How to Stay Motivated at Work When You’re in a Rut
Staying the course can be hard when things get tough, but finding inspiration can be just as big of a challenge when you’ve been doing the same thing for a while. In a major motivation rut? It happens to the best of us. Read on for top tips from successful women who keep going during all kinds of phases and changes.
1. Strip stress from your schedule. Starting with logistics might help you strip out stressors that make it hard to stay the course. Connection enthusiast and networking strategist Stephanie Thoma told us that block scheduling is her go-to for making things manageable enough to stay motivated. “I am a ‘jill of many trades’ in the communication space, with projects ranging from writing to public speaking. I have a list of projects with due dates, and I get started on those with the soonest date and level of importance.” Like context switching or setting up an A/B schedule, tackling tasks by type can make it easier to be efficient; Thoma tells us that organizing her day based on the kind of work she has to do motivates her to get it all done.
Emily Hochman, the force behind personal health coaching website Wellory, is all about breaking down overwhelming tasks into bite-size bits to give her a renewed sense of purpose. “The Pomodoro Technique allows me to set attainable, achievable goals by focusing for 25 minutes before taking five minutes off. Trying to tackle too much at once can be de-motivating, so I lean heavily into this for increased productivity, efficiency, and to better understand how much time I need to hit my goals.”
Elaine Chao, a product manager at Adobe, sings the praises of timed work to stay motivated and stress-free too. “Whether it’s housework, a project deadline, or a creative deadline, my go-to tool is a countdown timer; I challenge myself to mini-sprints of 15-30 minutes of full concentration, then celebrate my successes afterward with a brief mental break. This makes all of my large projects seem much more manageable, and often turns my reluctance into anticipation as I see what I can accomplish in just a few minutes.”
2. Remember the people who are counting on you. It’s hard to think about others when you feel bored, upset, or idle, but remembering the people who are proud of you or depend on you can bring you back to finding excitement or motivation for what you do. “‘No man is an island’, to quote John Donne,” Amina Belouizdad from The Private Suite at LAX says. “By remembering our interconnectedness and how I am just one piece of a much bigger whole, I stay inspired to show up, be present, deliver and perform. Whether it is for my team, my partners, my Board, or our clients.”
3. Set up an easy (and fun) brainstorming strategy. “I love the idea of an ‘icebox’ column, which one of my clients keeps in Trello for ideas and projects no one is working on,” Amity Kapadia from Brightly says. “Every quarter, we have an ‘Open the Icebox’ meeting where we go through everything stashed in this column and see where or how we can shift our strategic planning. It helps keeps new ideas and brainstorms flowing without distracting anyone from priorities!”
Trying something new is another good tactic. Lauren Chiarello from Chi Chi Life explains, “When work and life feel monotonous, I assess how I’m spending my days and evaluate my energy and mood. I ask myself: ‘What lights me up?’ ‘What leaves me feeling drained?’ I love trying new things and exploring new spots to get a renewed sense of being. Recently, I completed Level 0 Improv at The P.I.T. (People’s Improv Theatre) in NYC. You have to listen carefully to stay in the present moment. I enjoyed it so much!”
Adele Maynes, the head of anthropological research at Eventbrite agrees. “If I feel bored or not engaged, it’s a signal to me that I’m asking the wrong set of questions. Getting unstuck for me is about getting curious, so I look at the problem or challenge or task ahead of me from new angles, from a new frame, and ask different questions about it.”
4. Share what you know. “When I worked in investment banking, I used to schedule informational interviews with college students before a long night,” Tiffany Yu, the CEO and founder of Diversability remembers. “Chatting with students about why I decided to pursue banking and what my experience was like reminded me of all the reasons why I chose to be there in the first place. These days, I’m still able to find inspiration through some of these mentee and peer-mentor relationships. Knowing that I can help someone with advice or an introduction to get to the next level in their life/career is extremely rewarding for me.”
5. Take a break. According to Tracey Breeden, global head of women’s safety and gender-based violence programs at Uber, staying balanced and finding time to step away is the key to keeping your motivation. “Two techniques have worked well for me,” she explains. “The first is finding a quiet place for quick meditation. It clears my mind, gives me the chance refocus and reminds me to listen to my intuition. The other technique that keeps me motivated is weight training. It’s both healthy and helps me envision crushing through whatever roadblocks I might be facing. There is something very powerful about being both mentally and physically strong as a woman.”
“Stand up and switch gears,” Neha Gandhi, the COO and editor-in-chief of Girlboss advises. “When I read an email or Slack message that annoys or frustrates me, or when I feel stuck on a project, I immediately lift my fingers off the keyboard, take a breath, and stand up. That keeps me from having an immediate reaction that can sometimes feel emotional or knee-jerk. If I have a few minutes, I’ll take a walk around the block and clear my head — putting whatever is challenging or frustrating me out of mind completely. A few moments’ pause and a physical reset help me reset my mind and see a problem or frustration in a new light.”
6. Remember your why. It’s hard to remember why you got started when you’re deep in the weeds. Career Coach Tiffany Dyba says that taking a break to remember her “why” is a go-to tactic for rediscovering motivation. “I carve out space for a brain break, like journaling, working out, or reading a book with a cup of coffee. When I take that break to do whatever feels right for 30 minutes or an hour, I feel better. I also get a clue that what I’m working on needs to look different based on my passion. When I grind too hard, I can forget why I do what I do.”
Your why could also be your wins. I keep a list in my phone that has positive quotes from colleagues and mentors, a list of our accomplishments and amazing things the team has done,” Stirling Barrett, Founder of Krewe says. “When I’m having a rough day, it always brings me back to a place of focus and excitement.”
(Photo via Getty)
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