We’ve all been in the position where we find ourselves staring at a task at hand (laundry, writing your blog, meal prep etc.) and throwing our hands up and saying “When I have motivation, I’ll get this done”. We are all guilty of this. Motivation is a tricky concept. You can’t touch it. You can’t store it. And you definitely can’t buy it, and the worst part of it – you can’t measure it (the scientist in me is cringing)!
Your motivation shouldn’t dictate how you tackle your “To-Do list”. After all, time waits for no one. There are a couple of steps you can do, to help yourself when you are in a motivational rut.
Create your list
In 15 seconds I can come up with at least 5 things that require my attention. Any longer and the list can get pretty long. On a really bad week, the list can get as long as 103 things to do… yes, I’ve counted. The list is made from tasks related to work, relationship-building, home, school, and self-care (of course). If your lists can get pretty long, then relying on your motivation isn’t reliable and scalable. It can be a huge mental and physical strain.
Work | Relationship | Home | School | Blog | Me
Having categories doesn’t allow anything to slip through the cracks, especially self-care. Once you make an exhaustive list of what needs to get done, then we can move on to step 2.
Schedule your tasks
When you prioritize your categories, what comes first? Schedule the highest priority category first. The key is sprinkling the other categories around your first priority to have a healthy balance of tasks to get done. A classic mistake I see many of my friends and family do is bundling all their tasks together in a day or two. Amateur move. They started off super motivated but only really end up getting to two or three things.
You are not a robot! You should enjoy what you are doing, and learn how to perfect your technique. That means take your time! If cleaning the house takes about 45 minutes, and you don’t feel like it’s that clean, then dedicate another 20 minutes to it. Take your time, don’t rush. Similarly,don’t multitask. I know that you might think it’s a time saver that will let you get to other things in the meantime, but doing so is going to lead you to the path of exhaustion — your mental space will crash and burn.
TLDR: One at a time. Invest that time. Enjoy that time. Finish your task… on time!
The key is a healthy (diverse) schedule with different tasks that keeps you stimulated, but not overworked. I think 5 major things should be completed in a day — whether that is writing a blog post, cleaning out the coffee machine, or taking out the trash. If you have larger tasks… like writing a thesis, break it up!. Breaking it up into digestible chunks will allow you to finish your assignment on time, without feeling stressed and rushed.
“But Caroline… I’m feeling so motivated right now…and have finished all my tasks for the day”Little Voice in Caroline’s Head
First of all… excellent work. Secondly, keep it going! It’s always better to demolish your list and do more if you have the motivation to do so. Once in a blue moon, you will find yourself clearing out an entire category in one day. Truly amazing! But also remember that this is not sustainable over a long period of time. The schedules we are building will allow us to move ahead if we’d like, but also plan for when we will feel like not doing anything. This way you won’t fall behind and won’t scramble to catch up.
Controversial Disclaimer: I plan everything around my work-life. (Don’t Judge) I know that there is a lot of controversy around this, but I am at the point of my life where my relationship with my partner is solid and my school is starting to come to an end (for now). So my next step is to really focus on my career, create strong relationships with my managers and co-workers, and build my skillset and network. It just so happens that I’m in a phase in my life where I can focus on my career. This could be temporary, and I will have to change which category comes first, but for now work is my first priority.
Make your plans flexible
Life happens. It does to me, and it will to you too. You might get a promotion, lose your watch, or might forget to get something at the grocery store. Whatever it is, find room to be flexible. Instead of just giving up and pushing the task to another day, find an equivalent task that you can swap that you have the brain space for. It can be frustrating when you feel you have to switch over a task last minute, especially when you’ve already thought about how you were going to execute. When that happens give yourself some extra time to think through a better plan and commit to it.
You could also give yourself enough breathing room between tasks (sprinkle with some self-care). This can make it easier to say, I’ll skip on the cucumber facial for now and get a move on on the next task — if you are running out of time. You will still be just as productive. You won’t feel bad that you didn’t get enough work done, and you didn’t overwhelm your future-self with more work. Somedays, you may have more self-care/free-time than you planned for and the cosmic balance of the universe will be restored. Plans are all but a suggestion of how to lead your own lives, and with enough flexibility, life’s curveballs and your motivation can be sustained or made-up for.
We look forward to seeing your never-ending task list find its end. Post a picture of your progress in the comments below!
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