If you’re lacking motivation or energy these days, it’s not just you. Unfortunately, we don’t have an “on” button, and we can’t be plugged into an outlet. That means that no matter how much our employers expect us to be productive from 9-5, our energy levels and motivation don’t always fall in line with our work calendars. The conversation about women “having it all” somehow fails to mention that sometimes we just don’t want to do any of it. But there are tricks and tips to check in with your body, boost your energy levels, and find that motivation whenever you need it. If it’s an important week or a busy workday and your energy levels missed the memo, here are 10 things to boost productivity and motivation.
1. Take a break
Yes, you do deserve a break, no matter how busy your day is (and you can let your boss know that we said so!). If it feels difficult to get anything done or you’re just feeling low energy overall, don’t force yourself to push through; it’s probably your body’s way of telling you that you need to take a break. Even spending five minutes to organize your space or 10 minutes to go on a quick walk around the block can re-energize you when you’re feeling rundown. Also, make sure you’re taking a (real!) lunch break every single day to do something enjoyable besides eating before you get back to work. If taking breaks still doesn’t feel like a fix, you might be suffering from burnout, whether it’s emotional or work-specific. If possible, take a long weekend to reset and talk to your boss about finding more work-life balance.
2. Get outside
As humans, we’re meant to be outdoors while the sun is out. Even though that’s not always possible with 9-5 office hours and dropping temperatures, getting your daily dose of sunshine is crucial for energy levels because it can suppress melatonin production and increases alertness. Plus, fresh air feels refreshing AF and will invigorate you when you need an energy push. If you don’t have time to go on a walk or do some outdoor meditation, try eating your meals outside. Bundle up, sip on a hot cup of coffee, and enjoy your breakfast on the patio, or take your lunch break sitting out in your yard or a nearby park. You can also try taking calls while going on a walk or sitting outside instead of at your desk for a Zoom meeting.
3. Take a shower
Besides just extra points for cleanliness and hygiene, taking a shower makes you more alert. I rarely shower in the morning (I’m a bath-at-night kinda girl), but on the days that I do, I feel a huge difference in my energy and productivity. In my opinion, water wakes you up better than a shot of espresso ever could, so if you’re in a bit of a slump, you don’t need a nap or another cup of coffee. Instead, take a quick five-minute shower and watch your motivation increase immediately. If you’re #extra like me, try a “shot” of cold water by decreasing the water temperature at the very end of your shower for 5-10 seconds. The cold water increases alertness and might offer a variety of health benefits as a bonus.
4. Turn off your phone
With endless scrolling on Instagram or entertaining TikToks just a touch of a button away, I don’t know how anyone gets anything done anymore. Smartphone addiction is real, and social media could be severely hurting your productivity. Try turning off your phone, leaving it in another room, or deleting any apps that are sucking up your time. With the phone out of the picture (literally), you won’t be as tempted to check Facebook or scroll through Instagram and might realize it’s easier to get things done when the temptation is removed. Also, try one of these habits to help you spend less time on your phone.
5. Put on a playlist
Sometimes all it takes to get out of a funk is a funky (the good kind) playlist. For me, my “Caffeine” playlist makes me want to get sh*t done; for Social Media Editor Abigail, her “Anti-Anxiety League” playlist helps her feel centered and focused; and for a productivity-boosting playlist that we all love, “The Everygirl Listens: Office Tunes” totally slaps (I hear that’s a thing the cool kids are saying). Whether “Eye of the Tiger” gets you amped to check items off your to-do list or “Confidence” makes you want to conquer the world, the goal of this playlist is to energize and motivate you. Turn on the playlist when you’re feeling a lack of energy and let the gift of Harry Styles or Taylor Swift boost your productivity.
6. Check off the to-do list tasks that take less than two minutes to complete
Long to-do lists can nag at us and make us feel overwhelmed. Your to-do list might feel so daunting or exhausting that you can’t even face it. Instead, start working on all of those tiny little things on your overall to-do list that you’ve been putting off but take less than two minutes. Schedule a doctor’s appointment, answer that email you’ve been meaning to get to, or order a restock of toilet paper from Amazon. You don’t have to complete every single task to improve your mood, so checking the smaller things off will increase motivation and ease overwhelm. For the bigger tasks, just making a plan for tackling them is sufficient to help make them feel less daunting. Decide when you’ll do the task and set a reminder on your phone or a Post-It.
7. Get moving
Anything that takes you out of your head and back into your body can help with stress, anxiety, and lack of energy. If stress is causing the lack of productivity, movement that focuses on breathing helps center you. Take a break to go through a yoga flow whenever you feel motivation dip, and focus on taking deep breaths with each movement (think “inhale” and “exhale” to stay focused). Breathwork (or breathing exercises) is another powerful tool to destress that you can do anytime. If the lack of productivity is due to overall fatigue or boredom, try a fun workout like going on a jog while listening to a podcast or trying a dance cardio video on Youtube for an immediate fix, and make sure to get to bed earlier that night.
8. Set up your environment to make you feel better
Your environment completely affects the way you feel. Whether you’re in a perpetual funk or just having an off-day, take some time to arrange the aspects of your environment you have control over. For example, clean the kitchen, organize the desk area, put on a playlist (see above!), burn a candle, and turn off phone notifications. Clutter in your space results in clutter in your mind, and too much clutter (in your space and your mind) can make you feel overwhelmed or exhausted. Making simple changes to your workspace or even organizing that junk drawer can transform the way you feel about the rest of your day.
9. Identify a purpose through visualization
Without a doubt, the greatest tool for self-development is our imagination. If you’re lacking productivity, you probably haven’t checked in with your “why” enough. Why are you putting in the effort? Is it to achieve a career milestone, save up enough money to buy a house, or feel fulfilled in your job? Maybe you want to eat healthy foods so you can feel like your best self, or keep the house organized so you can feel relaxed when you’re at home. Once you’ve identified the purpose of being productive, visualize yourself reaching it and how your life would be different. When you visualize achieving the goal instead of just setting it, you’ll automatically feel more motivated to put in the effort. It’s like dangling a carrot right in front of you instead of a far-off goal that doesn’t seem real.
10. Be OK with feeling “OK”
If all else fails, remind yourself that it’s OK to have an off-day (or even an off-week). In fact, productivity naturally ebbs and flows depending on the time of day, sleep quality, and even our menstrual cycles. Are you noticing a lack of productivity, or are you shaming yourself for a lack of productivity? We believe that we’re not supposed to need a break. In reality, it’s not only OK to have an off-day, but it’s necessary. Know that negative feelings, while uncomfortable, are also human. Despite whatever intentions you have or how hard you work, some days are just going to be better than others. Let yourself take it easy, rest, and recover today, and then pick yourself up and choose to find a purpose to get excited about tomorrow.