Normally you’re self-motivated, that’s one of the reasons you’ve been so successful. What I’m hearing from many coaching clients is that the unrelenting sameness of the situation and the ever-changing playing field are leading them to feelings they’ve rarely experienced – lacking the BIG spark they usually have with which they ignite others. Feeling demotivated, weary or lacking your usual drive might be new for you.
To want or need to motivate yourself is not selfish. It’s akin to dawning your oxygen mask in a plane before assisting anyone else in putting their mask on (remember when we used to go on planes?). You can’t give what you don’t have. And in some ways, that’s why people are feeling fatigued – they’ve given more to others than they’ve muster in themselves.
Motivating yourself is part of EI or Emotional intelligence. It’s about managing your own emotions in an appropriate way for the situation. It’s also about navigating interpersonal relationships in the best interests of all the people involved and the organisational needs.
What is Resilience?
Firstly, this might be more about resilience than motivation. Resilience is the ability to handle adversity and bounce back after hardship. The problem now is that this hardship has been extreme, broad reaching and prolonged. So, there might be things to do with resilience that also will aid your motivation.
These might seem basic and many people struggle with these healthy practices. Try and be intentional to have these in your life now.
Look after your physical health.
• Get a minimum of 7 hours of good-quality sleep a night. That means turning off screens and devices about 1 hour before bedtime (to clear the blue light from your system). Sleep experts advise not to have devices in your bedroom.
• Eat a healthy diet. Drink 1.5-2L of water per day. Minimize or eliminate caffeine especially in the afternoon. Eat lots of varied foods, especially vegetables, pulses and fruits and less processed food. I suggest less sugar, alcohol and simple carbs as they have little nutrition and might trigger repetitive indulgences.
• Exercise. Move especially when working from home. Get both cardio and strength exercise regularly.
• Be in nature. There are physical and mental benefits of being outside, fresh air at a minimum and hopefully, among trees, grass, flowers if possible.
Have a support system and collaborate – personally and professionally.
• I’m working with a colleague and friend on group leadership development programmes and this has led to better ideas, creativity, more enjoyment, new business and companionship through a solitary time.
• I have a group of close friends, three of whom I meet with monthly on video. Last night we supported one friend on a dilemma she was having; we listened, asked questions, reflected back what we heard and sensed, shared the impact on us individually, asked what she needed, said we were here. These are ways of sharing burdens, feeling connected, being supported and being able to support another.
• I have an accountability partner that I work with to declare my actions around things I’m procrastinating on and she does the same with me. Sometimes those things are the same and sometimes different. That shared space helps.
• Get mental health support as appropriate. There is no shame is getting professional support as you would a personal trainer at the gym for your fitness or a dentist for your oral care.
By following the basics you’ll have a better chance of being resilient and motivated.
How to Motivate Yourself at Work
These ideas can be implemented immediately, there’s no prework or extra equipment needed to start on these.
Use the Pomodoro technique. It’s a time management technique of using a timer, often set for 25 minutes, to work and then a short break. Even just start with working 5 minutes on something important (not scanning emails). Commit to do only 5 minutes on a task and often you’ll end up working on it longer.
Get up and move around. Movement creates motion, take a short break and walk around to shake off the cobwebs. If you can go outside into fresh air for that short walk, do it. Stand up straight, head held high, open your chest with slow large in breaths. Movement changes your body physiology and your psychology.
Focus on feelings, not trying to persevere through will power alone. We are usually more productive when we are feeling positive feelings. What are some of the wins you’ve had lately that you can celebrate (no matter how tiny they are)? Focus on the contribution you’ve made, the progress that’s already got you to where you are (even if it’s just that you’ve now identified there is a problem). Fuel these feelings of accomplishment to move forward.
Why do you do what you do? Reflect on what value you add and what benefit you bring to others with the work that needs doing. What are the personal and professional reasons that you do your job? What difference do you make in someone’s life (customer, employee, family, etc)?
Reward yourself for making small steps. Research tells us that rewards are responsible for 75% of why we do things (punishment for the other 25%). That reward could be a coffee, a walk, a break, a huge congrats from a friend for your efforts. A Time article even suggested giving a friend $100 and if you complete what you said you would on time you got the money back!
Finish each day with a list of 2-3 priority things for the next day. This allows you to hit the ground running the next morning. By knowing the next step of a project or task you can get tucked in immediately, not have to retrace your steps to figure out what to do next.
Advanced Ways to Motivate Yourself
These ideas are more advanced because they take a bit more time and reflection to put into practice.
What’s the need behind the demotivation? Behind every “negative” emotion there is a need because it’s the unfulfilled need that is causing the “negative” feeling. When you’re frustrated because a colleague has missed a deadline, the need is probably for people to do what they say when they said they do it. Is the demotivation stemming from tired, afraid, overwhelmed, confused, angry? Address the underlying need.
Have a vision. Building on the idea above about why you do what you do; have a vision of success for yourself and your work. What’s your purpose at work? In life? Knowing the bigger reasons will help you get things done when you encounter smaller obstacles. My guess is that the covid-vaccine scientists were totally motivated to help people live and get back to a more normal life.
Get Positive. Research shows that being happy increases productivity and contributes to greater success. To nurture positivity, you have to notice it, create it if necessary and feel it. Everyday write down at least 3 things about yourself, your work and your life that are positive. Ruminate in those positive feelings. Feel them. At first you might have to really think hard about what those things are. Over time the daily practice will have you notice those positive events the moment they happen.
Surround yourself with people that inspire you and help you raise your game. We know that we become like the people with whom we hang out, that’s why parents are often concerned who their kids have as friends. If you work with people that are committed, motivated and inspiring you can tap into their energy.
Get a partner. Find someone with a similar blockage and support each other to move towards success. I’m doing this now around new business development. I have 2 vacancies in my coaching practice, as does a colleague so we’re supporting each other weekly to fill these. Just as you are more liking to go for a run if you are meeting a friend on the street corner than if you were on your own, partner with someone for the tasks you struggle to complete.
In addition to all the above ideas of how to improve your motivation, the other thing is to be kind to yourself. As is said, this is an unprecedented time and it continues. Motivation, productivity, and mood will ebb and flow in this situation. Be kind, patient and compassionate to yourself and others. Compassion is proven to get your further than harshly driving yourself based on research by Kristin Neff.
Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for support in motivating yourself and others to inspire and lead in the way you want? What would make you more effective?
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