Motivational lulls: We all face them. Periods of torpor, of listless lethargy.
Finding oneself in a slothful stupor is tiresome to say the least. Mundane tasks take on epic proportions. Chores once executed with alacrity, take a long sluggish morning – on a good day.
I write this while staring a to-do list of boring tasks. How to climb out of this slump? How to find the impetus needed so that the boring tasks seem easy once more? Here are a few ideas in no particular order – please suggest any others you think of and I will add them.
It might just be me, but I find that a lot of my best thinking happens when I’m reading. But not just any reading – the best is to pick something to read that is different, new or inspiring. Most often I go for a book or paper from another discipline on themes I am working on or just interested in regardless of relevance.
I am about to attend one of my favorite conferences next week. I am looking forward to: meeting friends and colleagues who I don’t see often, and hearing about research that will get me thinking… I also have some presentations to do, and even the act of preparing my slides should get me thinking about my own work differently. Conferences can be a motivational kick-start.
3. Media engagement
I have not been present in the social media for very long, but having a twitter account, and reading blogs has opened-up my academic world. There is a huge amount of stuff out there, which can be overwhelming. Once you get used to the volume and are strict about how much time to spend on media sources, it changes how you interact with the world. I have come across research that I wouldn’t have found in the journals I read, I have started following people from other disciplines. Start engaging more: blogging gets you out there, and forces you to write. New social media interactions help you make new connections in your mind, and inspiration switches on…
4. The 20 minute rule?
I tried this out this morning. It was recommended to me as an effective technique by a friend. To get through the mundane or irritating tasks, set 20 minutes and blast through one task non-stop. Either you get it done, or you make a decent dent in it – enough to feel like you have achieved something. Then, stop, and move onto the next task on the list for 20 minutes. When you’re able to draw a line in a few of those tasks, you feel motivated to keep going.
There may still be a few things that you enjoy doing – I hope. For me: working on my blog, scrolling through twitter, having a coffee break with a colleague, reading something I have been looking forward to…. To get through the hard times, give yourself a reward after each tricky task. If we’re honest, this amounts to self-bribery, but who is judging?
6. Get up & move about!
Install a whiteboard in your office, or use the one in a nearby meeting room and flesh-out ideas while standing up. Start thinking on your feet, it actually makes a difference. There’s only so much you can get done on a whiteboard, but if you are stuck on something, drawing and writing it standing up at the whiteboard helps you see it from a different angle. There’s no excuse for a blank whiteboard: a clean whiteboard is the sign of a sick mind!
7. Take your ideas for a romantic walk
Another tip courtesy of Alex: Divide up a difficult job into acheivable tasks. Take an idea your working on for a trip to a park, for half an hour. Have a romantic walkabout dreaming about the idea in question while taking notes. After a while return to the office and clarify your notes. Over the following days build-upon your notes & write it all up – the hardest part. Next step, edit your work.
The idea is that motivation leads to momentum… Now I must go and take my own advice!
To-do lists don’t work (Harvard business review blog)