As a PM, how do you persuade yourself to "get in the zone" every day and every week?

Focusing on “opportunity” and “reach solution” rather than the obstacles has greatly aided my mindset at work, both in terms of productivity and detaching when necessary. I had recently posted about issues affecting me as a PM (taking nothing to heart and try again).

There are times when I am enthusiastic about my job, but the friction is too great on the weekends or in the mornings. Starting a job or showing interest requires a lot of motivation. “I have to talk to, persuade, and think about so many things again” is a thought or doubt.

Now, maybe this is normal. But simply dealing with this conflict wears you out.

I literally had to drink two cups of black coffee to get in the mood two days after this recent incident. How to behave in this way without effort or with less friction?

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I confront those emotions by listening to a podcast about a founder (like How I Built This) or a product (like Lenny’s Podcast). For me, though, there’s a thin line between feeling inspired and insufficient after listening.

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The paradox of inadequacy and inspiration that you mention is true. Though I typically enjoy Lenny’s, I occasionally feel defeated afterward. I have to constantly remind myself that these people typically represent the top 1% of their field.

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@AngelaBlue, I would give my right arm to work at any of the places his guests mention having worked during their careers. It’s difficult to avoid the impression that if you don’t land a prestigious job early in your career (or luck into the 1% of startups that become prestigious), you’ll be at a serious financial disadvantage for the rest of your life.

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I’ve said this before on questions of this nature, and it might get downvoted and/or be a complete non-starter for some people, but I’ve discovered that smoking a tiny little bit of weed works for me.

I’ll take a tiny little hit to get myself back in the game when I’m feeling unmotivated. Of course, I never do it before a big presentation or meeting.

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@CathrynCui, I don’t see a problem with this. I get the impression that half the workforce is using nicotine, alcohol, benzos, SSRIs, and Adderall.

Sativa and caffeine are much better for you.

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Even though Product Management involves a lot of science, it is undoubtedly a creative process, and it can be challenging to tap into one’s inner creative force.

When you have solution block, it’s easy to feel similarly to how writers and painters feel when they have writers block.

A shower is how I unblock my creativity. It’s easier when WFH, but if I’m having trouble solving a problem, I’ll take a hot shower, and frequently the solutions will strike while I’m in there.

Changing the context can be helpful if that fails. If I have trouble finishing my project update, I’ll move on to some strategy work or take a short break to chat with my engineers before returning to it.

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We are made of the same stuff. I need to engage in tangential activities to free up my mind for problem-solving. I’ll take a stroll. Take up pickleball. Take up the guitar. Take on a project that adds value in an unique way, such as creating blogs, videos, mockups, etc. Like you, I think best while I’m in the shower. But in order to keep myself engaged, I also need a variety of activities.

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It’s great that you’ve found a positive approach by focusing on opportunities and solutions instead of obstacles in your work. Maintaining the right mindset can indeed improve productivity and your overall work experience. Dealing with periods of low motivation or resistance, especially during weekends or mornings, is something many people face. Here are a few strategies that might help you manage this friction more effectively:

  1. Set Clear Goals: Having clear and meaningful goals can provide a sense of purpose and direction. When you know what you’re working towards, it can be easier to overcome resistance and stay motivated.
  2. Break Tasks into Smaller Steps: Sometimes the thought of tackling a big project can be overwhelming, leading to resistance. Break your tasks into smaller, manageable steps. This can make the process feel less daunting and more achievable.
  3. Create a Routine: Establishing a consistent routine can make it easier to transition into work mode. Having a set time to start your work and including activities that help you mentally prepare for the day can reduce friction.
  4. Find Intrinsic Motivation: Try to connect your work tasks to something you genuinely enjoy or find rewarding. If you can see how your efforts contribute to your personal or professional growth, you might feel more motivated to engage with them.
  5. Use Positive Reinforcement: Reward yourself for completing tasks or making progress. This could be as simple as taking short breaks to do something you enjoy or treating yourself to something after a productive work session.
  6. Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, can help reduce stress and anxiety associated with starting your work. They can also improve focus and mental clarity.
  7. Visualize Success: Spend a few moments each morning visualizing yourself successfully accomplishing your tasks for the day. This can create a positive mental image and increase your confidence.
  8. Prioritize Tasks: Identify the most important tasks that need your attention and start with those. This can give you a sense of accomplishment early in the day and build momentum.
  9. Limit Decision Fatigue: Simplify your mornings by reducing the number of decisions you need to make. Lay out your clothes, plan your breakfast, and organize your workspace the night before.
  10. Stay Curious: Approach your tasks with a sense of curiosity and a desire to learn. This can make the process more engaging and enjoyable.

Remember that motivation can fluctuate naturally, and it’s okay to have days when you feel less enthusiastic. The key is to have strategies in place that help you push through those moments of resistance and maintain a productive mindset. If you consistently struggle with these feelings, it might also be helpful to have open conversations with your supervisor or colleagues to explore ways to make your work environment more engaging and enjoyable.

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Is this an ongoing problem? Or have you ever dealt with something similar in other areas of your life?

I say that because this sounds like it could be ADD/ADHD because yes, I experience it frequently. After my diagnosis, medication and therapy completely improved every aspect of my life.

Just expressing an alternative viewpoint that this might not be specifically related to work. It might be, but without much more information, I’m not sure. I would advise getting a professional diagnosis to find out what’s really going on if you believe this has happened or is happening in other areas of your life.

According to me, it’s easy to let issues at work be the “why” behind our actions because they typically take up most of our week and are easy to blame for bad actions.

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@KaranTrivedi, I believe that I have the same issue and that I may have ADHD, though I’ve never taken medication for it. I tend to be “on” a lot, which is kind of annoying, and after that I crash for about two to three days and am unable to function. It might not be that obvious to others that you are not as productive or interested for a while, and that might be an ok/healthy/willing to live with it mindset. I’m ok with operating like this because my "on"ness is so productive that it makes up for the offness.

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@BobbyDuncan, I think this is excellent advice: it’s up to you to accept the fact that most people won’t notice your ups and downs.

Hell, I’ve even admitted to employers that my output fluctuates; some days I’m at 20%, and other days I’m at 90% (I personally detest the 110% philosophies because it’s illogical to expect one to give 110% of one’s effort). My hours reflect this as well; I might bill for 30 hours one week and 70 the next, not because of deadlines or anything like that, just the way I work and can be hyper focused at times.

Additionally, @BobbyDuncan, I strongly advise getting a diagnosis if you have good health insurance! If you do have ADHD, you might be surprised by how many different facets of life it has affected, how simple it is to alter your behavior, and the amazing results of taking the right medication. If you don’t want to get into that, you should read the fantastic book Driven To Distraction, which will show you how it really is.

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@KaranTrivedi, maybe. I’ve struggled to complete tasks, such as projects by myself and courses. I’ve ascribed that to my actions.

I’ve only been able to deliver success at work (it helps when deadlines are set by my managers).

But as another commenter pointed out, I seem to experience low moods every few days; I am undoubtedly low once a month or after a particularly demanding task. I recognize that as a necessary component of my recharge cycle, so I don’t allow myself that time (however, again, same friction to get out of it; needs a big push; mostly 1:1 with managers has helped to remotivate me).

I’ll do more research on this.

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I make an effort not to place a lot of weight or worry on results. My motivation is severely diminished when I consider how many things that are out of my control I “have to” do (persuade others, raise a KPI). Instead of focusing on “X needs to happen” or “this is the solution” or “I’m right so they need to listen to me,” I get much more energy by being creative about the inputs and framing things as “I wonder what will happen” or “let’s try this idea” or “I could be wrong, we’ll see.”

Drinking coffee daily will also help, of course.

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I just came here to talk about the same issue, and the first thing I noticed was your topic.

I’m capable of working in a way that is so ineffective that I grow weary of it. I cut out a lot of fast food and sugary drinks and replaced them with a ton of vegetables, but my problem hasn’t changed. I occasionally struggle to create databases in Notion and enter values into them.

Just maintaining your attention can be taxing. In the evening, when my body and mind are at last rested, all I want to do is sleep rather than work. Same problem the next morning.

I now work as a complete junior due to the long-term exhaustion that destroyed every aspect of my confidence. Crazy.