- It is natural for motivation to wax and wane; it is especially understandable during times of upheaval and without our usual motivators in place, that motivation can be difficult to sustain. ·
- When you become aware that motivation is waning, there are tips and techniques you can implement right away to get yourself going again.
- If you think your sustained lack of motivation might go beyond simply a bad day or week, be sure to reach out to your health professional.
In the last few months, our usual workflows have been disrupted. Many of us have been saddled with additional roles, such as caregiver, at-home educator, and home disinfecting specialist. Add onto this the inherent stress of uncertain times, and we’re going to have some bad days – even bad weeks. Motivation may wane or be a challenge to sustain. When we become aware that our motivation has taken a hit, what can we do to give ourselves a jump start? Here are a few tips to keep things moving forward.
Swallow the Frog – Whenever possible, tackle the biggest, most difficult task first. As the day progresses, our mental energy and decision-making abilities may become depleted, and we can easily get sidetracked by the many responsibilities fighting for our attention. By tackling the biggest or most difficult task first, you also start your day with a feeling of accomplishment – a natural motivator.
Do the Next Right Thing – When we have large tasks to tackle – or a million and one little things to keep track of – it’s easy to become overwhelmed and stuck. When this happens, take a deep breath, and ask yourself, “what’s the next right thing to do?” Break it into manageable pieces and ensure that they are action items – i.e. tasks that you can realistically tackle. For example, “update the monthly executive briefing report” might break down into “run reports”, “highlight key numbers”, “perform calculations” and finally “update PowerPoint deck”. It may seem pedantic, but when overwhelm sets in, creating distinct action items can help keep you on track.
Take Breaks – Are you really lacking in motivation? Or are you overworking and forgetting to take mental and physical health breaks? Are you drinking water, standing to stretch, taking time to eat through the day, and logging out at an appropriate time? When working from home, it can be easy to fall into the 24/7 trap – being constantly connected and always on the job. Additionally, without colleagues to chat to or lunch to walk out and grab, we may be forgetting to take breaks entirely. Assess your schedule, set your office hours, and stick to them as much as is realistic. Take scheduled breaks, even if it’s just a 5-minute stretch. And recognize that without office distractions, you may be completing more work in less time – this is a success, not a failure.
Know Your “Why” (and if there isn’t a compelling one, consider dropping the task) – Perhaps the report in the above example goes out to executives but never generates feedback and discussion or goes largely unopened. Could your lack of motivation be because the report is outdated and isn’t adding value to the organization? One of the silver linings of times of disruption is the opportunity to assess what’s working and what’s not and implement change. If there isn’t a compelling “why” for what you are doing, rather than powering through, consider dropping the task or proposing something of higher value in its place.
Keep a List of Your Achievements – You may be achieving more than you think. Without the usual success cues of a business environment – recognition in a team meeting from your manager, or even the chance to share your success with a colleague over the morning coffee run – you may be overlooking some very real successes throughout your day. Take some time daily or weekly to note what you’ve achieved in a tangible way. (If you’re managing a team, this is a great practice to implement during your regular check-ins with your team, too.)
Check Your Mental Health. We know that these uncertain times are taking a toll on our mental health. If your lack of motivation is extending beyond what seems ‘normal’ or you have any concerns at all about your mental health, speak with a healthcare professional.
The overarching theme in these suggestions is to take an attitude of self-compassion. Times are difficult – berating yourself for a lack of motivation (or staying stuck in it) is neither kind nor effective. Try these simple tips when motivation fails you. Small steps can make a big difference.