How to stay motivated at work
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There are those who naturally brim with motivation. They know exactly what they need to do and do it daily – if that’s you, congratulations, you need read no further!
Others, however, may be more familiar with this routine: a burst or two of productivity followed by a drop in focus – and then a lapse into wondering what to have for dinner. You concentrate again and ‘get back in the zone’ only for a text or social media alert to break the spell. And then you start over again...
While it’s a struggle for many to stay relentlessly focused on work tasks during office hours, try our handy tips to see if they can help motivate you.
Routines rule – get one if you don’t have one
Forget the idea of routine as a drudge. Think of it instead as a tool to help you engage in the most rewarding jobs by prioritising your workload – a daily framework, if you like, for getting a lot of tasks done.
While many people can do their jobs easily enough without needing to scrutinise how and why they’re successful, a clear and set routine is often the key.
Why? When your day’s structure is already firmly in place, you’re free to focus on getting the actual work done rather than waste energy on constantly planning what to do next.
If your days can be unpredictable and you don’t yet have a routine, start by at least trying to create one – no matter how chaotic your work is.
Write an exhaustive list of everything you need to do in the week ahead, and be sure to include long-term projects you’re working on as well as daily commitments and any work group demands or scheduled meetings.
Look at it closely to see if you can group a number of tasks together – this can make it easier to complete similar assignments more swiftly.
Next, spread all your jobs – why not number them if it helps – across the five days so you have a clear set of daily ‘to-do’ lists. If you can, add in ‘spare time’ (even if only half an hour or so in each day) to give you a breather if needed or to fit in unexpected extras.
Do your utmost to stick to the new routine and fine-tune it to suit your circumstances. Keep doing it every week so that it becomes a habit. Of course, everybody works differently and you may find a routine holds you back – it’ll be up to you to try and test what works best for you.
Need a little inspiration? These daily routines of famous entrepreneurs including Benjamin Franklin and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey could help.
Choose your colleagues carefully…
‘You are who you surround yourself with’, the adage goes. And in the workplace, this could have a major impact on how motivated you feel.
Spend time with enthusiastic colleagues, and you too can end up being similarly energised and inspired.
Unfortunately, the opposite can also hold true. If you regularly sit next to those who are unhappy and who do little other than grumble, it could drain your own enthusiasm and leave you resentful.
A good sense of your own ‘emotional intelligence’ can help when you have to work with people who complain constantly. In such a scenario, be sensitive to others’ concerns and work out how best to respond to them while being careful not to be drawn into their despondency.
As a rule, try to find a balance of sentiment in your workplace – it’s highly unlikely you’ll find everyone sings from the same happy hymn sheet. A dose of scepticism can also be a welcome reminder of reality in the workplace.
At the very least, make sure you at least engage regularly with employees who make you feel good about being at work. Don’t underestimate how others’ get-up-and-go can rub off on you.
If you’re a freelancer, you may already be full of energy and motivation to work - but you can also take advantage of the benefits of positive personalities.
Put in place a circle of friends, work contacts and friendly clients you know you can pick up the phone to, meet for a quick coffee, or rely on for support and encouragement.
While you may not be able to always benefit from their enthusiasm in person, knowing they’re available to help whenever you need it can be a boost by itself.
Take care of your health
When it comes to staying motivated, looking after your physical and mental health is key.
It may sound like a ‘back-to-basics’ clarion call but regular exercise, healthy eating and plenty of sleep all help to keep your energy levels consistent. In return, you’re more likely to be able to work at a steady pace, avoid low-energy slumps and stay alert and motivated.
Of course, everyone is different and you may already have an exercise routine that works well for you. But if you’re struggling to fit one into a busy life, why not try a midday run (or gym workout if feasible) instead which could give you an afternoon boost? Simple changes to your routine could have a big effect.
Keep an eye on your stress levels, too. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or burnt out, speak to your boss, a friend or a professional. Taking care of your physical and mental health will help ensure you’re feeling your best – when you’re motivated about looking after yourself, there’s a high chance that you’ll be motivated in other areas of your life as well.
Find your ‘why?’
In order to stay motivated in any part of your life – eg health, career, personal development, sorting your finances – it’ll always help to have a reason, or ‘why?’, in place for it.
Take saving money as a simple example. A key motivation to putting aside cash each month is the object of your dreams – a holiday or deposit for a car or first home, say. Unless you keep on saving, you won’t reach your goal.
Now apply the same principle to your job and ask yourself these questions about why you do it: what attracted you to your industry? What made you apply for the job? What do you hope to achieve from it?
These are of course major life questions – and not the sort to be easily solved. Typically, they may involve asking about what drives you, where you see yourself in ten years, what experience you need to get there and what’s missing from your skillset.
Sometimes the answers can be difficult – and acknowledging this is part of the process. If you’re feeling frustrated, disconnected or seeking meaning in your work, our Lifeskills Finding a purpose article could point you in the right direction. Asking yourself big questions shouldn’t be scary – having an idea of what you want from your future can be empowering and fire you up.
Looking for the answers to these can give you huge motivation. When you have a sense of purpose, it can have a major impact on your daily life and work – and bring huge happiness and motivation to it.
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