Insights & Ideas

6 ways to stay motivated and put the power back in willpower

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Feeling unmotivated at work? You’re not alone. For the past few months, concentrating on day-to-day tasks has been a challenge for most people. After all, there’s been kind of a lot going on in the world and working at home is a distraction bonanza. So, if your motivation meter is pointing to low, try these tips for putting some gas back in the tank to make your days more productive.

1. Cut yourself some slack

There are scientifically proven reasons why you feel tired and unmotivated. We’re all dealing with anxiety, stress, sadness, uncertainty, and helplessness—and we can’t even rely on our normal routines for comfort.

Erin Walsh, from the Spark & Stitch Institute, says, “While a certain amount of stress can boost energy and increase focus, more often it leaves us feeling irritable, tired, and fuzzy. Goals that seemed achievable at the start of the day often seem out of reach by lunch.”

Remember this is an extraordinary situation and give yourself a break.

2. Create a personal “motivation mission”

The dictionary definition of motivation is, “having a strong reason to act or accomplish something.” When it feels like the whole world is out of whack, it can be hard to identify a “strong reason” to do everyday job tasks. So, take a few minutes to think about how the work you do makes a difference.

Ask yourself: How does my work …

  • Fulfill my company’s mission and/or serve our clients, customers, or constituents?
  • Help my coworkers and colleagues succeed?
  • Impact the greater community?
  • Allow me to contribute to my family and/or personal wellbeing?
  • Help me grow as a person and a professional?

Then, take the most inspiring answers to those questions, and make them your mission for getting work done. For example, “As a controller, I help keep my company financially healthy—allowing our company to provide jobs to hundreds of people and create products that improve our customers’ quality of life.”  Or, simply, “I’m working to pay for my son’s college education.”

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3. Plan and prioritize each day

If motivation is the reason you do something, willpower is the mental fortitude to overcome obstacles to get the job done. But it’s important to know that scientists think willpower is a finite resource. In other words, you only have so much willpower each day. That’s why it’s critical to plan and prioritize your day.

Each morning (or the night before), make a list of the tasks you want to accomplish for the day. Be realistic about how much you can achieve and break big jobs into small, achievable pieces, if possible. Then, reorder the list with the most important tasks at the top, and tackle them first. That way, if you run out of willpower, you’ve at least accomplished the most critical items on your list. Finally, at the end of the day, look through your list and take a minute to appreciate what you accomplished—even if it wasn’t as much as you’d hoped.

4. Schedule time for tasks you like

Put some of your favorite job tasks—or maybe some time learning new skills—at the end of each day. Not only does that help you be productive when your willpower runs out; but it also gives you something to look forward to and sets you up to be more motivated for work the next day.

5. During work time, take a break from the world

Unfortunately, most of us have access to the internet—and the 24-hour news cycle—during our workday. It’s so easy to check on the latest coronavirus stats or get immersed in social media discussions. Ironically, a good way to fight technology temptation is with more technology. On your desktop, you can use free services, like Cold Turkey, to block your heavily used sites for certain hours of the day; and there are many apps to help you keep your phone use in check. Some phone apps, like Forest, also provide motivating rewards for staying off your devices.

6. Finally, commit to just getting started

Experts say motivation usually kicks in after you start a job, not before you begin. So, commit to just starting a task—even if it’s only for 30 minutes. Often once you get going, motivation kicks in. Once you’ve started, you have a much better chance of getting your work done. And, if it’s not going to happen today, it was only a half-hour of your time.

Even though we’re all facing unprecedented levels of stress and distraction, we can still get meaningful work done—one step at a time.

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Looking for a career where you can tackle challenging projects, find greater work-life balance and make true impact? At Salo, we help finance, accounting, and HR professionals find the meaningful interim work that fits their life and goals. Connect with us today to learn more.

Jon Cermak

Director of Talent Acquisition and People Support

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