How To Motivate Yourself When Work Is Tough

If you knew more about how to stay motivated at work, would it help you to do a better job?

You might want to do a good work on an assignment. You might have the skills to do the work.

But if you’re feeling “blah” about it, it probably isn’t going to go as well as it could.

That’s where motivation can help.

But motivation doesn’t grow on trees. Somebody has to give it to you.

Maybe your boss gives you some. It could be the promise of a future raise, promotion, or even just a small bonus or an extra day off.

It could be something more negative, like the fear of being yelled at or not getting good assignments or being held back in some other way.

That might help you out in some short term efforts.

But wouldn’t it be better if you knew how to stay motivated at work yourself?

Well, you can. Because you are the absolute best person to motivate you.

Nobody has more influence over you than you do. All you need to do is you follow a few simple steps to start unlocking that power.

The power to:

  • push through some difficult tasks.
  • generate you more energy and enthusiasm.
  • make your day more enjoyable.

Let’s talk about how to do exactly that.

What’s your motive?

reflecting on how to stay motivated at work

Motivation is all about your “why.”

What is your motive for doing this thing?

What do you hope to get out of it?

You may already know what the task is. You may already know how to do it. You may even know why someone else wants it done.

But do you know why you want to do it?

Do you know, specifically, what you want to get out of it?

Sure, you need to do it because it’s your job. Because your boss asked you to. Because it has to be done.

But do you know why it is important to you?

Therein lies the key to self-motivation and how to stay motivated at work.

Because there is no reason why all those other reasons can’t be true and you also have your own personal reason.

But we’re not talking about short-term practical reasons like your paycheck.

We’re talking about the bigger picture of your career.

How is this next thing going to play a role in making you better at your job, more capable of handling future responsibilities, and more qualified to move on to bigger things?

That’s what we’re talking about.

And there are three ways you can frame this for yourself that are very powerful.

1. Get selfish

it's ok to be selfish in order to stay motivated at work

Good self-motivation comes from being a bit selfish.

Yeah, this is about you. Yourself. Your. Self.

So get a little selfish!

What do I mean by that?

I meant, consider what exactly is in this for you.

Even the most uninspiring task can become an opportunity if you frame it this way. It may not seem obvious that your work can serve you directly in some meaningful way.

But it can, if you consider:

What can I learn?

Everything you do provides an opportunity to learn. Even if that learning is how to cope with the boredom, monotony, or mundaneness of a task.

But probably, there are more and better opportunities for you to learn.

Ask yourself about outcomes. Think, “how can I grow as a result of this experience?”

Let yourself wonder what this might look like on your resume, in a job interview, or as a post on LinkedIn. By framing something from a perspective of accomplishment, you can gain new insights into its value.

Think about the results of completing the task. Think about the process of completing the task. Think about how you would talk about these accomplishments and experiences to others.

Consider the journey as a story where you are the hero. Take a page straight out of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey:

  • You are called to a duty you did not want.
  • You took it on anyway.
  • And you transformed as a result.
  • You come back home to view the world with a new perspective and impart that wisdom to others.

What are some of the romantic ways in which this sort of story line might that play out for you in this particular scenario?

That will tell you the way you might grow, that’s the wisdom you might obtain, that’s the journey you can tout as part of your personal accomplishments.

Reflecting on the work you are about to undertake in this way can really start to generate some enthusiasm.

2. Become a mad scientist for motivation

act like a scientist to generate motivation

Another framing that works well is to consider yourself a bit of a scientist.

Run a little meta experiment on top of your assignment.

Ask yourself where in this work you might try some new things, make some observations, and maybe gain some useful insights.

In any project, there are communication challenges. Maybe you could experiment with new ways to organize a meeting, to write up status emails, or to gather feedback.

Maybe you can try some new facilitation techniques. Or perhaps you could experiment with new ways to get team members to interact. You might try new meeting locations.

If you give it some thought, you will find some elements of your work that can become experimental in some way. This will keep it interesting for you (and probably others), and it will allow you to come away with some useful insights for the future.

3. Become a better leader (a worthy goal)

leadership requires self-motivation

Maybe you want to further develop your leadership skills. A great way to do this is to figure out how you can help others be more successful.

You could work on cultivating an environment for better collaboration.

You could work on ways to become more influential.

You could work on ways to help team members overcome personal challenges that they are facing.

Maybe someone needs help communicating their ideas. Perhaps someone would benefit from a little coaching on their approach to a certain task. Probably someone could use more encouragement, or even just some recognition for their efforts.

Things like this can be enormously helpful to others while also helping you to strengthen your leadership skills.

The great thing about this is that you don’t have to be the official leader of anything in order to hone these skills. Leadership is all about stepping up and helping others, regardless of your position.

And this is just the sort of stuff that tends to get noticed, which will help you get into new leadership positions.

How to stay motivated at work

Motivation makes all the difference. It helps you do better work. It helps your work become more interesting, and therefore more enjoyable.

But it can be difficult if you don’t know how to stay motivated at work.

The most obvious reasons for doing some work can seem pretty uninspiring. Doing something because the boss said so, or because you “have to”, or because you like your paycheck is not super exciting.

The good news is that you can find some easy–and powerful–ways to motivate yourself, if you frame things better for yourself.

If you can see a clear opportunity to learn something, your work becomes more interesting. And more valuable to you.

If you can run some sort of experiment as a side project during the course of your work, it can become much more compelling. You can try out some new techniques and approaches.

If you can find ways to help others in the course of your work, you will feel better about your efforts. And you can hone your leadership skills.

These are three ways to reframe seemingly mundane work for improved self-motivation. Once you start experimenting with these, you will probably discover more.

And that’s maybe the best motivation of all. You will be able to constantly invent and discover new ways to motivate yourself for all sorts of things over time.

That’s a real super power that will lead you to many new levels of success.