Personal Productivity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people wanting to improve their personal productivity. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I work for a very small company and most of the time I work alone and manage my own work and don't get much feedback. I'm not completely used to this and though I have projects and to do lists and ways of keeping myself organized, sometimes in the mornings, I just don't feel motivated - it's not that I don't like my job, it's just the motivation isn't there specifically in the mornings and I feel a bit under stimulated.

My question is: is there activities that you have, especially in the beginning of your day, to get you going and excited about all the tasks? Or into a working mental state?

Right now, I just wait until I start to feel guilty.. and then I get back to work, but that's not fun at all.

share|improve this question
up vote 30 down vote accepted

Procrastination is the thief of time. I find that when I don't have a task list of things to do that I don't get anything done, even if I actually have quite a lot of work to do. I also find that I am much more likely to fill my task list if I write it out the night before rather than at the start of the day. I think there is a psychological effect of not having to do the work immediately that frees you to actually write down what you need to do rather than just what you want to do.

I would also get into the routine of starting something work related the second you get into the office. Getting over the hump of doing anything is one of the biggest hurdles. So when you have your task list you must start something on that list the second you enter the office. Don't open up your email client or start browsing the web.

I've been experimenting recently with listening to white noise. I find that it helps be focus immensely. Firstly it blocks out all noise distractions around me, but it also helps me think more clearly. There are less distracting voices in my head as well. I've been using video on youtube which is 12 hours continuous white noise. There is something eerily refreshing when you take the headphones off and the white noise isn't there anymore.

share|improve this answer
+1 for creating the todo list in the evening before. For heavy procrastinators use the form "in situation X I will do Y to achieve Z". Example: "First thing when I arrive at work I finish the report to get rid of the guilty feelings which haunt me for quite a while". – 0x6d64 Apr 27 '12 at 13:59
+1 for having a routine. I have a routine I follow every morning when get into the office - put my stuff away, get the computer and main applications up and running, check system reports for errors and testing results, etc. - and by the time I finish I've got momentum and focus and automatically move on to my task list. – Belisama Apr 28 '12 at 14:23
+1 For making a list the evening before as well. I like to call this a mind dump, it allows me to get any work ideas out of my head so they don't bother me at home and then helps me get started again quickly the following day. – scientifics Jun 19 '12 at 15:46
Isn't white noise a supplementary factor of stress that would contribute to the overall "pile" of pressures that makes one want to "escape" from the actual activity? Probably listening to some classical music would work better and now I am referring to something rather neutral and not sad or extravagant (I listen from time to time Rimsky-Korsacov - Scheherezade but you should look for what fits you better) – Mike Dec 10 '13 at 16:10

Overall I would say that if your job doesn't motivate you that much, focus on a set of routines that will get you 'moving' regardless. Sometimes a little structure can be helpful.

  1. Go to your email/calendar and see what's scheduled for the day.

  2. Consider setting up a daily SCRUM (term comes from the Agile movement). Make sure it's only a 5 minutes thing. Call it a 'quick check-in' maybe. Avoid calling it a daily meeting. This will depend on how your timing matches your fellow employees / clients of course. 10am has worked well for teams I've been in.

  3. Check your task list. I also use my phone (android) and I put the 'tasks' app right on the 'home' screen for easy access.

  4. Food & Drink. Whatever your brain needs, coffee/tea, etc. Food & Drink can also be a comforting early morning ritual.

  5. Start using a tool for tracking tasks and make checking that tool be your first 'item' of the day. Some tools that you could consider are:

  6. Break tasks down into small items (maybe an hour or two each) and then you'll feel the progress better. The latest tools and technologies are supplying some great solutions in this space.

  7. Make sure you have a life outside work. Make sure you do interesting (to you) and different things outside of work. This way work will be a change from non-work and that sort of variety in life can be useful in making the daily 'grind' easier.

share|improve this answer
i added extension on Google chrome : Trello calendar and its very helpfull – saber tabatabaee yazdi Feb 12 '13 at 5:21
+1 for "...a set of routines that will get you 'moving' regardless" – Edi Apr 14 at 23:23

Read a book in your field (or blogs or this site), or work on a side project. So if you're a software developer, read about a technology/language. Or you can work on an open-source project or a tutorial project. This will kind of "warm up" your brain and get you into a productive mood.

If you're going to procrastinate, you might as well be productive. If it's cutting too much into your workday, you can always start earlier or work later.

share|improve this answer
I don't know, that would be much more likely to get me into a "spend all day reading technology blogs" mood... – weronika Apr 30 '12 at 7:53
If that's the case, you can set that as your "treat" for the end of the day. That might motivate you to start your day – Atif May 1 '12 at 14:53

The best way to start a work day is a steamin' mug of coffee. ;)

share|improve this answer
it is rather relaxing than motivating – stim May 1 '12 at 20:36
Ahh, but the relaxation can lead to the clarity required to focus & motivate. That's my experience at least. – dwwilson66 May 2 '12 at 14:24
+1 caffeine brings me focus. – Michael Durrant Apr 29 '13 at 23:46

There are few different ways to motivate yourself and exact choice depends on individual peculiarities.

As for me, I'm an emotional person and I had noticed long time ago, that I'm very productive and concentrated in a particular emotional state. Such state might be triggered by different psychological anchors. For me those anchors are - famous quotations of outstanding people in areas that I'm very interested or about something patriotic that I'm very proud of. It may be in any format: text quote, demotivation picture, video fragment.

One issue is that if you will overuse one anchor - it will stop affecting you in desired manner. Thus, you should have many different ones and always add new ones to your collection.

share|improve this answer

Before you start your day early in the morning a healthy exercise can give you a good jump start. It makes your body much more alive and ready for work.Then, before starting to work you can list your entire tasks first so that you will know what to do for the day. Brainstorming can help you tease your brain so that it would be a lot ready when you are finally working.

share|improve this answer

The start of the day is really about the end of the previous day for me - there is always stuff that I wish I'd got done that day but haven't got to eg because an urgent customer request intervened or a project took longer than expected etc

So at the end of the day before I go home, I make a list of what I must get done the next day This is usually a mixture of : 1- preset appointments (if I have any that day) 2- urgent things that have arisen in the last 24-48 hours eg customer fault reported 3- long term projects that I need to move forward (maybe internal non customer)

Sometimes it is so busy that only item 2 is relevant

So in effect, what propels me forward is the customer needing my response .

And - in practical terms - the fact that I see my list of 'must do today' as soon as I get to my desk.

(I usually leave the list across my keyboard so I can't fail to notice it!)

I also set my Outlook email software to open to my tasks list initially instead of to the list of incoming email. (Even if I flick straight to email again , it gives me a quick nudge first thing , not to forget that there are lots of tasks still to do)

If you don't have a customer facing role or you don't have a high volume of work coming through or anyone chasing you up, then it requires more internal motivation.

If you don't have that then maybe telling others what you are planning to do would work - you need someone who is chatty and friendly and likely to ask - how is X going?

You will be embarrassed to say you haven't started.. But if there is literally no one around then that's not going to work.

How about setting yourself a reward that only triggers after you've worked hard for the first 40 mins say?

Something simple like a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit goes down well in the UK!

Also setting up a lunch appointment with a friend so you feel less isolated and have something to look forward to - and it creates a kind of deadline to get things done in the morning before the appointment.

Good luck - working in a small firm is not easy

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.