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A publication from Medium on personal development.


In Forge. More on Medium.

🎾 Today’s tip: Watch a TV show or tennis match to borrow a productivity boost.

Feeling hopelessly stuck in a rut? The good news is, you don’t need to pull yourself out. Let someone else motivate you instead.

As Lauren Allain explains in Forge: “When my productivity dwindles, I watch Survivor, Alone, The Amazing Race, or an epic sports event — and watch my productivity and motivation skyrocket.” After watching someone else perform difficult-to-impossible physical and mental feats, “replying to my pile of unread emails seems much more manageable.” Finishing that nagging memo is harder than doing nothing, but it’s…

🥨🍫 Today’s tip: Reward yourself with a salty/sweet snack combo.

On Forge, Sophie Lucido Johnson explains the key to the perfect snack-as-motivator: variety. In her early standup comedy days, she writes, “the only way I could convince myself to bike to a club to do a set was to promise myself any treat I wanted at the 24-hour gas station on the way home. Usually, I chose one salty thing and one fruity thing that I could eat rhythmically: Skittles and Fritos; Sour Patch Kids and popcorn; Mambas and Ruffles.” …

It helps to understand the science of success

Photo: Tempura/Getty Images

I never thought I’d say this, but the impending return to “normal” life is stressing me out.

For some people, the pandemic has freed up time to learn new skills and invest in hobbies. For me, it’s been a year of feeling thwarted: The sense of taking two steps forward and one step back, over and over again. The book proposal I’ve been working on for longer than I care to admit has been “almost done” for months. …

Photo: Dougal Waters/Getty Images

😊 Today’s tip: Plan breaks for fun—not just for relief—during the workday.

Most of us live out our workdays as a series of sad little rewards: You knock out that memo, and you can have 15 minutes of doing nothing, as a treat. Meanwhile, the good stuff — the activities that bring us actual happiness, not respite — stays out of reach until we’re done for the day.

But as the therapist Kathleen Smith argues: “We simply can’t strong-arm ourselves into productivity when we feel anxious and isolated. The promise of happiness isn’t enough when we need it right this…

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s the need for real downtime

Woman stretching outside.
Woman stretching outside.
Photo: AsiaVision/Getty Images

Sitting in my usual chair in front of my computer at a ridiculously early hour on a Friday morning, uninspired by every single story idea I was mulling after 11 months and 11 days of writing or thinking about writing every single day, I looked around my home office and said to myself: “Rob, you kinda just don’t wanna write any of these.”

My next thought: “These are some good ideas. Why don’t you want to write them? Where is your motivation?”

Then finally: “Dude, you really need to take some time off.”

“But I suck at taking time off,”…

Joy is more than a reward for productivity

Tranquil man resting his eyes.
Tranquil man resting his eyes.
Photo: fizkes/Getty Images

We may be used to motivating ourselves with the promise of a reward — grind all day and relax at night, or break for a treat only after finishing a project — but in talking with my therapy clients over the past several months, I’ve found that we simply can’t strong-arm ourselves into productivity when we feel anxious and isolated. The promise of happiness isn’t enough when we need it right this minute.

We shouldn’t wait to reward ourselves with conversations with friends, a walk outside, or a mystery novel. Instead, we should pepper our days with them. …

🗣️ Today’s tip: To psych yourself up to tackle something, ask, “Will I do this?”

Self-talk was once seen as something reserved for motivational gurus — Forge editor Michelle Woo recalls the SNL character Stuart Smalley staring into a mirror and proclaiming: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” But it turns out there are practical, measurable benefits to adopting a positive inner narrative: It can reduce stress, help you make decisions, and keep you motivated.

How exactly you talk to yourself makes a difference. According to the latest research on self-talk, asking “Will I…

Today’s tip: Make an anti-bucket list.

Keeping a list of goals can be motivating, sure, but it can also quickly start to feel like a list of obligations — something that weighs you down instead of pushing you forward. For example, the writer Kristin Wong used to have “become a millionaire” on her bucket list, she writes, but “chasing money has led me to take on work that made me miserable.” And her goal of visiting every continent “kept me from truly enjoying travel, because travel is not a series of places to be checked off a list.”


✍️ Today’s tip: Write a to-do list that’s made up entirely of endpoints.

Most people see moving through items on their to-do lists as progress. Made this call. Check. Emailed that potential client. Check. Requested this document. Check. But as Steve Blank explains, it’s easy to mistake motion — the activities that get the ball rolling on certain objectives — with the real goal, which is action.

“By focusing only on motion,” Blank writes, “you let others set the pace and define the outcome.” Slacking someone a question is motion; getting them to confirm the information you need is action…

When everything feels overwhelming, focus on the ‘MVM’

Photo: Patrik Giardino/Getty Images

About 11 years ago, I got kicked out of graduate school, lost my job, ended a long-term relationship, and found myself in a new town where I didn’t know anyone. I was completely lost. Luckily, I began dating a woman and things got serious enough that we started talking about moving in together. She said she’d let me live in her apartment and contribute whatever rent money I could afford, under one condition: I had to be working to get my life back on track.

The problem was that I had no idea how I was going to tackle this…

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