High performers thrive on being productive, yet no one feels motivated all the time. So how can you supercharge your productivity?
You can overcome a lack of motivation and be productive. Here are three strategies that work well for me.
1. Realize your impact to move from funk to focus
When we’re feeling unmotivated, we’re not focused on anything in particular; we’re just reacting to what happens to us. I have found that the trick to getting out of the funk and into focus is to determine the greatest impact you make in what you do every single day.
One of my clients is someone I admire, and she has become a close friend. One day, I was sharing with her all the things I was working on. She said to me, “Scott, I don’t think you understand how much your career and your daily job are your actual ministry.” I asked her what she meant by that. She replied, “You help people all day long. You’re making an impact all day long in people’s lives. If you break that down into an average appointment, how many times did you provide advice that might help somebody do something?”
It’s funny that what she told me is something I often tell others. But I had lost focus on that vital truth.
Helping others will always pull you out of any funk. When I focus on that, I’m always going to be the best version of myself. When you’re caught up in yourself, you’re never going to be the best version of yourself.
- Recognize the impact you make on others. Given your unique skills, experience, background, and education, you are doing something that impacts somebody else daily. What is it? How is it happening? In what area of your life is it happening?
- Remember my LIFE Optimization concept. The letters LIFE representing love, impact, faith, and energy.
- Make a habit of focusing on your daily impact. This way, you will intentionally do something kind for someone else, whether in your professional or personal life. Unmotivated people will find motivation through you and your acts of kindness. If you can remember that, it can be the kick-start you need to amp up your own motivation. This can mean simply holding the door for someone whose hands are full. It can be smiling at someone instead of just walking past them and ignoring them. Or maybe you pay for the coffee order of the person behind you.
- Focus on others. When you turn that mirror around and focus on what’s in front of you instead of on yourself, you are visualizing success. You are visualizing the recipe for a great day. And a great day starts on a positive note.
2. Rest and recharge
Many times, we lack motivation because we are worn out — physically, mentally, and/or emotionally. As high performers, we all experience this. I struggle with it all the time.
We need to, again, make a habit of building rest and downtime into our lives. When we are focusing on making an impact in other people’s lives, it’s easy to lose focus on caring for ourselves. But we must because we will not be much help to others if we’re exhausted.
Sometimes, when we lose motivation and we’re unable to feel productive, we just need to take a step back. Especially for high performers, this can be the opposite of what we think we should do. We push ourselves to hammer through the fatigue. But that is typically counterproductive. You have to know yourself really well. You have to know what your limits are and what your mind and body need to recharge. This looks different for everyone.
- Know who you are and what you need to recharge. Maybe you just need to take an hour to relax and think. Or maybe you need to go for a walk or a run. Or call someone special to chat for a few minutes. Or get away from the concrete jungle and out into nature.
- This can require that you reallocate the way you’ve planned your time for the day. So, what if you are feeling exhausted and unmotivated, but you have to meet an urgent deadline or prepare for a critical meeting? This is often a reality of the high-performance life. In some cases, it helps just to take some deep breaths. We often forget the power of taking a deep breath. We forget the value of a few moments of silence. Maybe you don’t have time to go for that run or drive out into the country right now. Plan it for later, and you can look forward to it. In the meantime, take just a few minutes to rest and recharge.
- Ask yourself, “Why am I run down? Is my brain tired, or is my body tired?” Even if you don’t have a lot of time right now to rest and recharge, you can feel better simply by taking deep breaths, stretching a little, and thinking about something that calms you.
If you make it a habit to build these small times of respite into your life regularly, you will be less likely to suffer from serious burnout or exhaustion.
3. Build rewards into your day and week
When you constantly work on major, long-term initiatives, it can be difficult to see the results of your hard work. This is another common cause of feeling lackluster and unmotivated.
Research shows that most people are enthusiastic about their projects at first, but they often “lose steam” in the middle. Creating shorter-term sub-goals on the way to meeting your longer-term goals can help. It also helps to keep a written record of your progress. That way, you can easily see how much you have accomplished instead of stressing about how much is left to do.
High performers tend to stay in a constant state of gap and gain. In October 2021, Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy published a great book called The Gap and The Gain: The High Achievers’ Guide to Happiness, Confidence, and Success. The book is based on the work that legendary entrepreneur coach Dan Sullivan has done with tens of thousands of successful entrepreneurs. These high performers tend to measure their progress according to an “ideal,” a moving target that is always out of reach. This is what the authors call “the gap,” and it typically leads to unhappiness. Instead, the authors recommend that we focus on the “gain,” which is the progress we’ve made in our own lives.
Sullivan reveals in the book that when his coaching clients take stock of all they’ve accomplished, both personally and professionally, they are often shocked at how much they have actually achieved. They weren’t able to appreciate their progress because no matter how much they were getting done, they were usually measuring themselves against their ideals or goals.
Throughout my career, I have found motivation by rewarding myself. For example, I would set goals for myself all week long, and if I accomplished them, I would take my wife out for a fancy dinner on Friday evening. That would be my weekly reward. I would also build daily rewards for myself. Maybe I would take time to sit down and enjoy a meal, even if it was a small one, and even if I was on a tight schedule. My reward would be that I would take a pause in the middle of the day if I get a certain number of tasks accomplished.
- Change the way you measure progress. Instead of measuring your progress against ambitious goals, measure how far you’ve come in the past month, quarter, year, five years, or more. This simple strategy can infuse you with a huge dose of motivation! Where were you in the past, where are you now? What does that gain look like? Visualize your success. Celebrate it! That should motivate you to make further progress.
- Complete a small task. What is a sub-goal of a bigger goal that you can finish soon, to feel a sense of accomplishment? Rewarding yourself helps you stay in the game. It helps you focus on your progress instead of on the work that’s still left to do.
- Don’t make it complicated! These rewards can be super-simple. Maybe you just need a small piece of dark chocolate after you finish a set of calls or finish a big meeting. Or maybe you need to reward yourself with a workout. Those are two separate ends of the spectrum, but both of them could be motivational rewards.