Even the most enthusiastic entrepreneurs will admit that nobody goes to work for the sheer joy of it. We go to work because we care about ourselves and our futures.
But no matter how badly we want to excel and enjoy a bright future, staying motivated as employees is no simple task. In today’s instant gratification world, we’ve largely become hard-wired to participate in low-effort/high-reward activities such as binging series, eating fast food, and scrolling through Instagram.
How, then, do we overcome our natural predilection and activate our potential?
Let take a look at how you can set yourself up for success and become a highly motivated, engaged employee.
1. Set small, achievable goals
People are far likelier to abandon a task or procrastinate when they feel overwhelmed. This happens easily when your focus is too broad. If you have a huge presentation to deliver in a week’s time, thinking about it in its entirety makes it seem impossible.
Instead, take the time to break it down into its individual components, draft a list of actionable steps for each one, and tackle them one at a time. You will immediately feel less stressed and more capable once you have the individual steps of a big task laid out in front of you.
2. Reward yourself
Humans learn behavior through reinforcement, which can be positive, negative, or punishment. Negative reinforcement involves removing something unpleasant once you’ve completed a task, while punishment involves implementing something unpleasant when you don’t complete a task. Neither of these are particularly kind ways to motivate yourself, so we recommend positive reinforcement.
Rewards can be anything that you enjoy. A nice meal, a walk in the park, a drink with friends, a good book, or anything that suits you. If you consistently reward yourself every time you achieve a goal, your brain will automatically be more inclined to work when you need it to. Of course, money is an excellent tool for positive reinforcement, but you need more consistent motivation than what your monthly salary offers you.
3. Discuss opportunities for advancement with Your leaders
There is very little more disheartening than being stuck in a rut. If you work a regular 9-5 in a typical work environment, it might start to feel like you’re going nowhere fast. It is therefore essential to keep focused on your future, so you have something to work towards.
Even if there’s nothing available right now, talking to your leaders about potential future opportunities will let them know that you’re a go-getter, and they’ll be more likely to consider you for promotions. Even the abstract prospect of advancement is enough to give you that spark of motivation you need to stay on track to remain a motivated employee.
4. Just start
One of the hardest parts of accomplishing any task, be it big or small, is getting over yourself and starting it. Once you start, however, you realize that it’s not as bad as you thought it was. In fact, you may actually be enjoying yourself. On those days, when even the simplest daily routine feels like a gargantuan effort, do yourself a favor and dive into it the way you would dive into a cold pool. Don’t think about it, just do it.
5. Take breaks when you need them
Burnout is a real phenomenon that you need to take seriously to be a motivated employee. When you ignore your body’s signals that it needs some R&R, you deplete your energy reserves and become far less productive. Studies have shown that our natural cycle of alertness allows us to concentrate for a maximum of 1.5 hours before we need a 15-minute break. The ideal workday is roughly 6 hours. When we push ourselves beyond these natural limitations, we lose productivity and motivation, and our health deteriorates.
While the non-stop, work-hard/play-hard culture might convince us we need to ignore fatigue and push ourselves past our limits, this behavior does more harm than good for the quality of life and motivation of employees.
6. Seek out feedback
The day-in, day-out drudgery of work is compounded when we get no feedback. Humans are social creatures, and we rely on the judgment of our peers to affirm and improve our behavior. Getting positive feedback for a job done well is highly motivational, but sometimes you have to ask for it. Even negative feedback can be motivational.
Our drive kicks in once we are presented with a problem to fix. If we go for a long time without any novel obstacles or external reinforcement, we begin to grow bored and complacent. Ask your colleagues and superiors to give you honest feedback regularly.
7. Get a vitamin B injection
Vitamins and supplements can give you a boost for just about everything, whether it’s working out, boosting immunity, or giving you extra energy. Vitamin B is an essential nutrient for motivation and energy. If you’re feeling low and unmotivated at work but can’t figure out why your vitamin B levels might be low.
Vitamin B plays an important role in energy production and mood, as it helps convert stored energy into adenosine triphosphate, which keeps your brain and body fueled throughout the day. It also increases serotonin levels in the brain, which staves off depression and fatigue.
8. Remember the bigger picture
Every job has elements to it that feel pointless and repetitive. It is helpful to take a moment to remember what you’re doing it for, whatever that may be.
If you’re working to advance your career, send your children to good schools, or save up for a year or two of traveling, focus on that instead of the mundane task. Linking bigger motivations to small, unfulfilling jobs helps contextualize and justify them.
9. Find novel ways to solve problems
Our brains are happiest when they are used in creative ways. If you have tasks at work that always take too much time or create bottlenecks in workflow, set aside some time to conceptualize a new approach. This will alleviate the frustration brought on by the task and impress your superiors at work.
While many bosses want things done a specific way, they will also value employees who take the initiative to find more time and cost-effective solutions.
Often, our biggest enemy is ourselves. If you can create positive habits that focus on staying motivated, you’ll set yourself up for success.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and everyone will have their way of maintaining momentum. Ultimately, having a clear plan and continual goals will pay off long-term.