Even the most passionate and motivated among us have off days. You wake up feeling detached from your work, or feeling groggy, frustrated, or depressed, and you can’t get yourself in the right mindset to be productive. You might be able to go through the motions of work, but you aren’t operating at peak efficiency, nor are you enjoying what you’re doing.
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. Instead of zooming in on one task or one project, think about your long-term goals, and work backward to visualize how these small steps will lead to that eventuality. It 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,” proactively warning shareholders that the company would be willing to sacrifice short-term revenue if it meant higher long-term gains.
2. Start your task.
One of the hardest parts of any task, especially challenging ones, 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 starting a task; for example, you can tell yourself 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, you’ll naturally want to carry that momentum forward. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll achieve that flow. This may be 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…