Have you ever tried to “get motivated” at the office—but nothing works? You start to feel terrible, like you’re falling behind in your business or career. You’re bored, lethargic, and you don’t want to meet up with your friends because you don’t want to talk about what you’ve been doing. (Or, more accurately, what you haven’t been doing.)
I’ve totally been there, too, and I’ve felt the frustration that comes from a lack of motivation at work.
But I’ve also got some good news. There are some key things that contribute to your work being motivating (or not), and once you recognize them, you have the power to redesign your workday in a way that gets you moving.
Here are five things you should make sure you’re getting out of your day-to-day tasks—and if you’re not, the changes you can make to jump start your motivation.
1. Task Identity
Work is most motivating when it’s clear what, exactly, you’re accomplishing. Think about it: How great does it feel when you know you’ve gotten a launch off the ground or made great progress on big project? On the other hand, nothing is worse than working all day and thinking “What did I even do today?!”
If you’re feeling like you’ve been spinning your wheels, try this: At the end of each day or week, make a “Got Done” list (the opposite of to the to-do list!), where you outline all of the tasks you've completed. For extra motivation, keep it somewhere you can see.
2. Task Significance
Another key to staying motivated is knowing that the work you’re doing makes a difference in some way—recognizing the impact you’re making on your clients, company, or the world.
If you’re not totally seeing this connection, try to dig deep. You could map your weekly sales reports to the increase in your company’s bottom lines or sales unit, for example. Or, say a key metric your company tracks is customer acquisition cost. Make a list of the tasks you do that reduce this cost for your company, and find ways to focus on those aspects of your job more often.
3. Skill Variety
Feel like you’re doing the same old repetitive work, day after day? It’s not so stimulating, to say the least. But when you’re engaging lots of different skill sets—that’s fantastic for your motivation.
Try to structure your days so that you’re working on different tasks (and thus, making use of different skills) throughout the day. For example, instead of writing all day on Monday and then building your client presentations on Tuesday, try to do both in smaller three-hour chunks each day. When you stimulate different parts of the brain, your motivation will be recharged.
One of the most motivating factors you can have is getting feedback on your work. Not only for the ego boost you get when you’ve done a good job, but because the right feedback can help you hone your skills even further. It can also help you see the difference that your work is making. On the contrary, if you don’t know how you’re performing, it’s easy to lose steam.
If find that you’re in a black hole of feedback, ask your manager, or even a colleague, for standing check-in meetings every one or two weeks. Let her know that you’d like to use the time to check in on your projects, and that you’d love honest feedback on where you could improve.
Finally, this is a big one: having autonomy in your job. Now, this doesn’t mean that you always get to do what you want—it just means you get a domain of choice about how you’re doing things.
For example, say you need to secure three more clients for the month. It’s much more motivating to be able to determine how to do that on your own—perhaps you want to build your online presence, or perhaps you enjoy building relationships offline. Sure, in the corporate world, there are plenty of things that have to be done a certain way—but there are also plenty of places where you can ask your boss for more autonomy.
And that brings me to my final point: Unless you work for yourself, you probably don’t have the power to totally rewrite your job description. But what you can do is communicate with your manager. You can identify the skills you want to develop, ask for feedback more often, probe for clarification when tasks are not clearly identified or seem insignificant, or ask to take on different tasks or have more autonomy on a project.
More than likely, you’ll be able to change something about your workload. And not only will you be more motivated—your boss will be impressed you’ve taken the initiative.
So what’s getting in the way of you being motivated at work? Find out, and then find a solution.