If you have never once struggled with feeling meh about what you’re working on, congrats! You are lucky, weird, and probably fine just skimming the rest of this. For the rest of us, alas, some tasks are simply more exciting than others—but they still have to get done.
That’s doubly taxing if you’re part of a team and need to find a way to not only care about the job but also encourage your coworkers. Fortunately, we have a few tips to help you stay motivated at work and inspire those around you.
1 Think about your impact.
Sometimes, feeling motivated is as simple as remembering the people your work serves. If you feel like you’re making someone’s life better—even if it’s a stranger—pushing through can feel a lot easier. Larry Page once said this about what drives people at Google: “If you’re changing the world, you’re working on important things. You’re excited to get up in the morning.”
2 Consider your work in context.
Even dream jobs come with their share of frustrations, as well as the occasional assignment that, while less than glamorous, can’t be ignored. In such moments, it can be helpful to remember that it took some effort to get where you are—plus, if you have other ambitions down the road, crushing your current objectives might help your path forward.
3 Break overwhelming tasks up into smaller pieces.
An author trying to write a book by sitting down and thinking “okay, today is the day I mash out my entire opus” may not remain an author—or a sane person—for long. Instead, they might do well to start by saying “I’m going to write this chapter’s opening paragraph,” or “I’m going to research my setting.”
This approach works with many daunting undertakings; the sooner you replace the impossibly vast project in your mind with a list of discrete pieces you and your team can handle, the sooner you can start crossing items off and making headway.
— Grammarly (@Grammarly) April 11, 2018
4 Set deadlines, even if they’re arbitrary.
Beyond the tried-and-true axiom that work expands to fill the time allotted for it, this one is especially helpful when you’re part of a team and need one person’s work to finish before a colleague can incorporate it into their next step. Feeling like part of a well-oiled machine can inspire your coworkers, and it helps to bypass the grating hurry-up-and-wait feeling that saps motivation.
5 Step outside your comfort zone.
Sometimes a lack of motivation stems from feeling underutilized. Finding ways to try new things could be the trick to breaking out of your funk—and the same goes for colleagues who might appreciate a new challenge.
“I think that’s how you grow,” says Marissa Mayer of Yahoo fame: “When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough. Sometimes that’s a sign that something really good is about to happen. You’re about to grow and learn a lot about yourself.”
6 Be open to criticism.
Whatever you’re working on, you want to deliver it on time and without much hassle—but more than that, when you feel driven or want to help drive others, you’re interested in how the process could run better next time.
Sometimes that perspective can come from a boss or a mentor; other times you might get it from a peer who hails from a different background and who would try a radically different approach.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai recommends taking this as a learning opportunity: “At some point in your life, you have to work with people where you feel a bit insecure. That’s essential, because that means you’re working with people who are better than you and who are pushing you. If you actually feel very secure in what you do, that means you’re doing something comfortable and you’re not pushing yourself.”
Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it, particularly when you’re trying to up your team’s enthusiasm. By adopting a let’s-make-this-happen attitude and not just brusquely urging folks to work faster, you can energize the people around you—and perhaps find yourself energized in kind.
8 Reward yourself—and your colleagues.
Give yourself something to look forward to. Depending on what you’re trying to get motivated to do, the rewards can range from smaller treats, like a trip to the breakroom for a fresh cup of coffee as soon as you finish grinding through emails, to larger indulgences, like finally buying yourself that fancy pair of shoes you’ve been coveting just as soon as you ship your current project.
This also applies to others. When your coworker turns around outstanding revisions in record time, buy them lunch or send flowers. In fact, when you’re trying to inspire the people around you, we have one bonus item:
9 Say thank you.
Those two words have tremendous power to do good. Whether someone helped rid your presentation of an awkward malaprop or kindly offered a needed referral, it’s worth showing your gratitude. Just hearing someone say “Hey, you’re doing a good job” can go a long way to hearten people.