Whether you work in an office or from home, staying motivated to accomplish tasks can be incredibly difficult. After all, work is only one part of life. And focusing on it for eight or more hours doesn’t happen automatically. So, it’s up to each individual to understand the things that motivate them most, then style their work accordingly. But since there are many physiological and mental factors that go into motivation, there are various ways to approach it. So, if you’re having trouble staying on track with work tasks, here are twenty tips on how to stay motivated.
How to Stay Motivated and Achieve Better Results
1. Set Smaller Goals
Easily, one of the most destructive habits when it comes to productivity is setting goals that are unattainable. In essence, if the end of a project is weeks, months or years away, it can stifle momentum. So, instead of focusing on the larger end goal, it helps to break work down into more manageable components. It’s easy to get bogged down in detail, but by focusing on individual tasks, workers can maintain traction. Overall, it can help to set daily or even hourly goals. And completing these smaller objectives can help individuals feel that they’ve accomplished something at the end of every workday.
2. Take Regular Breaks
Sometimes, knowing how to stay motivated requires knowing when to stop working — even if only for a moment. In fact, regular breaks throughout the workday might be as key to accomplishing tasks as the work itself. Because if a person sits for too long, their mind can become sluggish and tired. In fact, there’s a biological reason for this. Something as simple as a short walk to the water cooler and back can increase your blood flow. And when this happens, more oxygen is carried to the brain, helping you think clearly. So, regular, active breaks throughout the day are critical for work productivity. Of course, finding the right balance is crucial. Because if a person breaks too often, it can be as damaging as not taking any at all.
3. Clear Distractions Out of Your Workspace
There’s no end to the number of ways we can become distracted throughout the workday. And naturally, some of these can be dealt with while others cannot. So, each individual is responsible for knowing which distractions are within their control. And more so, for doing what they can to minimize them. A constantly vibrating cell phone can be silenced and stuck in a drawer. A noisy coworker talking loudly in the next room over isn’t always as manageable. And since there’s such a wealth of distracting things available both at the office and at home, self-control is key. It isn’t always easy to minimize the Facebook feed on your second screen. But doing so can be key to staying motivated and on-task.
4. Understand When You’re Most Productive
At first glance, it might seem like this tip applies more to remote workers than office-goers. Because those with a more flexible schedule have the option to determine when they work. And often, that allows them to schedule their tasks for times when they know they’ll be most productive. Or, at least, it should mean that. But even those working in traditional office settings can exercise this control to some extent. Typically, workers might not spend the entirety of their workday on a single task. So, it can help to identify which require more focus and motivation. And once they’ve done that, they can schedule high-focus tasks for the most productive hours. For example, if you know the mid-day slump affects you, schedule important tasks for times you feel more awake. Ultimately, understanding when you’re most productive can help you know how to stay motivated.
5. Keep a Dependable Schedule
Part and parcel with identifying productive times of the workday is keeping a dependable schedule. After all, it’s nearly impossible to know when you work best if you keep different work hours each day. Sometimes, this might be unavoidable, depending on the nature of your job. However, as far as it is possible, motivation can depend on a reliable schedule. Often, an entire day can be thrown off with an unexpected disruption. So, what can an entire week of randomized work frustrate? Of course, this also might be more an issue for remote workers than office employees. Because flex time is far more prone to this type of disruption. However, individuals in all work settings should be aware and do what they can to manage their time responsibly.
6. Keep Track of Tasks and Time
An easy way to facilitate a dependable daily schedule is by auditing your work itself. In other words, keep a running lists of tasks every day and note how long it takes to accomplish each. That way, if your day-to-day responsibilities are similar, you’ll have an idea of what you can fit into each shift. Knowing which tasks take longer can also help you plan accordingly and stay motivated throughout the workday. Of course, this ties into other tips, such as setting smaller goals. Because each individual task could represent an objective. And it further ties to things like taking regular breaks. Overall, knowing how you spend your workday can help achieve a more productive schedule. And ultimately, this knowledge can bolster personal motivation.
7. Focus On High-Impact Tasks
In work, as with anything else, it’s easy to get stuck in the small things that don’t matter as much. Of course, it can help to break down larger tasks into smaller components. But “small” here doesn’t necessarily mean the size of the task as much as the importance. Because some tasks that don’t take much time can be essential to business operations. Alternatively, some which take weeks or months might not actually have a large impact, whether positive or negative. So, when it comes to motivation, it’s important to focus on those which are most integral. Yes, low-impact tasks probably still need to be done. But the amount of time spent on them might should lessen. Particularly if they are rote, mindless tasks. Focusing on important objectives that keep you mentally engaged is a prime way of staying motivated.
8. Understand How Your Work Fits
Of course, it’s impossible to prioritize work tasks without knowing how they fit into the larger scope. And this is essential for any worker in any industry. Because one of the largest motivation-killers is feeling as if you’re simply an unimportant cog in a machine. This dehumanizing feeling leaves employees with little drive and ultimately affects organizations negatively. So, helping employees understand how they fit into the larger plan is paramount. At the same time, workers without that knowledge may need to seek it out on their own. In some cases, they may have to find their reason apart from company leadership. But in all cases, workers need to know they are valuable to the organization. Otherwise, they can lose steam and start to doubt their individual contributions.
9. Create a Daily Plan
Creating a daily plan is in some ways the culmination of other tips. Because it requires that you know how long individual tasks and goals take to accomplish. It also means understanding how your work fits into the overall scheme of the company objectives. And, of course, it assumes that you know which high-impact goals to focus on. So, by creating a daily plan, you know exactly what, why, and when tasks need to happen. Some individuals might shy away from this type of rigid work structure. But the ability to mark tasks off of the list each day is extremely satisfying. Especially if it’s a physical list that can be scratched through. Visibly seeing goals checked off is another fantastic way to stay motivated.
10. Award Yourself for Completing Tasks
Without getting too far into the psychology of it all, part of establishing motivation is reward. If you want to condition a certain action, then it has to be met with a positive stimulus. In other words, if you complete a task, allow yourself a small “treat”. This can obviously come in many forms and doesn’t have to be the same across the board. Maybe it means eating a piece of candy when a task has been cleared. Or perhaps it’s something else, like checking a text message you know has been waiting on you. Regardless, recognizing the importance of accomplishing tasks is essential, no matter how small. That way, motivation can actually be conditioned to some extent. Or, if nothing else, in the absence of motivation, productivity still reigns.
11. Invest in a Beneficial Workspace
Each person is different. Most of us grow up hearing that from the time we’re young. Consequently, different people have different preferences and needs in the workplace. And part of that includes their individual workstations. Some are naturally messier, and to the chagrin of “neat freaks”, it works for them. Sometimes, individuals need a closed off space while others work perfectly well next to a dozen others. It all depends on personal needs. So, as far as is possible, workers should set up workspaces that meet their individual needs. Because doing so can help them stay focused on tasks at-hand. As should be clear by now, motivation and productivity are often closely linked. So, if an individual’s workspace is a detriment to their productivity, motivation will likely slip as well.
12. Get in the Zone
Again, this looks different for every individual. Some people work best in complete silence. Others do well with bustling noise all around. But whatever your need, find a way to meet it. Sometimes, what one person finds distracting is what another finds motivational. Listening to music in the background might give someone the boost of mental energy they need to ward of fatigue. Alternatively, some might do well with a podcast. The point, here, isn’t to contribute to distractions. Rather, it’s to tune them all out with a device that helps focus on what needs to be done. So, if it becomes more of a hindrance than a help, it should likewise be rooted out.
13. Take Time to Think
Call it thinking, call it meditation, maybe even prayer — call it whatever you like. But it’s a key aspect of staying motivated. In some ways, it’s the same as taking regular breaks throughout the day. But it’s more about the act of simply sitting back for a moment and breathing. The longer the day goes on, the more information our brains have to process. And especially with mentally intensive tasks, there are times we need to let everything compute. Again, similar to taking a break, this might be as essential to working well as the work effort itself. Because if we keep bashing our head against a problem, expecting it to work out, it won’t. And even if it does, the end result could be quite lackluster. So, when it seems you’re having a difficult time working through something, take a moment to think. Allow your mind to wander, then come back to the task, ready to tackle it with a clear head.
14. Step Outdoors
There are few things worse than an office building with no windows. It feels compressed, cold, maybe even dark. And sometimes, that can sap motivation more than anything else. So, if you’re up for a break, it can be good to step outside for a couple of minutes. Especially on a warm, sunny day. Because sunlight has many benefits for both physiological and mental health. It boosts creativity, enhances brain function and aids creativity. So, if you’re feeling drained, step out of the office, soak in the sun, then get back to it.
15. Stay Hydrated
Though it might not always seem like it, mentally intensive tasks drain energy at an alarming rate. In fact, the brain is responsible for using up 20% of a body’s energy. So, proper nourishment is essential to staying motivated throughout a difficult workday. And of course, part of that means staying hydrated. After all, cognitive functions can fizzle after only a one or two percent decrease in hydration. So, if you’re feeling drowsy in the middle of the workday, take a trip to the water cooler. It will also kill several other birds with one stone. Because you’ll take a short break, get out of your chair, and have a moment to think.
16. Get Plenty of Rest
Speaking plainly, sleep is a primary determinant of productivity and motivation. Because without good rest, the body cannot function at peak efficiency. Drowsiness is both a distraction and an irritant when you’re trying to get other things done. And without the mental energy to accomplish tasks, it all leads back into one vicious cycle. So, to keep from becoming needlessly trapped, it’s essential to get good sleep. Now, this also looks different from person to person. Some individuals need eight hours, some function better on less. And still others require more. The key is finding the right amount for your own body and establishing a routine.
17. Keep Work and Home Separate
Burnout is one motivational issue many people have probably experienced. It’s the feeling you get what you can’t escape your work. It’s what happens when you feel stuck and unable to change your situation. And a large part of it is due to overworking. When people don’t recognize how to keep their work and home lives separate, they end up burnt out. Because they don’t take the time they need to invest in themselves and their families. Having hobbies and interests outside of work is key to preventing this from happening. But it also requires knowing how to turn off the work phone. It means not checking emails at the dinner table. And that’s harder to do than say. Because admittedly, those things are important. But so is having a healthy balance. And it’s arguably more valuable for an employee to keep those realms separate than burn out completely. So, learning that balance is a key aspect of appropriate motivation.
18. Find Accountability
This goes as much for creating a work-life balance as it does for productivity. It’s important for employees to have trustworthy individuals around them who can keep them accountable. Whether that means pointing out when they’re overworking or not working well enough. But the key here is that it has to be from someone they will listen to. Because accountability without the will to change is worthless. Ultimately, it should be a partnership of sorts. Several individuals acting together to ensure that they’re performing well and motivating one another to be better. Because ultimately, motivation is far easier to build when it’s done in community.
19. Know What Motivates You
Out of everything said so far, this might be the most important. In other words, it’s self-awareness. Understanding yourself, your work style, your habits and needs is absolutely essential to motivation. Because if you can’t understand what changes need to be made to become more productive, those changes naturally won’t happen. In essence, this might require trial and error. It could take months or years before you know how to properly motivate yourself to action. But it’s a process, and one that’s well worth it.
20. Learn to Forgive yourself
Of course, no individual is perfect. No person can truthfully say they’re motivated all the time. Because there are different issues that come up in life that sap our will to accomplish. And what we all need to recognize is that’s all right. We’re only human. If we constantly put ourselves down because of a lack of motivation, we’ll never perform as well as we could. Instead, we must recognize areas where we remain unmotivated, forgive ourselves, and work to change. But again, we must know that motivation isn’t an instance — it’s a process. And it’s one we have to work at constantly.
Try Different Ways of Learning How to Stay Motivated
Ultimately, motivation is a deeply personal and individual endeavor. It isn’t something that any other person can build for you. And sometimes, it isn’t clear where to start. Try out a few of the tips we’ve listed here for how to stay motivated, and see where it goes. And if you’re looking for a more scholastic discussion of the topic, check out our courses. Because we have one that specifically covers Motivation & Behavior!
Article written by Braden Norwood
Last updated March 23, 2023