I've written before about the fact that I "only" work 40-45 hours most weeks, increasing to 50 hours or so only when I have deadlines to meet. I think that I can do this and still continue to advance in my career because I've figured out how to be very productive during those 40 to 45 hours. I have a reputation for getting a lot done, and it is well-deserved, if I do say so myself. (And its my blog, so I can do that.)
Maintaining high productivity is easy when my motivational levels are high. The trick is to maintain acceptable productivity when they dip lower. I've been in a bit of a motivational slump lately. I don't kid myself- I have not been as productive as I could be these last few weeks. I'm bringing my B game to the table, not my A game. But frankly, my B game is good enough, at least for a short period of time. I can't afford to let it slip to my C game, though.
How do I keep my productivity up during these inevitable slumps? Two things: lists and rewards.
I've written before about how I use lists to help keep myself on task and keep my work hours down. As I describe in that post, I usually just keep a master to do list and a list with the most urgent upcoming tasks. When my motivation slumps, though, my lists multiply. I write a daily to do list and use that to keep myself focused during the day. I write "intermediate" to do lists of things that have to be done before some key event (like a presentation, an important meeting, or a vacation), and use those to populate my daily lists. I print out the plans for the projects I am working on and highlight the most urgent tasks. Basically, I surround myself with reminders of what I am supposed to be doing, and I increase my opportunities to get the satisfaction of crossing a task off a list- sometimes finishing one task allows me to cross something off of three or four lists or project plans. That makes me happy. I love crossing things off my lists.
My second key strategy is to give myself little rewards. Finished a particularly annoying task? That earns me a five minute walk outside the building. Had a productive morning? I get to go buy a bag of chips to eat with my lunch. Not all of my rewards are so strictly tied to visible progress, though. When my motivation is low, my work limit falls, and I find that I need to allow myself to refresh at night more than usual. So my beer intake goes up- instead of only having a beer or two with my husband on Fridays (our practically sacrosanct "Friday night beers"), I'll crack open a beer after the kids are asleep several times a week. I'll let myself blog instead of checking work emails, or I'll watch a TV show with my husband instead of trying to knock a home chore off the at home to do list.
I know from experience that these slumps pass, and I'll be back to my usual motivation levels before too long. But I don't have the slack in my work life to let the slumps just run themselves out. So I pull out my lists and rewards, and muscle through.
What about you? What do you do when your motivation slumps?