Motivation, Self-Control and Productivity

Indiidual in a cape standing on top of a mountain

Motivation is the desire to do things. Psychology Today describes motivation as “the difference between waking up before dawn to pound the pavement and lazing around the house all day.” Motivation is a critical element in setting and attaining goals—and the great news is research shows you can influence your own levels of self-control and motivation.

Get the worm or catch the firefly

It turns out that circadian rhythms really do affect how we work; we all have peaks and valleys in our physical and mental capacity to get work done.

“Numerous studies have demonstrated that our best performance on challenging, attention-demanding tasks occurs at our peak time of day. When we operate at our optimal time of day, we filter out the distractions in our world and get down to business.” Scientific American

Some of us are early birds, and are motivated and able to work harder and more efficiently early in the day. Others are night owls and find that our most productive hours happen after the sun sets. Pay attention to your day and how you feel at certain times. Write down your observations and determine if there is an obvious pattern as to when you feel more confident, capable and focused. Then make sure to plan appropriate tasks for this time period.

Lose the Yoga Pants (unless you are actually doing yoga)

In a Forbes article entitled, “Is Casual Dress Killing Your Productivity at Work?”, Dr. Karen Pine, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and fashion psychologist had this to say about choosing what to wear each day:

“When we put on an item of clothing it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment. A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it’s ‘professional work attire’ or ‘relaxing weekend wear,’ so when we put it on we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning.”

Select clothing that representst the frame of mind you want to be in!

There are some things best left out of the bedroom

Using electronics in the bedroom, right before bed, may negatively impact sleep quality.

“One of the most simple but important reasons technology affects our sleep is cognitive stimulation,” says Mark Rosekind, PhD, former director of the Fatigue Countermeasures Program at the NASA Ames Research Center and president and chief scientist at the scientific consulting firm Alertness Solutions. Scientific data documents the role of light in promoting wakefulness; even our smallest electronic devices emit sufficient light to send signals to the brain to promote wakefulness. 

Your best bet? Make where you sleep an electronic-free zone. If you have to work in the bedroom, it’s best to unplug at least 45-60 minutes before bedtime.

There’s an app for that

To-do lists, calendars, work schedules and deadlines; there are a lot of things to keep track of nowadays. Lucky for us there are hundreds of apps to help us become a bit more organized. There are even apps that track your digital time to give you insight into where you are spending your precious hours. And my favorite? Apps that help break down seemingly impossible tasks into smaller, more manageable, bite-size chunks.

Wiggle it – just a little bit (or a lot)

Really, it’s no joke. Being sedentary is not only harmful for your health; it is terrible for your motivation and discipline. The boost of energy you get from exercising can help you with productivity. Go for a walk – or take frequent breaks to walk up and down the stairs - you’ll feel like you’ve done something important for yourself!

What’s your carrot?

We all have motivators, or in some cases distracters that can become motivators if regulated. Is your favorite past time surfing the internet? Scrolling through Twitter? Watching TV? Do two hours of solid work and then log on to your favorite websites or watch an episode of something. Get that important task finished and reward yourself with something – a manicure, a trip to Starbucks. Tune into your motivators, and turn your distractions into rewards!

Go off the radar

Whenever you have a deadline, or simply need to focus, log off of all other websites including social sites. Turn off your “chat” feature, log out of email, turn off the ringer on your phone, and turn off television/radio. The frequent distractions of these things not only take time to deal with; they also disrupt your thought process and can set you behind. Turn them off. Use them as your “carrot” if needed. You might find that you are working so efficiently, that you don’t even miss them!

Air out, Connect and Communicate

If your work is solitary, you don’t want to become a recluse. Make a point to get out into the world at least once a day. Get some Vitamin D by walking around the block or by going to the store to pick up a gallon of milk. And while you’re there, connect and communicate. Make eye-to-eye contact with the store clerk and ask how their day is going, or share a funny story. Keep your social skills active!

Really, it’s about finding out what energizes you; what makes you feel productive and what makes you most successful. Find those things and do more of them!

Ed4Career offers many courses to assist with goal setting, productivity and time management. Sign up for our four week long, instructor led course Personal Excellence - an excellent place to start!

By Kris Powers | March 15th 2016

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