*This post originally appeared on Grant Professionals Association's blog
Sometimes, I just don't have it in me. And I am sure that happens to you sometimes, too. I love what I do, but there are times when the work comes harder than usual. Here are a few simple ways that I push, pull, or prod myself into getting the job done.
Keep Moving: This is essential. When it feels like thought is impossible, increasing blood flow to the brain can help improve cognition. A standing desk—or any place where you can stand comfortably and type—is great to keep the blood flowing. I often sit on an exercise ball rather than my office chair, just to keep moving while I'm focused. A quick walk around the office does wonders and can improve your creativity. Moving around keeps the brain on its feet and gives your mind a break from constant focus.
One Thing at a Time: I know, we are grant writers. Not multi-tasking is like not breathing. We've all heard that multi-tasking typically reduces productivity… but you may not know that it actually taxes the brain more and burns more fuel than focusing on one thing at a time. You may also find that tackling a few smaller tasks and checking them off your list gives you a sense of momentum and accomplishment that helps you feel ready to tackle the larger tasks.
Temptation Bundling: I LOVE fancy lattes. I never get them because it seems like an unjustifiable expense. There are also topics that are like pulling mental teeth for me to write about… so I only allow myself to enjoy a great latte while I work on a proposal that I don't particularly enjoy. Temptation bundling was named by Professor Katherine Milkman, who noticed the effect when she tied her love of fiction audio books to her lack of motivation at the gym. This is a very individualized technique—maybe you hate prospect research but love bubble baths. Temptation bundling relies on your specific guilty pleasures and quirks. By combining something you love with something you find challenging, you trick yourself into getting the work done. As Mary Poppins says, “In every task that must be done there is an element of fun!”
Acknowledge when the Struggle is Unproductive or Productive: Once I was sitting at my desk, staring into the blank void of a grant proposal, when I realized that it was just not going to happen right then. I left the office for half an hour and came back ready to tackle what I needed to do. It can be difficult to realize when your challenges are in service to your writing, or when you need to take a step back and stop working. Even on a tight deadline, you can spare five minutes to take a deep breath, get some sunshine (or night air), and reset.
What strategies do you use to keep yourself productive?
Kat Champigny works at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to support its work in middle school science education, marine research, and coastal communities.