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5 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Being Productive When You're Just Not Feeling It

Writing notes, taking a walk and allowing yourself simple rewards are little hacks that can increase your motivation.

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Being an entrepreneur isn't easy. You work long hours and all the hardest, most important tasks end up on your plate. And, just because this is your dream and your passion doesn't make every aspect of running a business fun.


Sometimes you just don't want to do it. Some days, staying in bed sounds so much better than getting up and hustling. I get that. We all have those days.

Related: 25 Best Habits to Have in Life

Here are the top five tricks I use to get my productivity up when Netflix sounds so much better.

1. You can quit after doing one important thing.

Sometimes the hardest part of being productive is getting started. Once the satisfaction of finishing something, especially something important, kicks in, taking on the next task and the one after that is much easier.

So, pick something important and tell yourself you can quit after finishing that one important thing. You probably won't because you'll feel so pleased with yourself for doing something so important, you'll want that productivity "high" again.

Even if you do quit, your day won't be a total loss, since you accomplished something important. Just don't do this too frequently, as accomplishing only one thing each day (unless it's something truly huge) isn't going to grow or even maintain your business.

2. Use SelfControl, the app, to remove all the fun options.

This is definitely cheating, but it really works. SelfControl is a free app you can install on your desktop. You can set a timer to block social media sites and other websites that distract from the task at hand.

When you try to load a website you've blocked, you'll get an error message that looks like this.  

I usually forget I set SelfControl and assume that what I'm seeing is a website issue. Without the distraction, I have nothing to do but work, so I get things done.

Sometimes I get ambitious and set the timer for 24 hours and put my phone in the other room for the workday. There are other extensions and apps you can use, but I find them too easy to get around. Four months in, I still haven't figured out the workaround for SelfControl. I like that.

3. Start the day with a fun task.

When you're dreading the hard work you have to do, do something fun first in order to ease into work and to have something, initially, that you look forward to. I alternate my “boring/hard” tasks with ones I find fun or easy.

Related: 6 Ways to Make Motivation a Verb

An example? I love reading articles about high-level SEO tactics, but don't feel the same way about keyword research for clients. I alternate articles I've stockpiled with finding 10 solid keywords.

For every 10 keywords I can find that meet my stringent criteria, I get to pick a fun article to consume. This is my personal method of combining positive reinforcement with actual productivity. Just because I enjoy reading the articles doesn't mean I'm not learning useful things from them.

Additionally, this method works better than if I allowed myself 15 minutes on Facebook or Twitter, since I'm learning, and each task is on my overall to-do list. It also helps to have a list of things you can't wait to do that are productive so you can use those tasks as rewards for completing the less exciting ones.

4. Take a walk.

Movement is energizing, and studies show that walking increases creativity and helps you think. It's easy to feel tired and unmotivated when you've been sitting for too long. Get up and move around, ideally outside in the fresh air. You can spend your time thinking about the work you need to do or let your mind wander. Either way, the exercise will help.

I recommend taking a 20-to-30-minute stroll to clear your mind and boost your energy levels. If you can't take that long, get up, get some water and go to the bathroom. Even five minutes of movement will help.

5. Write a note to yourself or someone who inspires.

This sounds corny, I know, but give it a try before you dismiss it as silly. Occasionally, all you need is a reminder why you're doing what you're doing. Everything on your plate has a purpose, whether it's building your brand, or finding clients or servicing those clients.

The tasks themselves might not be exciting, but the overall dream is. If you remind yourself how excited your dream makes you and why these less-than-thrilling tasks are an important part of reaching that dream, you may find the willpower and motivation to do them anyway.

So . . . back to the note. You can use it to talk about your dreams or envision where you'll be in six months, a year or five years, if you do the grunt work now. One reason people fail to achieve their dreams is that they lose sight of those dreams amid the daily grind. They're not seeing the forest -- for the trees.

If you remind yourself of the bird's-eye view, you will be able to see beyond the dreaded task at hand and why it's worth tackling.

I have dozens of little notes I've written to myself and to some of my heroes. I've sent very few of them but even rereading them motivates me on days when I'm feeling "blah" about what needs to get done.

Related: 7 Daily Practices That Power Your Motivation

So, that's my method. I'm able to trick myself into being productive at least 95 percent of the time by using these little hacks. Not every day or week will be equally productive. We all have highs and lows.

But as long as you put in the consistent effort, you will get there.

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