How to stay motivated (when you really aren’t)

Whether you’re working for someone at a white collar job or you’re shuffling on the coil of self-employment, everyone has times where the motivation ebbs and flows. Sometimes, this lack of motivation may signal you need a change of the holiday or new job variety.

But what can you do if changing jobs at this particular point in time isn’t an option and the holidays aren’t really touching the sides?

The motivation monster thwacks his muddy paws across all business sectors. And changing the way you work will only get you so far.

So I’ve put together a few things that have helped me over the years to stay focussed and ready to rock, productivity-wise. Hopefully, these thing can also help when you’re feeling a little sad and soggy around the work edges.

Set a rhythm pattern

You can train yourself to have a work ready brain pattern with a few simple tweaks. It’s the repeating them that counts.

Playing a particular type of music when you need to work efficiently can become an association your brain finds hard to resist.

Example: If I know I have a lot of writing to be done and I need to do it quickly, Gorillaz and The Gossip are my go to artists. The trick here is making sure that you don’t play them any other time (so the association cements) and that you play them in the exact same order each time so the rhythm becomes established (so no shuffle).

But music isn’t the only association you can use.

Try coming into work an hour before everyone else to get critical, un-interrupted work done and you’ll find that starting with a solid stretch of work will set you up far better for the rest of the day. If you work for yourself, you can also experiment with working Tuesday to Saturday or Sunday to Thursday to give yourself an entire day of productive work at the end or beginning of your working week.

Walk, ride your bike or participate in morning yoga on the hard days, and you’ll also get more done as you steady the nerves through exercise and release endorphins.

Establish a pattern that encourages work, and you’ll find the habits you choose will guide you towards a certain type of thinking and mindset.

Just make sure that you protect it from being de-railed by distractions, emails and days when the focus is not as necessary. And practise it when you can.

It takes approximately 66 days to cement a habit on a psychological level, especially when breaking a bad one. So effort and consistency are a must.

Identify triggers that suck out your motivation

There are a million and one blogs written about when you should read email, when you should be on social media, if you should take phone calls and why you should have a cold shower in the morning.

What works for you isn’t going to work for everyone. And what you can get away with at your job (e.g. not reading emails when you work in events, an agency or customer service is career suicide) isn’t going to be what the next person can.

The main crux of all these sorts of articles is about habit formation and identifying triggers that suck the life out of your motivation. And that is a deeply personal thing.

Example: I find phone calls and meetings huge distractions. They disrupt my thinking pattern before and after. And I often find many calls or meetings are not necessary to producing good work. Recognising this means I don’t have my phone number featured on my website, and I book all conversations via Skype as appointments so I can manage them effectively.

Many other business people I know are horrified at this approach as they receive quite a lot of work through always being available. So why do I forgo those amazing leads my peers are getting from being less accessible?

Because I know that style of working doesn’t work for me.

The truth is, being available for every enquiry doesn’t mean more work for me. Being able to do the work I have efficiently and making the best use of my time does. I’ve worked out that calls de-rail my day and can cost me 8 hours if I am in the wrong mindset at the time the call is made. I’ve also worked out that the “always available” mantra encourages my clients to be reliant on me to step in as opposed to using the time we have together to learn what I do (my preferred way of working).

This is something we all need to do in order to work efficiently- we need to know what distracts us and takes us away from doing the best work we can. It takes about 45 minutes for your brain to get into the groove with a critical task. Don’t waste that by setting yourself up to be distracted and de-railed.

If you want to identify your triggers, monitor yourself for a week. Look for times when you are in the flow of work and what surrounded it, and then look for the moments where your attention gets fractured. Write them down, and then see what you can do to change the behaviours.

Common events that can rob you of deep thought and your motivation are:

  • Focussing too much on emails
  • Saying yes to every meeting
  • Chatty workmates
  • Answering every phone call
  • Social media usage
  • Not having a set routine
  • Not having a plan or TO DO LIST

Each of us has our own de-motivational triggers. Look for yours.

Motivation is the key to success

Keeping a certain amount of zeal and zest for the task at hand will always trump anything else you can throw at work. Enthusiasm brings breakthroughs and brilliance. Making sure you can always bring that to the table is the best gift you can give to your career.

Want to learn more about how to stay motivated and in the flow?

Join me for business coaching of a different kind. 

It’s for all self-starters, solopreneurs and go-getting freelancers who are looking for a way to turn stress-free enthusiasm for work into a whole lot of productivity.

1 Comment. Leave new

  • Every article I found about this topic had the same tips and I love how unique this one is. Especially the psychological part that plays a great role in how motivated you are. I love how you explained it.


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