyone’s job is different. However, if a slow connection is interrupting your work flow, look into fiber-optic Internet options. You’ll be able to choose from faster speeds without any other wireless connections slowing down your speed.
Tim Sprosen referenced one of my favorite productivity tools – Evernote – in a recent article. One of the big roadblocks to productivity is lack of organization. Notes written on pieces of paper, important files, dates, contact information — if everything is scattered on your desk, desktop or in folders, you’re taking time away from a project to hunt down the things you need. Evernote syncs notes, webpages, files, images (literally everything) from your computer, phone or tablet and categorizes everything so you can find what you need immediately.