Motivated people are happier and more productive at work. If you’re trying to build your motivation levels, you don’t need to listen to a motivating podcast—what you need is clarity. When you understand the impact of your work, you’re more motivated and ready to get work done. In this article, you’ll find tips on how to get and stay motivated as an individual team member and manager.
Let’s face it—it’s unlikely you can make every day at work be your best. Some days, just the sound of your morning alarm ringing may make your stomach turn. You might love your job, but sometimes you might feel like you just don’t want to go to work.
Luckily, you’re not alone. Pushing through work during phases of burnout can be incredibly challenging. It often feels like you’re wading through mud.
The hardest part of getting started is just that—getting started. In this article, we’ll explain why you might be less interested in your work and offer tips on how you can get motivated. Don’t let lack of motivation stand in the way of your career goals.
Motivation can come in waves. You may feel like you’ve lost motivation at work because:
You’re burnt out
You feel constricted in your role
You’re lonely or feel left out
Your fear is holding you back
You’re not being challenged
Your values no longer align with the company’s values
You’re struggling with impostor syndrome
You’re facing changes in other areas of your life
On the other hand, you might not actually be unmotivated. Rather, what you lack might be clarity about why your work matters, how your task fits into the grander scheme of your team’s work, and how you’re contributing to your overall company goals. When you don’t feel like your work matters, you won’t feel inspired to get things done.
Whether you’re an individual contributor or a manager, here are 10 actionable tips to get motivated, today.
The most important thing you can do to get motivated at work is to understand why your work matters. To do this, you need a clearer connection between your daily work and your larger team and company goals. When you understand how your daily work contributes to bigger picture initiatives, you’ll often find the kernel of motivation you need to get great work done.
This is easier for some teams than it is for others. For example, sales team members’ work directly connects to the company's revenue goals. However, this may be a harder connection for some teams, which is where goal tracking tools come into play.
Imagine you’re working for the help desk of a large company. Your main responsibility every day is to answer tickets and help customers. On the surface, this role doesn’t seem connected to your larger company goals—but it plays a key part. Your quick response times to customer needs directly contributes to customer satisfaction, which the entire business team tracks through a net promoter survey (NPS).
With a goal tracking tool, you can draw the connection between your daily work and larger company goals, like the one mentioned above.Set and achieve goals with Asana
Setting goals is important, but it isn’t enough to just set one goal. To stay motivated, set goals with specific action items.
For example, you might set along-term goal to get one hundred thousand followers on social media within three years. But to achieve that end goal, you also need to set short-term goals to serve as stepping stones. Here’s what that might look like:
Big goal: Get to 100,000 followers on Instagram within the next three years.
Short-term goals to get there:
Post at least once every day.
Test six different post styles over two months to identify which posts drive the most engagement.
Develop an employee sharing program by the end of this fiscal year.
Partner with 10 influencers in our space within the next 12 months.
No matter what type of goal you set, make sure they’re SMART goals—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. For business goals, you can also use a goal methodology, like KPIs or OKRs, to measure how you’re progressing towards your end result.
Things like searching for documents, chasing approvals, attending status readout meetings, or switching between apps all add up to what we call work about work.
Work about work is a key motivation blocker. Many of these manual, repetitive tasks feel unnecessary—and that’s because they are. In total, we spend over half of our workdays on work about work.
It doesn’t have to be this way. By reducing work about work, you can make more time for skilled, strategic, and high-impact work. The best way to minimize work about work is to centralize your information. Instead of switching between multiple apps several times a day, centralizing information with a single tool makes it easier for you to get at-a-glance insight into who’s doing what by when.Read: 100+ teamwork quotes to motivate and inspire collaboration
It’s hard to be motivated if you don’t know what’s on your plate. And it isn’t enough to keep track of these things in your head—the best way to declutter your life is to drop all of your tasks in a to-do list tool.
This is a key element of David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) method. The GTD method is all about storing your work in an external tool, so you spend less brain power thinking about what you have to do and more time getting work done. To learn how to implement this method, check out our article on how to master the Getting Things Done (GTD) method in five steps.Read: 15 secrets for making a to-do list that actually works
Unfortunately, humans can’t multitask. When we think we’re multitasking, we’re actually switching between two things at lightning speed. That amount of mental task switching has a cost: increased exhaustion, decreased productivity, and interrupted focus.
Many of us multitask when we’re unmotivated because it feels like we’re doing a lot—even if that work isn’t as meaningful. Instead, focus on one thing at a time.
We’ve all procrastinated before—but procrastination isn’t a sign of laziness. Just like motivation, procrastination stems from a lack of clarity at work. There are a few ways to fight procrastination and rekindle your motivation:
Break work into smaller chunks. Procrastination is a form of time inconsistency, where immediate tasks seemingly offer more gratification than long-term goals. Break work into individual tasks to complete in small steps quickly. That way, you’re still getting that good feeling every time you complete a task—while simultaneously working towards your larger initiative.
Clarify your priorities. Sometimes, we lack motivation and start procrastinating because we have a lot to do and aren’t sure where to start. When you clearly understand your priorities, you can hone in on the most important task and focus on completing your highest-impact work.
Set clear deadlines.Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the allotted time. Without clear deadlines, you’re less motivated and more likely to procrastinate because nothing is due quite yet. Ensure your deadlines are accurate to reduce that tendency and fight Parkinson’s Law.
Often conflated with motivation, flow state is when work is so effortless that time seems to fall away. This level of effortlessness is why people think of a flow state when they think of motivation—if things are effortless, you don’t need to motivate yourself to get started.
But like motivation, a flow state doesn’t make it easier to start a project—it just makes it easier to keep going once you’ve already begun. That’s not to say interruptions can’t pull you out of the flow state once you’re in it.
Turn off notifications and use features like “Do not disturb” to ensure you remain focused on your tasks. Clarify which communications should be live—meaning you need to respond in real-time vs. async. Asynchronous communication is great for flow state because you can reply once you’re out of flow while still getting back to your team promptly.
Quote: “Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” — Vince Lombardi, American football coach and executive in the National Football League.
Time management makes it easier to prioritize your work and ensures you’re getting the right work done at the right time. In addition to reducing distractions, time management strategies make it easier to get “in the zone.”
If you’ve never tried time management before, try one of the following techniques:
Time blocking: Time blocking is a time management technique where you schedule out every part of your day. By putting your to-dos into your calendar, you can group like tasks into concentrated blocks of time and ensure you’re sticking to your to-dos as the day progresses.
The Pareto principle: The Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, states that 80% of results come from 20% of actions. This time management technique helps you identify the most important tasks to complete, so you get the most out of every day.
The Pomodoro Technique: The Pomodoro Technique is a time management strategy that breaks your work into 25-minute work blocks with five-minute breaks. The short increments increase focus and productivity while giving you some downtime to relax between sprints.
Timeboxing: A timebox is a goal to finish a particular task within a specific amount of time. Timeboxing tasks ensures they don’t expand and prevent procrastination.
There’s nothing as unmotivating as stagnation. Investing in your personal development is a great way to build long-term motivation. Like setting a long-term goal, working towards big-picture achievements can set perspective and help you understand where you’re going.
The type of skills you choose to build is up to you. If you’re looking to get started, check out our articles on building project management skills, developing team management skills, and enhancing your leadership skills.
It’s hard to be motivated if you aren’t feeling your best. Before diving into work, prioritize your mental health.
Different self-care strategies work for different people, but make sure you’re:
Doing things you enjoy outside of work
Connecting with your support network
As a team lead, you have a lot of power to unblock and support your team members. Consider what motivates you to do a great job at work and practice those behaviors, or try out these five strategies.
Every individual team member can connect their work to goals, but as a team lead, you can take this to the next level through motivation. Encourage your team members to ask questions about the projects their work supports. Implement tools that clearly connect your team's projects and the goals they support.
In addition to using the right goal tracking tools, set at least one KPI for everyone on your team to track their progress. Assigning KPIs can clarify how their work contributes toward larger team goals.
Efficiency is doing things right, while effectiveness is doing the right thing. The best teams are both efficient and effective, but differentiating between the two is key to motivating your team members.
It can be demotivating for team members to work on things they don’t view as effective. Part of demonstrating that their work is effective is connecting it to the goals the work is supporting. Also, try to allow team members to shift due dates based on their highest priority work. When team members have clarity on how their hard work contributes to larger goals, they can decide where to spend their time—maximizing their efficiency and effectiveness.Read: Efficiency vs. effectiveness in business: Why your team needs both
Showing your team that you recognize their hard work is a vital part of good team management. Even though appreciation is an extrinsic motivator, it’s a key element of building and maintaining team motivation.
If you don’t already, show your gratitude in your 1:1 and team meetings. This can be as simple as recognizing a team member for a job well done, letting them know that another team member praised their work, or offering a small reward after a particularly impressive performance.Free 1:1 meeting template
Team morale directly correlates to team satisfaction. When team members are happy and engaged, they have high morale and are more likely to be motivated and productive. On the other hand, teams with low team morale suffer from procrastination, reduced productivity, and higher turnover.
To increase team morale, try these three tips:
Lead by example and get involved in your team’s work to show them you’re invested in the projects they’re working on.
Build trust with your team by delegating responsibilities and giving team members freedom to make important decisions.
Encourage your team members to take time off and enjoy their life outside of work—this not only reduces burnout but also increases engagement.
If your team members are still not motivated after you implement the above four strategies, another issue may be present. If they’re having a hard time at work or home, their motivation may suffer.Read: The manager’s guide to preventing burnout on your team
You don’t need a New Year’s resolution to get motivated. When you have clarity on why your work matters and how it fits into company goals, you’re better informed on what to prioritize and how to get started.