As the summer approaches or during the holiday season, it can seem like time moves faster and faster. Distractions abound, at work and in life. It’s hard to stay focused. With a taste of warmer or colder weather creeping in here and there, it’s even harder to stay motivated. Most of us are exhausted from enduring the long winter and are ready for a few warm spring days to recuperate and catch our breath. Few of us have enough gas left in the tank to summon up more than a listless wave and a half-hearted stab at producing the kind of quality work we’re required to deliver or used to delivering.
The best, most effective motivators are the internal or self-directed ones. You can’t count on external forces or events to motivate you, just as your decision to be happy can’t wait for some external, wonderful thing to happen before you allow yourself to feel joy. Instead, take your power back. Once you develop habits and behaviors that inspire and energize you, you’ll be able to summon up the motivation you need to finish the year strong and set your course for a successful year. Here are some suggestions for finding that inner inspiration and to give yourself motivation.
remember the what and why
Motivating yourself is hard. If you haven’t set goals – not to be confused with resolutions – now’s the time to do so. Create a list of long-term, big-picture goals and then break them down into steps; these are your short-term goals. You can’t get there from here without them. Make them realistic and attainable. Print a calendar or hard copy so you have a tactile, visual reminder of where you’re headed and how far you’ve come. Then check off each step along the way on a regular basis. The trick is to focus on the tasks and responsibilities of the work that you find enjoyable. When your motivation lags, pull out your chart and remind yourself of how far you’ve come. It's the main reason that will help you stay motivated at work and keep this motivation high throughout the year.
With each small step that you take along the path toward your big goals, make sure you reward yourself. It could be something as small as a sweet (hand-dipped dark chocolate truffle, anyone?), a manicure or pedicure (or both for those larger successes) or, depending on finances, a spa day or a new computer bag. What you give yourself doesn’t matter as much as its ability to keep you going. You could also take the time and try gamification of some bigger or higher value tasks by having a specific reward at the completion. It's all about self motivation with a small reward to make you feel better. Just be careful you’re not rewarding yourself with things that aren’t necessarily good for you, like binge drinking or overeating. That’s counter-productive.
take a break
While motivation can be synonymous with drive in some instances, for the purposes of this exercise, we’re considering them different. You’re not marking yourself on your ability to go flat out, 24/7, nor should that be your goal. It’s an uphill struggle to stay motivated if you’re burned out, overwhelmed and exhausted. Make sure you schedule time – that’s right, put it in your calendar – to rest and recover. Spread out your obligations and deadlines so you don’t put extra pressure on yourself. Paid time off and vacations are crucial in order to find the right mental health balance and in order to keep your energy level high!
cut yourself some slack
Goals are wish fulfillment, not a contract. Sometimes you’ll fall short of where you’d hoped to be and that’s ok. It’s more than ok, in fact, it’s a reminder that you’re human, that you’re keeping an eye on what’s really important, that you need to amend your schedule so it’s more realistic and manage your expectations. Life does nothing as well as throwing you a banana just as you’re trying to juggle lots of apples. Perspective and flexibility are critical. Just keep moving forward, even if it’s little tiny steps.
look for motivation everywhere
Read, watch and listen to motivational materials. The Internet is filled with positive, motivating materials. Read biographies of people you admire; look for movies with positive themes. The corollary? Avoid negativity, in whatever form (including human) it comes in. Think positively and laugh frequently, even if you have to go looking for a reason. You’ll not only feel better, you’ll perform better. And you’ll influence the people around you in positive ways.
In an ideal world, your workplace would provide the motivation you need to keep going, but that’s not always the case, in spite of research that confirms motivated employees are happier, more productive and more deeply engaged. Motivated employees affect their teams and departments in positive ways. Keeping employees motivated depends on providing them with clear visions, goals and work plans so everyone’s facing the same direction, knows what’s expected of them and can work towards the same objectives.
As for you, establish and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Exercise, eat healthy, ready, rest, enjoy time with family and friends – whatever inspires creativity, energizes and refreshes you. Take a course or share a theatre subscription; having something to look forward to often gets you through the day. How well you stay motivated and focused is ultimately in your hands.