Motivation is such a difficult thing to get a handle on - we all know when we have it, but do we know why? Do you know how to turn it around on purpose? Motivation can be like a knot, it can be easy to tie one way, but incredibly difficult to untie in reverse. Motivation can feel like a source of a lack of productivity, but it is also often a symptom of a further, underlying issue - anything from mental health to lack of organization.
Today we’re going to explore what it takes to create motivation at your job, what to do if you lack motivation to work, either on your personal projects or at your job, what its source may be, and whether or not you should seek out outside resources to be able to solve the problem. Let’s get to it!
What motivation is, and what a lack of motivation really means
Difficult tasks are always going to be hard to do, but how can you distinguish difficulty from real low motivation?
An inability to complete tasks or find energy from the work you do could come from a number of places, but regardless of their source, the result is ultimately the same - a kind of spiral beginning from a lower motivation, which leads to less results, which in turn leads to less motivation, and so forth, in a self-fulfilling prophecy which must be solved by whoever feels it.
Unless this progression is stopped, low motivation can last for a long time and have serious consequences at work, causing you to seek out even more avoidant behavior to get out of the path of the work you need to do.
Take a moment to check in with yourself - do you find that the work in front of you is simply difficult, or instead, that you are demotivated from doing it, regardless of how hard it is? If it is the latter, you may be facing a broad, overarching lack of motivation at your current job, and you have to examine the reasons behind it with more depth.
Why is motivation so important?
Being able to face the next day positively is a gigantic advantage in your everyday life - especially professionally. Being highly engaged in your work means that you’ll view your job each day almost as a new job, with the excitement that a new opportunity might bring. It means that you are looking at the challenges ahead of you and are able to confront them, targeting big goals and having greater chance at hitting them than if you were demotivated. The same way that low motivation creates a vicious circle, high motivation creates its own virtuous circle that produces better results, which then give you greater motivation, and so forth.
But that isn’t the only reason that motivation is important. It’s also signal of a deeper state of mind, giving you an impression of what’s going on with your mental health below the surface. So heed your motivation with great care, because it shows you a lot more than you may think.
9 common reasons for burnout or a lack of motivation
- Is lack of motivation attached to low levels of organization?
Have you ever put off a task on your todo list for a really long time, only to discover that it later took only 15 minutes to complete? Often, when people procrastinate, it is likely they are also unclear about what precisely needs to be done. The clarity suddenly drives an ability to get intrinsic motivation from what you are doing - it seems so obvious that it is no longer hard work! There are a few things you can do to keep better organized at work.
- Motivation as connected to a wider sense of well-being
If you are feeling as if you are in a rut, and cannot get out of it, it is possible that you should dig deeper and find the reasoning behind your state of mind. If you can’t see any specific thing that is driving your lack of interest in your work, one option is to look wider than your work, at other areas of your life, and see what else might be driving your demotivation. People aren’t good at putting sections of their lives in boxes, so it’s normal that one area, for example your relationship, might bleed into your work life.
- Motivation as connected to your work environment
Do you feel under appreciated at work, or that you are pulling a lot of the weight relative to your coworkers? Anyone could see how that would lead to a lower sense of motivation, especially if the rewards are being spread out evenly while the work is disproportionately on your plate.
- How much you’re being paid can certainly be connected to your motivation
You’ll almost certainly find, as you gain work experience, that external motivators like money are good initial reasons to want to do something, but that they quickly taper down in terms of how interesting they are as time goes on. That said, your salary or hourly wage is also connected, to a degree, with how much your place of work values you.
This factor is interesting, because if you are underpaid, you might still feel motivated because of the quality of the work, and if you’re paid a lot, you still might feel low motivation if you feel it’s going nowhere. That said, if you feel that what you take home is a signal of being under appreciated in the workplace, it might be time to examine what to do about it. Consider how much you should charge customers if you're a solo-business owner.
- Motivation connected with an endless todo list, and a sense of burnout
Do you find that you are endlessly scrolling on social media, doing your best to shorten your workday and to get away from the stress? Your energy may be affected by the endlessness of your tasks and find that there’s no end to them, causing you to feel as if you are doing work of no real value.
While it’s important to examine the intent of your work and whether you derive any sense of purpose about it, it’s also possible to derive motivation from something other than your work entirely - for example, someone who is a mechanic during the day so they can go to school during their free time. You should look to reduce stress.
- Low energy in connection with a lack of upward mobility
One of the challenging things about companies is that openings only happen when the business needs a new job to be done, and in some cases, that might be far off into the future, while in other industries, new positions might open up constantly, for example if the business is rapidly growing.
If you have been doing the same job for a very long time, and you feel like there is no path upward for you, or that your manager has no plan for you, it is absolutely normal that you have at least a few motivation issues. Everyone ideally deserves and earns an ability to find a manager that has interest in their direct report’s future - if you don’t have that right now, we certainly wish it for you, because it makes a big difference.
- Low motivation as a signal you’re burning the candle at both ends
Are you coming home from work needing to cook, then take care of the kids, then zoning out in front of Netflix, then barely sleeping and getting up the next morning to do it all over again? It is highly likely you are causing your motivation levels to decrease. If you see you have too many things to do, try to find a way to simplify your work, find purpose in what you are doing, or find a way to increase interest in mundane tasks, for example by listening to podcasts. Anything that you can do to add variety, interest, and emotional and intellectual value to your day is something that will help increase your incentive to continue.
- Lack of milestones may affect your daily interest in your work
It is so important to see the places where you will hit targets, and that those targets feel like you’re making a difference in the job you’re doing, in your own business, wherever your lack of motivation lies. If you see everything as one giant treadmill (and it may be!), it would likely help for you to slice this work into sections, so that it isn’t just one long term goal, but instead, tiny easier areas with small rewards that you can more easily succeed at. Consider using a goals template to reach these milestones.
- Underlying mental health issues
We aren’t here to diagnose you, but if you find that you are reading lists of reasons for lack of motivation and you aren’t where you need to be, and can’t pinpoint the root of the issues, educating yourself on mental health, on negative thoughts and on other issues that lie deep in your mind may help you a great deal in identifying what’s going. Throughout all this, remember to show self-compassion so that you really are able to see that there is a path forward, and don’t despair.
5 tips for remaining motivated when it’s difficult to do so
A. Cut up your giant work into tiny, organized tasks, then give yourself a small reward when you succeed at each.
B. Divide your work and your personal life clearly, and remember to seek out things that you enjoy in each one.
C. Begin your morning with a positive ritual, so that you are creating good energy as you begin your workday. Examples could include meditation, affirmations, or other methods of self-care, no matter how simple they are.
D. Frame your hardships around a story or larger purpose. Everyone has setbacks in their work - it’s all about the view you take on them, and that you know you’re here for something bigger that you believe in.
E. Join a support group online, or in person, of likeminded people. There are groups of all types on Reddit, Discord, and other places where you can find positive, like minded people who will help you become the version of yourself you want to become. Support is such an important part of the path you’re on, so don’t feel the need to go it alone.
As you start your business, if you're looking for a space to run everything under one roof, consider Practice. You can start a free trial today.