Happy New Year! You're coming back from a nice long break from the office, maybe with a little extra cushion around your belly, and it's back to work and the daily grind. Problem is, your brain is still on vacation and you're feeling more than a little sluggish. How do you get yourself motivated and back up to speed? Start 2015 off right with these 16 motivation hacks. 

1. "Just 5 minutes." Tell yourself you’ll only work on that dreaded task for five minutes, and then you can stop. If it’s really not happening, you’ll know in a matter of minutes to move on and come back to the task later. But five minutes of focus is often enough to break through your apathy, get down to it, and before you know, an hour has passed and you’re done (or at least you've made a good dent). 

2. Use your body to trick your brain. Stop slouching. Quit furrowing your brow and clenching your jaw. Instead of stagnating in a puddle of procrastination and lethargy, get up. Get moving. Smile. Laugh. Do a few jumping jacks or a silly dance. Strike a power pose to boost your confidence. Turns out, adjusting your physiology changes your brain and can help you buckle down and get things done.  

3. Chase the “flow” state. You know the feeling: you’re in the zone, your brain is humming, and you’re completely focused. The minutes fly by and work is actually… enjoyable. As it turns out, the trick to getting in the flow is to challenge yourself. According to Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, there’s a “sweet spot” where flow happens: the degree of challenge and your abilities intersect at a high point. (If the challenge is too low, you’re bored, and if it’s impossibly high, you're too anxious.) So instead of dreading or putting off challenging work, view it as an opportunity to get into that zen flow state and kick some serious butt. 

4. Plan tomorrow tonight. While you shouldn’t stay up agonizing over all the stuff waiting for you tomorrow, creating a short list of simple to-dos tonight can help you hit the ground running, establishing momentum that will carry you through the rest of the day. 

5. Get the right tools. If the tools you use for your daily work frustrate or overwhelm you, you’re sure to drag you feet when it comes to starting a task. Not only will you avoid the giant headache, but it’ll take you longer and put you in a bad mood. Find a simple, flexible tool that complements the way you like to work to help you stay organized and efficient, not slow you down. 

6. Use quotes! We’re all familiar with those cheesy motivational posters, and their snarky counterparts. But they exist for a reason. So post one on your wall or tack up some inspiration from someone you admire. Danger Dust creates gorgeous chalk art featuring a variety of motivational quotes. 

DangerDust quotes

Artwork by Danger Dust. Get their prints here.

7. Remind yourself of your goals. Why are you working on this in the first place? What are you working towards? Set your desktop background with a picture your family, dream vacation destination, diploma with your name on it, whatever it is you want to achieve.

8. Rock out. Playing your favorite music can help block distractions, lift your spirits, and put you in a good mood. Sometimes the best way to stop slacking is to pump yourself up or work to a beat. 

9. Don’t be a perfectionist. Setting an impossible standard is a sure-fire way to stress yourself out and scare you away from even starting a task. Have you ever sat down to do some writing, only to find yourself still staring at a blank page and blinking cursor half an hour later? Stop agonizing over every detail, and just get something done. It’s easier to improve on what you already have than to conjure perfection out of thin air. 

10. Watch these TED talks to learn about exactly what’s going on in your brain when it comes to motivation, and how you can take back control: 

• Dan Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation

• Mel Robbins: F-- You: How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over

• Tony Robbins: Why We Do What We Do

11. Help others. Sharing your talents and skills not only benefits those around you, it shows you what you’re capable of and have to contribute. Feeling confident and seeing the impact you can make are powerful motivators.

12. Don’t force it. Motivation only lasts for so long. Once you’re tapped out, take a nap, or a walk, or an ice cream break. Let your subconscious work on the problem for you while you recharge. 

13. Rethink the way you’re doing things. Sometimes it’s not your motivation that’s the problem; your process is broken or flawed. If you constantly dread a certain task or find yourself always stuck on the same step, reevaluate whether you really have to do it that way. 

14. Picture yourself succeeding. You’ll get a rush of dopamine, a brain chemical that’s strongly connected with motivation. Take a minute to think about a success you’ve had, especially if you’ve done that task before and had good results. Once you start associating positive feelings with finishing that task, you won’t need to drag yourself through it. 

15. Get a pep talk. Odds are you’ve seen this Kid President video before, but do yourself a favor and re-watch. 

 

Bookmark it for those times you need a little extra boost. (Here’s another great watch for when you need a quick kick in the pants: Get Motivated in 60 Seconds)

16. Celebrate what you’ve achieved. At the end of each day, look back at what you've accomplished and give yourself a pat on the back. (Try keeping an Anti-ToDo list!) It’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking about all the stuff you still have to do tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that... but by looking at how far you’ve come, you can take it one day at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed and shutting down. 

You can do it!

If you’ve tried these tricks and work is still a constant battle, perhaps it’s time for a career change? Check out our collection of resources for entrepreneurs and startups to make your dream job a reality!

Related Reads: 

Ditch the Tomato Timer: 4 New Productivity Techniques to Try

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