How To Be More Productive And Motivated After Work
We’ve all been there, you come home from work with a million things to do and all you can think about is laying down on the couch and watching the next episode in your favorite Netflix series. You wish you could be more productive and motivated after work, but you know that you can just get to it tomorrow. Then tomorrow comes and the cycle repeats, over and over again. You realize the cycle needs to end, but how?
How do you be more productive and motivated after work?
A plan to make sure you get more done needs to be individualized, but the easiest items to take action on are putting down your phone, building a to-do list, and time blocking. After that, you can go a step further and give yourself time constraints and incentives to get more done.
Similar to building a financial plan, you need to do what works best for you. This will take time and experimentation but the results over the long-term will bring you so much fulfillment.
Before we get into some ideas to help you be more productive, I want to throw in some math. I agree that math can be boring so bear with me. The good thing about math though is that it’s a fact, and you can’t dispute it.
If you struggle with finding time to get things done and you blame lack of time, then I’m sorry but you have a reality check coming. We all have the same amount of time and everyone at some point struggles to balance things. Solving that problem will come down to how you prioritize what you want to get done in any given day. The good news is that I have a solution.
For the most part, the first hour after people get off work is their least productive for the whole day. It makes sense to me. You don’t have that annoying co-worker bothering you and you can finally relax. What would happen if you didn’t though? What would happen if you used one of the ideas below to actually make that time your most productive hour of the day?
Let’s do the math. If you took that one hour and changed it from unproductive to productive, it would be 5 hours per week. That equals roughly 260 hours a year (different number of weekdays depending on the year). That 260 hours equates out to be almost 11 additional days of productive work in a year.
What could you get done with 11 additional days in a year? They’re there, sitting right in front of you every day.
Put Down The Phone
If you opened this article and didn’t think this would be on the list, then you are crazy. The #1 distraction for people in the world today is their phone. Have you ever come home, sat down, opened up a social media app and before you know it an hour has gone by? For some this happens every single day and it’s a problem.
I’m not immune to this either and often catch myself having to make a conscious decision to put my phone down. It’s difficult, as it seems our phones have become an extension of our body. The technology we have at our fingertips is mind blowing and while it has made our lives exponentially easier, it is also a curse.
The creators of these apps, especially social media ones, have people on staff that are literally only trying to figure out ways to make us want to come back for more. These are doctors, usually psychologists, that understand what happens when we get a notification and the ensuing release of endorphins. The reason for this is simple; the more time we spend on their app, the more money they make.
I know that seems quite grim but people are taking steps to combat it. You’re hearing more and more about people attempting to get away from their phones. Whether this is by only checking their email once a day or trying to not pick up their phone for the first couple hours of a day, people are noticing that it’s decreasing the quality of their time and they’re actively trying to fix that.
We are starting to understand and see that our phones are distracting us and inhibiting us from being as productive as we can be. Personally, I haven’t found a solution for this but I am going to start experimenting because no one needs to be checking Facebook twenty-nine times a day.
At the end of the day, technology is a blessing but we also need to find a way to control it and not let it control us.
Have A To-Do List
Does your mind move at a million miles per hour all the time? This is something I struggle with every day. I have too many ideas and things I want to pursue and just not enough time.
Often I’ll find myself jumping from one thing to another and by the end of the day, I’ve accomplished nothing. Worse yet, I’ll find myself doing busy work. Busy work is whe you think you are doing something productive and adding value to your life but it really is meaningless.
For example, I love checking my analytics and keyword stats for this site. I’ll actually catch myself doing this multiple times per day when I know nothing is going to change in a couple hours. This is busy work and it’s a huge waste of time.
Building a To-Do List
To combat busy work and actually be more productive and motivated after work, you need to build a to-do list. This may seem old-fashioned but there is a reason this tactic has been around forever; it works.
You are an intelligent person so I don’t need to tell you how to write down the things you need to do. What I would suggest is putting this list somewhere that matters. I personally use an app on my phone called Wunderlist. It’s nothing fancy and I definitely don’t use it to its full potential but it gets the job done for me. Here’s a screenshot from the app.
It’s not flashy or complex but it gets the job done. It even allows me to add the red ribbon on the side of certain tasks to prioritize them.
You don’t need an expensive app with all the extras to make a to-do list on your phone. If you want to make it simple, just use the notes app which every smartphone in the world has. Taking a step back in time further, you could even go as far as just using a pen and paper.
The point is, you need to write down the things you need to get done. If you want to be more productive and motivated after work, then you need to have a plan and one that doesn’t involve busy work. You can’t make a plan if you don’t have an idea of all the tasks you still have left to do.
Time blocking has become quite popular over the last couple of years with the endorsement of influential people like Elon Musk.
You don’t have to be a genius to figure out what time blocking means since it is exactly what it sounds like. You block out certain time slots to get tasks done. Here’s what this could look like:
- 6:00am: Wake Up
- 6:10am: Shower
- 6:20am: Make/Eat Breakfast
- 6:35am: Finish Getting Ready.
- 7:00am: Leave for work
- 7:30am: Weekly Meeting
- 8:00am: Check Emails
- 8:10am: Refill Water Bottle
- 8:15am: Edit Article
- 9:00am: Supervisor Meeting
Now, this may seem super detailed and ridiculous but for a lot of people, it actually works. Obviously, I took this example to the extreme side of planning out every detail but you should use time blocking however it works best for you.
Limit Your Time
I first heard about the tactic of limiting your time from reading Tim Ferris’s book, The Four Hour Work Week. In the book Tim references something called Parkinson’s Law which states:
“work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”
What this means is no matter the task at hand, we will use up all the available time given to us. It doesn’t matter if it’s a day, week, or year. The question becomes how do we not let ourselves fall victim to this?
The simple answer is to limit your time. Take doing the dishes for example. If we say we need to get them done this week the chances are high that we’ll wait untill Sunday night. On the other hand, if we tell ourselves we have the next 15 minutes to do it then we’ll jump right on it and get it done.
Transfer this same idea over to your work. If you tell yourself you’ll build that presentation by the end of the day, you’ll give it urgency even if it doesn’t necessarily need to be done until next week.
The Law of Diminishing Returns
When we give ourselves a big window to get a task done, we waste a ton of potential productive hours. Worse yet, that extra time we spend on something usually doesn’t enhance the end product.
Let’s jump back to the dishes example. If you mentally limit yourself to 15 minutes on any given week night to get the dishes done, you’ll get them done. On the other hand, if you wait until Sunday night you’ll get the dishes done, sure, but the end result will take much longer than the 15 minutes you used earlier in the week. Most tasks are like dishes. Either you did them or you didn’t.
People typically confuse the idea that just because you spent a ton of time on a task means that it always comes out better. This simply isn’t true and is proven by the law of diminishing returns. If the task can be done right in 15 minutes, then there’s no reason to spend an hour on it.
To be successful in using this methodology, then you need to understand how you personally react to pressure. If the slightest sign of pressure makes you anxious and lose focus, then don’t do this. If you thrive in a high-pressure environment, then start limiting the time you allow for each task to be more productive and motivated after work.
The last way I would suggest to be more productive and motivated after work is to incentivize yourself. This is easily my favorite item on this list and one I personally use almost every day. I love working towards a goal even if it’s just being able to eat dinner.
It sounds crazy but I use simple things like dinner as a reward. When I get home from work, I’m extremely hungry and most of the time I’ll just sit down and eat. If I know I need to get something done, like write 1000 words, I won’t let myself eat until I’ve finished that task.
A more realistic goal may be to reward yourself with TV or social media time. I enjoy bingeing a series every now and then but I don’t do it just because I want to. I’m conscious that it will bring me value through entertainment but I still need some clean underwear for tomorrow, so laundry comes first.
The Bottom Line
As you were reading this article, you probably thought that some of these tips
Ask yourself, when was the last time you picked up your phone and why? For 99% of us, it is because we received some sort of notification. This simple sound or vibration takes our focus away for just a split second. While it seems like nothing, the result is a huge loss in potential productivity.
Take time to think about what you struggle with and why. From there, build a plan to apply some of the tactics discussed above. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, you need to experiment until you find something that fits you.
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