When it comes to your job, there's almost nothing better than being in a zone of flow and banging out a bunch of work. But if you've ever been on the flip side--sitting at your desk wasting time on the internet instead of getting real work done--you know it's behavior that causes guilt, increases anxiety, and results in tasks piling up. Nobody wants that.
Here are several simple ways to pull yourself out of this destructive rut.
1. Take some time to organize your office.
Chaos within your physical environment can be distracting. By taking 15 minutes, an hour, or however long you need to transform your office into an area of tranquility and order, you can remove the psychological impediments to streamlining your day.
2. Get dressed.
According to Gallup, at least 43 percent of employees spend some time working remotely. If that's you, you know how easy it is to roll out of bed and work in your pajamas--who will know or care? But there's something about brushing your teeth, combing your hair, and putting on proper attire that tells your mind it's time to get down to business.
German theologian Martin Luther is quoted as having said, "I have so much to do today that I'm going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done." It seems like counterintuitive advice, but if your workload really is insurmountable, doesn't it make sense to ask the Supreme Being for help?
4. Give yourself a deadline (and a reward that follows).
Pick a task, look at the clock, and allot a time within the current workday as the deadline for completion. Tell yourself that once it's done, you will reward yourself with something that will get your endorphins pumping, such as a walk or jog outdoors.
5. Just start with 10 headings or emails.
Need to write an essay, a report, or a book? Don't worry about the content. Just brainstorm 10 titles or headlines. This little step gets the ball rolling. Save your document, and voilà--your work has begun. Or how about sending out 10 query emails to people who might help you or will be part of the big project you're putting off?
6. Make your bed.
In a commencement speech given at the University of Texas, Admiral William McRaven said:
If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can't do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.
For even more inspiration for getting up and doing great things in the world, watch a YouTube video of his speech.
7. Understand that some amount of procrastination is good for creativity.
In a TED Talk with more than 7.4 million views, organizational psychologist Adam Grant discusses a study he and colleagues conducted in which they found that there's a sweet spot somewhere between finishing a project as soon as possible and waiting until the very last minute. It turns out that when people were given a task, but then told to do something different that kept them from accomplishing the original assignment for a period of time, they were markedly more creative than those who completed the task immediately.
"It's only when you're told that you're going to be working on this problem, and then you start procrastinating, but the task is still active in the back of your mind, that you start to incubate," he said. "Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to think in nonlinear ways, to make unexpected leaps."