10 Simple Ways to Focus When You Don’t Feel Like Working
Called “the most productive man you’d ever hope to meet” by TED Talks, a “productivity mastermind” by Fast Company, and “a quirky and energetic guide through the productivity thicket” by the Harvard Business Review, Chris Bailey shares his research conducted over the past ten years, and the research of the world’s foremost productivity experts, to explain what works and what doesn’t when it comes to accomplishing more. Here, Chris shares 10 strategies he uses to re-engage with my work, when he least wants to:
- Set a few intentions. Productivity is the process of becoming more deliberate about how you spend your time, attention, and energy. Intentions help you zone in on the best possible things. Before you begin working, define a few things you want to accomplish by the time the day and week are over. These intentions can be simple or complicated, large or small—the key is to step back from your work and ask what’s important, both today and over the next seven days.
- Work slower. Working slower calms you and allows you to work more deliberately and purposefully. This week, try working slower and on fewer things at once if you find yourself struggling to become re-immersed in your work.
- Disconnect. It’s easier to succumb to distractions when you have less energy and willpower to resist them. To combat this, consider disconnecting from the internet while you do your most important, complicated tasks.
- Download a distractions blocker. If you can’t disconnect completely, download a distractions blocker like Cold Turkey or Freedom. These apps let you pre-decide which sites you want to block yourself from accessing so you can focus more deeply on your work. (A small part of me almost feels relieved when I enable one of these apps— I feel more comfortable doing my most important work because I know I’m not able to access distracting websites)
- Caffeinating can be key. As I wrote the other week, when taken in reasonable doses, caffeine boosts your mental and physical performance in pretty much every way. Drink an extra cup of tea or coffee if you feel your energy waning when you get to the office. While you may experience a larger energy crash later in the day, you’ll also get a significant energy boost in the moment.
- Carve out some time to daydream. This is perfect for your low energy periods. Curiously, the more diffused our attention, the more creative we become because we’re able to connect more disparate ideas in our head. Try spending a bit more time daydreaming this week—like by going for a walk without your phone, or working out without listening to anything. This will mean you can better mentally mull over any challenging problems, and surface any insights waiting to be uncovered.
- Take more breaks than usual. Breaks afford you the ability to not only recharge, but also set intentions for what to work on next. During these breaks, give yourself the attentional space to daydream if you can! Grabbing a coffee with a few coworkers is also a great way to catch up while becoming more productive—cultivating deeper relationships with your colleagues will make you more engaged in your work.
- Work shorter days. It’s a lot more difficult to focus on your work when half of your team is on vacation. Try clocking fewer hours this week if you have less work than usual and have flexibility in your schedule. Chances are you’ve earned it—and if you’re like 55% of Americans, you’ll likely have vacation days to spare this year.
- Work around your energy levels. While our energy levels can fluctuate quite a bit over a typical day, they can fluctuate even more after a long weekend. Be extra mindful of how much energy you have throughout the day. To become more productive, work on your most demanding tasks when you have the most energy, and less demanding tasks, such as maintenance and admin work, when your energy dips.
- Develop a skill or two. It’s easy to slack off during summer when there are fewer people in the office—but it’s also possible to take advantage of these lulls in your work by cultivating your skills. Develop a skill that will help in your work—like learning a new programming language, becoming a better writer, or investing in your productivity—pick up a book or two, and fire up Coursera, Lynda, or even YouTube to dive deeper into developing that skill.
Pick a few strategies from the list above if you’re feeling unmotivated at work—these tactics have done wonders for me, and I’m confident they will for you, too.