I spend a lot of time thinking about productivity.

At work, I’m responsible for my own productivity, and I’m responsible for others’ productivity as a manager. Outside of work, I’d like to produce a life worth living according to personal definitions: one that’s healthy, connected to others, and creative.

The challenge is that productivity is a moving target. So, I’ve been focused on a small, personal facet: the elusive element of motivation.

You may have heard the adage, “People do what they want to do. In order to change what they do, you have to change what they want.”

I tend to want, in the course of any weekday, to do a lot of unproductive things. I can imagine my days in peaks and valleys—obsessively powering through work one hour, and scrolling through Facebook the next. It’s unreasonable (and untrue biologically) to expect peak energy for an entire 16-hour day, but I want to figure out how to swing up and down less, have smoother days, and raise my average accomplishments overall.

I also don’t want to burn out. Accessing motivation is a way of working toward sustainable productivity—building habits based on positive experiences.

So I started exploring my motivations. What exactly makes a good day good? At the end of each day, when I’m climbing into bed, I can usually feel whether or not it’s been good or bad, productive or unproductive, accomplished or not. But I can’t tease out what elements contribute to it, or how one day compares to any other that week or month. I needed something more specific than the emotion alone.

I wrote out two goals:

  1. Define a productive day.
  2. Use the definition to motivate my overall weekly productivity to increase, and get less distracted by peaks and valleys.

I created this worksheet to help me accomplish both goals.

It’s a simple daily rubric that allows me to define what kinds of things have to happen in order to create a personal sense of motivation and accomplishment in my life. First, I set a modest personal goal for my daily overall score, and then raised it slowly until it corresponded realistically with my professional responsibilities and my personal feelings at the end of the day.

You can try this experiment with me to define your productive day, set your own motivating factors, and track and increase your accomplishments.

If you want to try this out, download a (free) worksheet copy and follow these steps:

  1. For each of the five categories, name 3 actions you take that fulfill your sense of being productive, motivated, and alive. (I left mine in to spark your creativity.)
  2. Set the “Importance” multiplier: anything you enter above 1 increases the importance of that task as a daily priority.
  3. Each day, check the items off as you go. Record your daily scores for a week before setting a daily stretch goal.

The more specific and measurable the actions, the better.

Good luck! And if your productive future might involve taking your career to the next level, check out the Seattle-based certificate courses we designed under our education brand, Insight, for tight, actionable ways gain new skills.