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How to Get Back on Track When Faced With a Lack of Motivation at Work

It’s Monday morning, and you sit down at your desk, facing another week. The emails have stacked up over the weekend and there is a backlog of tasks from last week that need your attention. And yet, your focus seems like a faraway skill that you can’t remember how to activate. Your usual drive to get things done also seems to have disappeared, leaving you with an unfamiliar (and unwelcome) lack of motivation. 

Don’t panic. A lack of motivation happens to the best of us, and there are mindfulness-based emotional intelligence strategies to get you back to your focused, productive self.

What Causes a Lack of Motivation?

The reasons for lack of motivation are as unique as the individual members of your team. We all deal with our workloads in different ways, and we all have different demands in our lives outside work that factor into our capacity. As you think through what might be causing a lack of motivation for you in particular, let’s explore some common issues.

Inability to Disconnect

In the current always-on, hybrid working climate, it is easy to blend work time and free time. When your home is also your office (and vice versa), the boundaries that usually delineate work space from home space can become nonexistent, leading to both unfocused time at work and an inability to shut work down at the end of the day. 

Worse yet, if your phone pings with work emails and chats during dinner or your office space is located where you sleep, you might feel as though you’re always on call. The blurry boundaries and invasion of your free time can make it harder to fully rest, leading to a lack of motivation at work the next day.

Perfectionism

When motivation to do a great job at work is left unchecked by mindful acceptance, self-care, or thoughtful prioritization, you might feel that every task is critical and must be performed to perfection. Perfectionism can sap us of energy and take crucial time away from the most important tasks on our list. 

Because we all have a limited amount of energy to spend each day, perfectionism can make it difficult to stay motivated at work. (If you relate to this scenario, you might enjoy reading about how one perfectionist learned to practice “good enough.“)

Feeling Unappreciated

When a new employee joins the team, team leaders often compliment them on early performance, helping to validate their efforts and to allow them to feel part of the team. This is certainly helpful, but have you ever noticed how this affirmation can wane with time, perhaps as we take our colleagues’ good work for granted?

When team members continue to perform but don’t feel they are being rewarded adequately for their work, they could lose motivation with their work. This doesn’t mean a trophy needs to be given away for daily jobs well done, but it does mean that regular awareness and acknowledgement of efforts are important for continued motivation. Everyone’s work includes challenges, some outside our control. Thoughtful appreciation is one thing we can incorporate regularly to motivate and support our colleagues.

Burnout

Burnout is an all-too-common result of pushing too hard for too long. Have you ever gone through the day without realizing that you’ve forgotten to eat, drink water, or stretch? Have you ever become aware of your tense shoulders only when you get the corresponding headache? 

We might be able to keep up the sprint and ignore our needs for a little while, but over time our bodies will begin to protest the overwork. The result? Burnout.

While many think of burnout as merely a psychological response, science shows us that burnout has real physical health effects too. And the impact on your work? You guessed it: a loss of motivation, as tasks can feel physically impossible when we’ve pushed ourselves too far.

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How to Stay Motivated at Work

Just as there are common causes for loss of motivation at work, there are also ways to get back on track and stay motivated. Even though the technologies and connectedness will continue to evolve and work arrangements will continue to shift, there are some tried-and-true emotional intelligence (EI) practices to consider to boost motivation at work.

Connect with Trusted Colleagues

The ability to express yourself authentically (in both your struggles and your triumphs) leads to an increase in psychological safety at work, and, in turn, more effective teams. Building a collaborative environment takes time, but you can take small steps to ask for (and offer) support to your colleagues.

Consider if you might connect with a mentor or colleague to discuss your challenges and ask for help or advice. Fresh ideas, an attitude of curiosity, and empathic connection can all help you to stay motivated with work. 

In turn, notice where you can offer your colleagues support. Perhaps you lead a group mindfulness session, schedule a coffee chat, or just validate that a team member is doing a great job. As you give to others, you might find your own work feels more energized as well.  

Are you working on a remote team? This can add an extra layer of challenge in connecting with colleagues, but check out these tips to build trust on remote teams. (And if you’re curious to learn more about how to bring more effective teaming to your organization, reach out to us to explore how we might work together.

Incorporate Mindful Breaks

Breaks help our minds and bodies reset and return with greater focus and creativity, helping us to stay more motivated at work. Set a timer for 10-15 minutes and take some time to practice self care.

Here are some of our favorite ways to take a break:

  • Take a walk and appreciate your natural environment.

  • Stretch.

  • Eat a meal or snack with mindfulness, contemplating where your food came from and all the effort it has taken for you to be able to enjoy it today.

  • Practice a short meditation, like a body scan (find our sister organization, SIYLI, on Insight Timer).

Connect with Purpose

In the day-to-day bustle, it’s easy to lose track of your “why.” And yet connecting with the impact of your work on the world around you can help you stay motivated. To re-engage with your purpose, consider journaling (either on your own or as a thought starter for a team discussion). 

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What are you most proud of about your work? What would help increase your sense of pride?

  • What is most meaningful in your work? What would help build a sense of meaning for you this year?

  • What was most enjoyable about work last year? What would help you have more enjoyment and fun this year?

  • What impact has your work had on those around you? What would help you increase this impact or the meaning of it?

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We’re Here to Help

If your team or company needs support to improve motivation, we’d love to talk with you about how our programs can help. 

Our signature offering, Search Inside Yourself, draws on neuroscience and emotional intelligence to help your team increase self-awareness, build focus, communicate more effectively, and manage stress.

If your organization is managing change, restructuring teams, or looking to thrive despite adversity, Adaptive Resilience offers practical tools to build your team’s capacity to be creative, resourceful, and productive, allowing them to be motivated even in the midst of challenging circumstances. 

Not sure what’s right for your company? We’re happy to help. Contact us to discuss your specific needs and how we might support you.