Even the most passionate and motivated among us have off days. We wake up feeling detached from work, or groggy, frustrated or depressed, and we can’t get into the right mindset to be productive. We might be able to go through the motions of work, but we aren’t operating at peak efficiency, nor are we enjoying what we’re doing.
Is this you? Thankfully, even on your worst days, there are some psychological tricks you can use to hack your mind to become more motivated:
1. Visualize your long-term goals.
Research from the University of Virginia suggests that visualizing your potential future is highly motivating, even if that future is distant. Though we tend to perform our best and achieve the best outcomes when we optimize our work and focus for long-term performance, our minds are wired for short-term focus and goals. So, instead of zooming in on one task or project, think about your long-term goals, and work backward to visualize how these small steps will lead to that eventuality. Visualizing should super-charge your focus.
Long-term thinking is what Jeff Bezos used to make Amazon the tech powerhouse it is today. Since 1997, his manifesto has been “It’s all about the long term,” a kind of proactive warning to shareholders that the company is willing to sacrifice short-term revenue if that means higher long-term gains.
2. At least start your task.
One of the hardest parts of any task, especially a challenging one, is actually getting started. Once you’re in the middle of something, it’s much easier to keep that momentum going. To overcome this initial hurdle, commit yourself to at least starting your task;you can always tell yourself that you can abandon it after five good minutes of actual work.
By the time those five minutes are up, you might already be so into the project that you’ll naturally want to carry that momentum forward. So, start! The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll achieve that flow. This charge may seem intimidating or difficult if the task is beyond your usual scope, but in the words of former Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, “I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.”