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Beating the work blahs: Staying motivated

James Houston

Monday, September 10, 2007

It doesn’t matter who you are or what your job is, from time to time we all get the blahs at work. It could be the repetitive nature of the task, a lack of challenge or simply the sheer volume of things that have to be done, but whatever the reason, losing the motivation to do what you need to do happens to the best of us.

The problem is that once that feeling settles in, it is hard to shake and you can quickly fall into an unproductive cycle of procrastination that can have consequences for your career and leave you feeling miserable both on the job and off. Re-energizing and re-motivating yourself as quickly as possible is critical, so we’ve put together a list of things you can do to get out of the rut at work.

Gut check

Motivation is something that comes from inside, and as such it is closely tied to your emotional state. Often when we get into a cycle of procrastination, it is because we have fears and anxiety about getting the job done. Ask yourself if this is the case and be honest with yourself. If this is the case, once you’ve acknowledged it, you can use your skills, concentration and time management ability to change it.

Bigger picture

It is sometimes easy to lose perspective on the job. The daily grind can wear you down, but you can counter this by recognizing the satisfaction your job brings you. Every job touches someone or makes a difference somewhere, so focus on the positive contribution you are making, if only for the company. Remember too that you are part of a team.

Step outside your job description

Doing the same thing over time can lead to complacency and dull your will to get the job done. You can combat this by taking the initiative and seeking projects and duties that aren’t in your job description. New work will bring new challenges that can invigorate you and shake up the routine, not to mention opening the doors for advancement and promotion. If there aren’t projects to take on, spend some time reading up on your company and your industry. A better understanding of the context of your job may help you see your daily routine from a different, less mundane perspective.

Shake it up

We tend to fall into a routine that we repeat every day, and this can have a numbing effect on us. Changing little things, like your route to work, who you have lunch with, or even your furniture arrangement and décor can keep you fresh.

Set a challenge, see the goal

Sometimes all you need to get back in the groove is a new goal. You know what you are capable of, so set a reasonable objective that challenges you and go for it. Ask yourself what it is you would like to achieve. It could be making a certain amount of sales, closing out some new business, or providing the highest level of customer service you can. The thought or reaching your objective can be a wonderful motivator.

It may be helpful to break the larger goal down into a series of smaller benchmarks that will get you there. Keep these in mind by reviewing frequently and acknowledging when you’ve completed one. It is the sense of completion and achievement that keeps your interest and motivation at the level they need to be.

Look back

We can all use a little cheerleading once in a while, and who better to do that than you. Take some time and create a list of all you have accomplished, from the personal to the professional, and reflect on that. Knowing your worth can build your confidence and overcome the doubts that may be helping to create work doldrums.

Learn from others

You aren’t the first person to suffer from a lack of get up and go, and there are lot’s of people who have written their stories of overcoming a lack of motivation. So check out the biographies of people who have been up against it and come out smiling. Better yet, speak to someone you know who inspires you with their accomplishments. Tell them about where you are and pick their brains for sources of inspiration.

Get physical

Exercising and fresh air can be a great way to shake off the dulling effects of the office. Set aside some time every hour, even two minutes, to stand up, stretch and move around. There are many mini-exercise programs available on line that can be done at your desk in moments and leave you with an energized body and brain. And where you can, get outside on your breaks and lunch for a chance to breathe in fresh air.

Have fun

Motivational gurus and creativity experts have long cited the positive effects of laughter and recreation can have on problem solving abilities. Look for something fun in your work if possible, and use it to put you into a better frame of mind. If that isn’t possible, make sure that your time outside the office involves as much relaxing as possible, and continue to pursue your other interests in an effort to keep you stimulated and optimistic.

Out of the rut and into the groove

Staying motivated at work is essential for professional success. For the CFO of a powerful investment firm or the line-worker at an assemble plan, it is motivation that drives them forward and makes things happen. So if you find yourself staring out the window, pushing papers around your desk, and just generally putting things off, it may be time to take steps to put the zing back in your workday.