Work smarter, not harder.
by Amanda LeBlanc
How do you motivate yourself when you just want to pull the covers over your head and make the world go away?
I wish I had a tried-and-true, perfect answer that could snap you out of the doldrums and make you jump up to complete even the most boring of tasks. Even I have times of pure burnout and procrastination where my blessings start to seem like a curse.
I have tried a cup of coffee, a bar of chocolate, even telling myself if I just finish this one task then I can take a break and watch my favorite TV show. Still, sometimes there seems to be nothing to motivate me past my tired and weary self.
Is this your body’s way of letting you know you’ve reached max capacity? Who knows? But what I do know is, your boss, your client, or whoever you have to answer to won’t care what capacity you have reached. No matter how tired we are, there are just times when we have to do what we have to do. So how can we overcome the lack of self-discipline?
Here are some things I have tried that seem to have made a difference.
The first thing is to say “No!” Wait, what? Didn’t I just tell you there are some things you just have to do? Yes I did, but there are others you don’t. I have written before about being realistic about what you can and cannot do. If you over commit yourself, you will burn out. The first step to not suffer burnout and exhaustion is to simply avoid agreeing to do something you don’t want to do or don’t have time for.
The next thing is to learn your peak times. I am a morning person. I’m at peak mental performance between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m. After that folks, it’s all downhill! Just kidding, but it is true that I know myself well enough to know that if I have something important to handle or something that will take a great deal of focus, I am better off doing it in the morning. Find your peak performance time and know that even if you cannot fit all your tasks into that time period, it should help you choose which ones need to be done during that time.
That leads to my next piece of advice, which is to prioritize. Just as Stephen Covey taught us all those years ago, not everything is a top priority. Knowing the order in which things need to be handled means the difference between working smart and working hard. Believe me, I have gone through periods of working hard rather than smart, and I never want to make that mistake again. It comes down to handling the urgent versus the important. Not handling the important or having the right priorities can and will sink your life.
Even though we know all these neat little tricks to determine what to handle when, how do you make yourself get beyond your tiredness or your procrastination? At the base of all of it is something I feel very few people really understand: self discipline. In my opinion, it is the critical trait that defines those that are successful.
Self-discipline is defined as training and control of oneself and one’s conduct, usually for personal improvement.
What does that really mean? It means knowing what needs to be done and getting it done, whether you like it or not. We are a society teaching the very opposite concept. We have many of our youth that know nothing about self-discipline. They think everything you do should be something you want to do. It should be fun, and anything we do not enjoy we should not have to do. I see this every day and it is not a good way to think.
All in all, we need to know that not everything we do is going to be fun. Work can sometimes be just that—work. To motivate ourselves, we need to know what needs to be done, have the insight to know when we need to tackle it, and then get the job done. Oh, and a little chocolate never hurt!