How to Find Self-Motivation at Work

Written by Mariana Magalhães
31 May 19 | read

How to Find Self-Motivation at Work

We’ve all been there. Often, even if you love your job it can be tricky to always find the motivation behind it.

Here are 15 pragmatic tips (plus an extra one!) so you can put to use and self motivate and finally get started on that big project. Shall we get started?

1. Try Not to Think About It As “Hard” Work

Demotivation comes from the fact that you know you have work to do that isn’t appealing. Step number one is to try and change your mindset around “work”. Say it out loud or write it down (if you’re currently at the office): “this task is not hard work, I can totally do this with my eyes closed” so your unconscious internalises the affirmation.

2. Divide and Conquer

Your second task is to divide your big task into smaller, bite-sized tasks. Dividing your big task into multiple, smaller goals will help you to gain momentum in your workflow. Scientifically speaking, the reason you’ll feel more motivated, once one thing is done is due to a dopamine hit (a brain chemical responsible for motivation and productivity). Being productive will actually make you feel more productive. Will you riddle me that?

grey wall with white writing that says: Punch Today In The Face

3. …And Then Remove What’s Unnecessary

Now that you’ve divided your list and have a better selection of bite-sized tasks it is now time to remove the unnecessary assignments that are just cluttering your way. Can you delegate some of your workloads? Have you prioritised it correctly – can something wait until tomorrow? By removing or reprioritising your tasks, you’ll get a sense of excitement to work effectively on the project you need to accomplish.

4. Set a Quit/Stop Time

Let’s get to work!

In this phase, you should estimate how long the task you’re doing will last for and how much time you actually need.
Then, set up a timer on your phone or computer and add an alarm for when you should be finished. The finishing time will be your break; when you can stop working on your task and take a bathroom break, a tea time-out or whatever you want to do really.

decorative image of desktop mac computer

This feeling of working against the clock on a single task (important to clear your mind of the other items on your to-do list), sets your mind into competition mode, giving you that extra dopamine boost when you finish before the clock stops.

Also, you don’t necessarily have to go on a break afterwards. If you have finally caught the work groove, by all means, carry on. But if not, then that’s a great way to give your mind some breathing space before getting back at it.

5. Change Your Physiology

Unfortunately, the human brain isn’t super advanced yet. The way your body stands sends information to your unconscious brain that sends out signals for the different chemicals your brain to react to. Fortunately for us, that means that if we change our body language we can actually can our mind too.

Cat Stretching

Most likely, if you’re in a slouchy position, you will start to get sleepy. So go ahead, change your physiology and deceive your brain into thinking you’re motivated. Fake it until you make it they say! Try to pull your shoulders back, your head high and your posture correct in order to have an active, ready to go brain. Give it a go, we promise if nothing else you’ll wake up.

6. Give Yourself a Ted Talk

Or should I say a Me Talk? We’ve mentioned above how saying things out loud or writing them down has the power of motivating you.
If you’re at the office, go ahead and in your notebook write a little Ted Talk to yourself. Give yourself compliments and congratulate you on the work you’ve done in the past that had great feedback.

This technique works due to a little chemical that gets released in the brain named serotonin. Serotonin flows through the brain when you feel important, accomplished and relevant. Other ways to release serotonin include to try and get some sun (vitamin D promotes serotonin), or eating a banana. Which is also my mum’s number one tip for any situation ever.

This is also the reason why managers and leaders should give pep talks: it stimulates the reproduction of serotonin and therefore motivation and productivity…maybe give your boss a banana and ask them to hurl affirmations at you.

girl working in a laptop

7. Think About the Feeling You Get Once a Task Is Complete

Again, our dopamine friend is behind this sneaky tip. Brains tend to struggle to distinguish what’s true and what’s false. Imagining a scenario has the same effect on the brain chemicals as actually living the same scenario.

Thinking and fantasising about what you’re going to do when the task is complete and how that would make you feel – may be all you need to ignite that dopamine.

8. Remember Your Goals and Where You Came From

Do you remember where you started? Try to think about when and where you first started. You’ve grown so much in the past decades and you’re still on the path to grow some more. You are almost certainly completing tasks with ease that you wouldn’t have been able to do even just a few months ago. A continuous path of progress will give you an extra boost! Make sure your job encourages personal and professional growth.

manly hands holding a picture of a lake

9. Ensure You’re Having Nutritional Food

A reminder that the food you eat is the foundation for your whole body. Perhaps you need to reevaluate what you have been eating lately. There are great examples of food that contribute to being more productive and motivated such as:

  • High omega-3 foods such as salmon.
  • Antioxidant foods such as berries and red fruit.
  • Superfoods such as avocados.
  • Amino and acid-rich food such as nuts.
  • Magnesium-containing food such as some dark chocolates and brown rice.
  • Bananas, as mentioned above they’re great to produce serotonin and also produce glucose for additional body energy.
  • And water, the holy grail and number one ingredient you need to ensure you have plenty of.
three glass Tupperware with healthy colourful salads

Besides having a need for nutritional food you can also re-evaluate other types of food you’re consuming that might be harmful to your self-motivation levels. Alcohol, sugar and caffeine can be damaging for your body in higher doses, so why not start by reducing these and see if you’re seeing a change in your motivation levels.

10. Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Don’t think too much about it. Remember serotonin flows when you think of yourself as relevant, so beating yourself up for it will only feed into being less productive and more unhappy about it. If you’re struggling a lot just try and let it go (who else can’t say this without singing?!) and opt for other tasks. “If it’s meant to be it will be”, should be your mind set at this stage. Sometimes you just need a day. You could even ask for a ‘mental health day’, which is growing in popularity throughout UK employers.

11. Call Your Mum

I know exactly what my mum would say…she would let me vent everything out, she would give me her advice and then finish off with…” you should have a banana”.

A mum, a dad, a friend, a source of comfort, anyone will do. This exercise should get your mind off of the tasks you need to get done. Let some air flow through your brain while you relax and let the creativity flow. Of course, if you’re in an office you can’t really call your mum unless you’re on a break. But perhaps try sending her a text?

decorative image: photo of old school telephones

12. Do It Bad…First

We’re not actually encouraging you to do work badly on purpose. This technique I personally think is one of the best tips to incentivise motivation and one of the ones that work best for me, undoubtedly.

This technique basically consists of starting to build a basic draft. It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect.

For me, I typically write a draft with basic wording and simple brainstorms of what I want to communicate in which sentence. Often, when I can’t remember a word, I’ll even write it in Portuguese first (only recommended if your second language is something other than English, we wouldn’t advise adding “learn Portuguese” to your to-do list). Remember this is just to get you started on your work. Once you are starting to feel the effects of dopamine rushing in (aka when you start feeling more motivated) you can go through it and slowly substitute and re-write the “bad” content for interesting content. The best part of this tip is when you finally get into it, the work is almost done.

14. Clean Your Desk and Eliminate Distractions

An old but gold one. A cluttered desk is a cluttered mind. Get the spray from Suzan and wipe down that desk. Maybe you just need a fresh environment to kick start your day.

Minimal desk flat lay with a laptop, iphone and some paper clips

15. Spotify Playlist

Plug in your favourite chilled-music artists for an inspiring “let’s get to work” moment. Sometimes a good playlist is all you need to get you motivated. Here are some of our favourite productive playlists we listen to at the office:

  • Forty8Creates Playlist – We had to mention our office’s background playlist that plays almost daily. It’s not so chilled to be completely honest, but do play it if you can work and listen to music at the same time.
  • The Urban Flora album by Alina Baraz and Galimatias – This album is very chilled and atmospheric at the same time, perfect for working. You’ll for sure feel a lot of peace after listening to these chilled, electronic vibes.
  • Study Zone by Spotify is also a great compilation of chilled, work-friendly music.
Back of a girls head, staring at a window with headphones on

16 (Bonus). Reward Yourself

This is the most important tip of them all. Make sure you’re rewarding yourself after completing or at least doing a part of your task. That includes even if your manager or supervisor doesn’t recognise your efforts.

Reward yourself and ensure you pat yourself on the shoulder for the work you did. It’s hard to stay motivated and what you did was exceptional. Good job! Keep it up!

If you need additional tips for keeping the creative juices flowing, Chloe wrote a blog on How to tackle a creative block So if besides motivation you’re also not being your usual creative mastermind, give that a read! Hopefully, it will help!

Now go be the best version of your motivated self that you can be. We’ll be here waiving proudly in the distance, eating a banana.

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