Coming back to work after the holiday season can be a little relief until you realize you’re back at work. All too quickly someone calls to follow up on an email they sent a minute and a half ago, or you lose the keys to the file cabinet and it all comes crashing down. Hey, it happens to all of us. Staying motivated during this time of the year can be difficult. We’ve put together some ideas for how to overcome these post-holiday workplace frustrations.
Realize That Time is a Limited Resource
Too many business owners fall into the trap of thinking “if I just sit here for another hour I’ll get so much more done.” In reality, that’s not always the case. Time management experts across the board say that taking an honest assessment of how you spend your time can increase productivity without increasing the number of working hours. This may mean you don’t answer email the first second you get out of bed, but instead take the time to fully wake up and get ready for the day. Taking this approach allows you to gather your thoughts, create a daily game plan, and starts the day with focus instead of frenzy. You don’t actually need to know what emails have come in overnight before coffee. In fact, having coffee first means you’ll make better decisions when you do read them.
Taking a time audit can also be a motivational tool because you’re allowing yourself to begin the day as a day, instead of being overwhelmed from the moment you get out of bed. Taking this a step further, consider how you spend your time all throughout the day. Who do you associate with? If you’re on the phone or in the office talking to toxic people who suck up all of your time for very little value stop doing that. You’re killing off your own energy and positive feelings about work by hanging out with people who only take from you.
Research shows that you become the most like people you spend most of your time with. What good does it do for you to become most like a person who demands everything and offers nothing in return?
Owners who start realizing that they don’t have endless amounts of time to spend at the office, or in meetings begin to prioritize the most important things up front. Over time, this means you’ll get more done, spend less time looking busy and have more time to spend with family or on entertainment. Improving your own quality of life through prioritization can be a great motivating factor and help you maintain a more consistent level of effort at work.
One of the things people do who work in high stress situations is learn to compartmentalize. This means cultivating the mental ability to put things away instead of letting them bleed over. As businesspeople we get caught in these endless thought loops about answering emails, managing social media, what we could’ve said better in a meeting, and on and on. Learning to compartmentalize means eliminating that little voice and instead focusing on the task at hand. We can do this by setting up systems. Systems add another layer to time management and also help us avoid getting bogged down.
There’s an online app called “If This Then That” which sets up little recipes for common activities, which can train us to compartmentalize over time. Setting up a system through the app like automatically adding new email addresses to a Google spreadsheet for CRM allows you to focus on just answering the new email, instead of answering the new email, going to LinkedIn, finding them on Twitter, setting a reminder to follow up, etc. Now you can focus one hour on email, and one later hour on CRM with all of the necessary information at hand. Each task has its own space and you aren’t on the treadmill of distraction. It’s called taking whole thoughts and activities from beginning to end. Motivating, right?
Focus On What You Do Best
Think about all of the things you do in a day. How many of them really have anything to do with why you got into business in the first place? Probably not that many. If you find your personal motivation slipping, consider that it might be directly related to the portion of your day spent on stuff you hate or you aren’t that good at. How many networking breakfasts are you going to? Cocktails? Lunches? LinkedIn groups? How many meetings are you sitting in without any real defined purpose?
Handle your business, or it will handle you. Sounds harsh, but it’s true. If you read entrepreneur websites these days, you should be tweeting, and eating your way to networking success. But, consider this – how fruitful are these activities if you haven’t spent as much time on your product? Look at the personalities at big industry events, the most successful people in those industries are often missing from those events. Why? They’re at work. They are focusing on what they do best, not how big they can make their collection of business cards. Chances are, you’ll be a happier person if you sleep in, skip the breakfast, and sit down to work ready to take on the day. Saying no just became a pro-growth strategic business decision. Feel better? Your paying customers probably will too.