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It has been a long week.

Hell, it has been a long year.

It has been a long 9+ months (being pregnant).  I have had some ups, some downs, and for the first time I am ready for it to be over.

I am tired of being tired.  I want to have energy again.  I want to run again.  I want to fit into normal clothing and be able to zip my jacket.

I know everyone says being pregnant is a cakewalk when compared to raising a child, but I wouldn’t know (yet), so all I want is to get past this milestone.  The only problem is – I have no idea when I actually will stop being pregnant. I know it is coming some time in the next few weeks, but I don’t know if it’s this week or two weeks from now. It could be tomorrow! It could be 10 days, or 20.

I feel like I can’t get comfortable or make plans since I don’t know exactly when I’ll be past the “pregnant” milestone.

It is like when you are interviewing for a new job and you send out tons of resumes, go to a bunch of interviews, and then just have to wait.  Will you get the job or not? You don’t know when they will call you back or if they even will.  You just don’t know, and it isn’t up to you.

Or like when you are working on a software launch that is imminent, but as the manager, the when and how is out of your hands – it will happen when all the pieces come together and it’s finally ready.

And as someone who likes to plan things, this uncertainty is really challenging. The “not knowing” sucks.

And despite all of the circumstances, the reality is that when you are stuck in a “waiting around” period, you need to stay busy.

I know that I will be better off if I get ahead on my work. Just like how if you are searching for a job, you will have better luck networking and sending out more resumes, than spending the day playing video games or watching Netflix or pacing around your house feeling stressed.

When your future is uncertain, and you can’t plan what will happen, how do you keep up the momentum?

Since this is something fresh on my mind as my due date approaches (two weeks left!) I thought I would share of the strategies I am using to keep a positive attitude and make progress – even when I just want to curl up on the couch and catch up on episodes of The Good Wife.

how to stay motivated

 

Positive self-talk.

When you are feeling down, it is really easy to allow your thoughts to reinforce those feelings. You know how when you are job searching and don’t get a call back for weeks on end? It is so easy to feel less motivated with each day that ticks by.

And when you let those feelings get the best of you and you don’t accomplish anything, it is easy to feel even worse the next day. The worse you feel, the less motivated you become. That is why it is so important to change your thoughts.

You need to focus on the positive. You need to channel your energy into the things that are going right. You can’t change the outcome, you can only change the way it affects you.

Instead of thinking of things that haven’t happened, start keeping track of successes, even small ones. What did you accomplish yesterday? What will you do today? Not only does focusing on the positive help you feel better, but it gives you a good reason to keep working and making things happen, so you have more things to feel positive about.

You can try positive affirmations too. Come up with a few statements that reflect the reality you want.  Write them down and repeat them to yourself when your thoughts head in the wrong direction.

 

Go for a walk, run, or other physical activity.

This is one of my favorite strategies for trying to come up with more creative ideas. Sometimes just taking a break and doing something else gives your mind a rest and you can come back to your work with fresh eyes. Moving your body can also help reinvigorate you and give you more energy.

New studies and research have shown that exercising can make you more productive. So if you feel stuck, try taking a walk, going for a run, or picking up some weights. You will be improving your health and hopefully fueling your momentum to keep going at the same time.

 

Listen to upbeat music.

Do you know that there is a scientific link between music, mindset, and motivation? Listening to certain types of music can stir your creativity, encourage you, and make you feel happier.

Music’s energizing effects comes from its ability to engage the body’s sympathetic nervous system. This is the same system that helps us respond to challenges in our environment (like fight or flight).  It opens our airways, primes our muscles, and can increase our heart rate – which can also help us solve problems – even in our work.

If you find yourself stuck in a rut, maybe it is time to change your playlist?

 

Channel motivation from others.

We humans are social creatures. And even if you aren’t an extrovert, emotions are contagious. When you are feeling down, one of the best things you can do is lean on someone else for motivation and support.

If you have a friend or upbeat colleague, seek them out when you are feeling blue or unmotivated. You don’t have to unload or share your problems, but instead use their energy to help you focus on what is going right. What do you (and they) have to be happy about? Can they help you troubleshoot an issue that’s on your mind?

And if you don’t have a friend to call on, try finding motivation from the professionals. Watch an uplifting, you-can-do-it movie like Gladiator or Rocky. Or download an inspirational audiobook like one from Brian Tracy, or Do the Work from Steven Pressfield.

 

Celebrate the small wins.

Try to break things down into small pieces and relish in the victory when you accomplish one of those little things. Even if your big goal isn’t within reach (yet), try to figure out a way to make progress every day. Think of something really small like researching a topic (how hard is it to type something in a search engine?), or writing just one paragraph.

If you can think about the larger tasks in smaller micro-pieces, it becomes much easier to do just one of them and make progress. Remember that every big goal is just many small goals linked together, so making progress on a small step is still valuable.

 

Take a break.

If you don’t feel up to working, maybe you shouldn’t be working? I have struggled to listen to my body during this pregnancy when I just couldn’t work.  I would try setting timers and just working for 10 minutes, which normally would always work for me when I was feeling stuck before. However, this time, after the first 10 minutes and then another 10 minutes after that, I just would hit a wall. If that is where you are at, then give yourself permission to take a break. You need it.

Yes, vegging on the couch won’t bring you closer to your dream job, but neither will unproductive busy work.  If you need a break take it, and soak up some “off” time where your mind is resting and you aren’t working over an idea that you already know you’re not making progress on.

Sometimes you really do need to just step away and come back to it later.

 

Do you have other strategies or ideas for maintaining momentum in the face of uncertainty?  If so, please share them in the comments.  Even though I am being a lot more productive today (writing this blog post!) who knows how I will feel tomorrow and could always use a little more inspiration.

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Tags: goals, motivation, procrastination, productivity, success,

One Response to “How to stay productive and motivated when you don’t know what’s coming next”

  1. Dan Colleran

    At the end of the day when I finally do climb into bed, I like to think of all the things I’m thankful for. It has a way of making my “problems” feel much smaller and brings me back to what matters most.