How to Stay Motivated and Productive in 2021

We’re almost a full week into 2021… and I’m already losing the motivation to be productive that magically appeared with the promise of the New Year. Bummer, right? But the reality is, motivation isn’t just a mindset – it’s a combination of actions. Here’s some of my tips on how to stay motivated and productive in 2021 (even when your brain isn’t feeling it).

How to Stay Motivated and Productive in 2021

How to stay productive and motivated in 2021

No wasting time here – let's dive in!

Get stuff done in 2021!

Start every day by creating or re-reading your to-do list

If you have tasks that you have to complete every single week, it can be easy to tell yourself you know what you need to do – and end up not actually getting things done. Write a to-do list every morning, or re-read the to-do list that you created before.

If you’re a Mac user like I am, I HIGHLY recommend using the Reminders app for your daily to-do lists. You can create lists for different aspects of your business, nest to-do’s under broader titles, and set due dates and times so that you get reminded. You can totally do this on a project management software, but my brain likes to do a daily dump for my eyes only – I use ClickUp for the bigger, recurring projects and my Reminders for everyday, smaller tasks.

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Give yourself something to look forward to when the work is done

In a more “normal” year, this is pretty easy. In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s much more difficult. But it’s not impossible!

If you’ve ever had to study for a test that you absolutely did NOT want to study for, then you might be familiar with this one already… Eating a gummy bear after reading X number of textbook pages is basically the same principle.

Something to look forward to can be as small as planning a lunch that’s actually good (no more sandwiches every single day). Maybe you give yourself 30 minutes in the afternoon to read your book uninterrupted, or you have a show you’re planning to watch after work.

No matter how small or big the thing is, having it in the back of your mind can help you stay motivated to get your work done.

Drink more water!

I think this is a pretty popular “new year’s resolution” – and there’s a reason it makes a good goal. When I’m hydrated, I get more done – plain and simple.

I’ve seen a ton of people on social media talking about the magic behind drinking one gallon of water per day. I’m DEFINITELY not on their level (and I think it’s pretty challenging to do that), but I’ve started drinking at least 64 oz. of water per day, and it has CHANGED the game for me. Who knew staying hydrated could make us more productive? (Probably everyone, but it really does.)

How to stay motivated and productive in 2021

Take action to go to sleep earlier instead of just saying you will

I have a bad habit of telling myself to go to sleep earlier and then being shocked when I change absolutely nothing about my routine and don’t magically end up asleep earlier.

Sound familiar? I think most of us have done it. And being sleepy in the middle of your work day will NOT help your productivity. So don’t just say you’re going to sleep earlier – make the changes to make it happen.

My phone makes it so easy for me to go to bed early, but stay awake much later. It’s time to break up your phone and your bed, people.

For me, this meant purchasing an alarm clock other than my phone. That way, my phone isn't near my bed to distract me from sleeping. While I’m still going through the pains of changing my schedule, I use the Screen Time feature on my iPhone. Screen Time has a setting called “Downtime” that can make putting your phone down much easier.

Downtime lets you set daily time periods to “block” you from using your apps. You can pick which ones are blocked (I tend to pick them all), but phone calls will still come through. I schedule it from the time I'm winding down until I wake up the next day.

When downtime is enabled, your apps are all grayed out on the home screen. If you click on one, you get a screen reminding you that it's downtime right now. You can click “just one more minute” or allow 15 minutes of use if you need the app. But, the guilt of clicking one of those is enough to keep me off my phone. That makes sleeping earlier much easier.

Don’t binge productivity content

One of my biggest procrastinating techniques is bingeing productivity content mindlessly. That means watching a bunch of people give me great advice, but never intentionally implementing it! If you’ve ever been down a YouTube or Google rabbit hole searching for productivity tips, you know what I mean. It feels so good to hear the simple ways we can make our lives just a little bit better…  so instead of doing it, we keep watching and living vicariously through other people.

Go read and watch a few motivational tips and tricks, but stop there! Spending hours reading blog posts about productivity won’t help you at all unless you do the strategies yourself. (I’m super guilty of this one).

Those are some tips and tricks to help you learn how to stay motivated and productive in 2021. But I would be stupid to not include one last thing for the list.

And finally: cut yourself some slack. We’re in a really tumultuous time in the world. It’s okay (and actually VERY necessary) to rest.

Self-care is crucial right now, and rest is even more important. Sad, scary, and frustrating things are happening in the world. It’s more than okay to have some less productive days. Being here and trying is more than enough!

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