We all go through periods where our motivation to get things done is lacking. Maybe it’s the first hour you get to work every day, or the thirty minutes between your last meeting and lunch. Or sometimes it’s a Saturday afternoon and you feel like getting a few things taken care of, but don’t have the time or attention to dig into the hard stuff. It doesn’t matter when or why–we all experience this from time to time.
Keeping your focus is equally challenging when you have up to a dozen different things vying for your attention. Between your work e-mail, personal e-mail, work phone, cell phone, work instant messaging, personal instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, and other distractions, it’s a wonder we get even 20 minutes of uninterrupted work time. The myth of multitasking has been debunked by many others, so I won’t go into it here.
Staying focused and motivated–keeping your foot on the gas–is tough even under ideal conditions. But how can you maximize your unmotivated time? I keep a list of tasks I enjoy, that ultimately need to be done, but aren’t mission critical. When I need to give my brain a rest, I pick things off the list. For example:
- Clean out my inbox. The best time for this is during Twins games and when I’m cleaning out my DVR, watching shows I probably shouldn’t have recorded in the first place.
- Organize my workspace. Each time I reorganize, I get better at it. There’s just something about a clean desk, isn’t there?
- Check out the competition. It never hurts to do a little web research to see what else is going on in your industry.
- Write a thank you note. If someone in your office has been especially influential or helpful lately, send them a thank you note. Team and office morale is everyone’s job, and it never hurts to recognize others when they go out of their way to help.
- Brainstorm. Most people don’t give themselves dedicated time to think more conceptually and strategically about their job. It’s too easy to get stuck in the day-to-day tactics and, if we don’t designate time to step back, we get bogged down. You can brainstorm about improving a business process, about targeting new markets, about a new slogan or logo.
- Research what you’re doing. Are you working on requirements analysis? Look it up online. Learn how other people do it, how the practice started, and tips and tricks for doing it better. You’ll be surprised by how many people do what they’ve always done and get what they’ve always got. With a little more knowledge, you can make a big difference, and it doesn’t take long before you become your team’s expert in the area.
I could add to this list for hours, but you get the picture. What’s on your list?