There are four key reasons our motivation at work may waver: 1) A values mismatch, 2) lack of self-efficacy, 3) disruptive emotions, and 4) attribution errors (i.e. not knowing what went wrong with a task), according to Richard E. Clark, Ed.D., a Professor Emeritus of psychology and technology at the University of Southern California, and Bror Saxberg, the Vice President of Learning Science at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The two write about these “motivation traps” and how employers can solve for each one in the Harvard Business Review.
But as individuals, having some motivation-boosting strategies at the ready can help us get out of a rut quickly. We asked members of the Thrive Global community to share their best tips for staying motivated at work. Which ones will you try?
Think about when you wanted what you now have
“On really tough days when I feel like giving up, I try to think back to when I wanted what I have now (my role, lessons I’ve learned, relationships, self-awareness, my abilities, etc.). It shifts my perspective and helps me remember to focus on gratitude. Plus, I’ve never given up before, so why should I start now? Things usually aren’t as bad as they seem.”
—Megan Garheart, corporate recruiter, Baltimore, MD
Focus on the value you’re adding
“I’ve always found that focusing on why I’m doing something helps me stay motivated at work. When I can clearly see the deeper purpose behind what I’m doing — not just that it’s my job or that I’m expected to deliver something — I stay excited about the value my work adds to the bigger picture. For example, screening candidates might feel tedious at times, but reminding myself that I have the privilege of learning about many people and identifying those who will thrive on and improve our team is motivating.”
—Andrew Gobran, people operations, Minneapolis, MN
Think of your job as an investment in your future
“I work at a place where burnout is expected. So many around me are too worried about running out of steam — including myself — that I think we forget why we applied to that job in the first place. If I ever get to that point, I’ll remind myself that each day at my job is an investment in my future. In other words, I like to think of where I’ll be in the next five years, then look at the next year, the next six months and then the next week. I tell myself, ‘What do you need to get done today so that the future you want is that much closer?’ It’s a daily dose of investment medicine for motivation.”
—Jacob Kountz, mental health worker, Bakersfield, CA
When writing your to-do list, break your tasks into smaller chunks
“I use the rule about doing 52 minutes of work followed by 17 minutes of rest, a break, or a change of scenery. While I’m not so strict about the ratios, I’m relieved to know I have scientifically-proven permission to change it up. But while at my desk, I glean a great deal of motivation from stopping, taking a deep breath, and getting curious. I love writing to-do lists. As solopreneurs, we sometimes sabotage ideas and creativity because we know the burden of execution lies solely on us. Nevertheless we keep going, staying in love with our work, projects, outcomes, and the difference we’re making in the world. Breaking ideas, projects, and tasks into smaller chunks has been incredibly good for digestion!”
—Meris R. Gebhardt, founder, New York, N.Y.
Recharge your batteries
“A lack of motivation can impact numerous aspects of our personal and professional lives. Fortunately, there are several ways to combat this lackluster feeling, recharge our batteries, and restore our optimism. One is to ask if your expectations are too high. If so, recalibrate. If others have noted that your attitude may need adjustment, you may also consider planning your vacation sooner than you usually do, taking a mental health day from time to time, seeking professional guidance, or asking for a transfer or temporary reassignment.”
—Dr. Marlene Caroselli, author, Pittsford, N.Y.
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