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9 Ways to Stay Motivated at Work

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87% of workers are emotionally disconnected from their workplace.

It doesn’t matter if you work a nine to five, 12-hour shift, or run your own company—you need motivation to work.

But you can’t get motivated to work if you don’t get relaxation at home, and you can’t get relaxation at home if you’re stressed at work. So, how do you beat the vicious cycle?

Like the chicken and the egg, the starting place is blurred—but as long as you’re trying to take action inside and outside of work to set yourself up for the rest of the day, bit by bit you’re going to see positive results.

By the end of this article, you’ll have nine tips to help you get started.

Let’s dive in.

1. Practice your social skills.

Health isn’t just physical, it's also mental. In fact, they coincide with each other. For example, stress has physical effects (headaches, chest pains, ext.) on the body that social interactions can help reduce.

All people need social interaction for this reason. People who have fewer social ties have been found to have higher rates of health problems, including heart disease, cancer, and impaired immune function.

Sidebar: This TED Talk on relationships and happiness is fascinating.

Even if you’re an introvert, social interactions tie into motivation. And just like with any skill, being social is something you can practice at work events, networking events, and lunch with coworkers.

If you’re ever experiencing burn out at work, talking to co-workers or taking time to forge connections at networking events has been found to release pain-killing endorphins. Being able to voice things with other people also helps you rationalize situations, which keeps you mentally healthy and in turn increases motivation.

(Fun fact: People with more friends tend to have a higher pain tolerance, too.)

2. Cut out empty calories.

Every year 11 million deaths are linked to bad diets across the world.

Your organs and tissues need proper nutrition to work effectively, and without good nutrition you’re more prone to:

  • Irritability
  • Lower energy levels
  • Reduced ability to think clearly
  • Decreased ability to perform your job effectively
  • Higher levels of stress and depression
  • Decreased productivity

If you're suffering from any of that, how could you possibly be motivated?

But don’t freak out! The main thing to focus on is balance. Don’t over indulge in one food group, try to eat veggies every other day, and avoid empty calories. It's also important to remember that empty calories often disguise themselves as "healthy foods," and bring you down instead of build you up.

PC: Fitness19

Meal prepping at the start of every week and keeping healthy snacks on your person (so you don’t seek out unhealthy ones) can also help. Healthy meal kits, like Hello Fresh, and fitness apps can be an easy solution to keep track of your food intake.

Eating well gives you energy to keep from feeling sluggish throughout the day—which helps you stay motivated at work.

3. Take time to learn new things.

Are you taking time out of your day to learn something new? Most CEOs and executives read 4-5 books per month. This means that the people who reach those successful positions see the value of continual learning.

And here’s the thing, you don’t have to learn about work-related things. Look at topics that peak your interest: Health, science, businesses, finance, film, comedy, etc. You’ll be surprised at what you can take from one area and apply to another.

During my first week of work, I asked my boss “Do you answer emails over the weekend?” His response could have been an easy yes or no, but I'm glad it wasn't. He said:

“I like to do work without working. I like to read about topics that will benefit the job, and watch and listen to people who are in this industry.” - Kenneth Burke

When people learn a cool, new, or innovative way of doing something, most of the time they can’t wait to try it out. Which means you're excited to head back to work. It’s important, however, to find a medium that allows you to learn and “work” without working.

You have several mediums at hand that you can learn from:

  • Audio books
  • Podcasts
  • YouTube
  • Articles
  • Books
  • Conversations

Figure out what works best for you, or a combination of them, and dive in and start learning. What do you find interesting? Follow that. Learning will keep your brain active, and, if you come across something that you can apply to your job, excite you for the work day.

4. Stay active to release endorphins.

Around 250,000 deaths a year are related to not exercising. In fact, a sedentary lifestyle is worse for you than smoking or having heart disease.

Exercise is also important because it produces serotonin and dopamine, the hormones that give you a rush of happiness, along with other great benefits. Fun fact: Dopamine is the same endorphin released whenever you accomplish a task, and the same that creates highs from alcohol and drugs.

PC: Developing Human Brain

The more you exercise, the more hormones you’ll release, and the more motivated you’ll naturally begin to feel. Exercise also helps fight against depression by releasing endorphins in the brain.

You don’t have to buy a $150 per month gym membership or hire a personal trainer, though. Going for a walk during your lunch-break, or even hopping onto YouTube and doing a 15 minute in-home workout video after work, is just as good.

The biggest thing is to just start at a level you're comfortable with and increase from there.

5. Paint a bigger picture.

Understanding the big picture makes small tedious tasks feel more important. For example, have you ever had to go through spreadsheet after spreadsheet of pulling together information that, in the moment, seemed pointless?

Most of us have experienced this feeling—but what you might not realize is that the information you’re collecting is what your supervisor will use in order to increase budgets, get the team raises, and show if something is working or not.

You need to understand what all your tasks are leading up to. When you’re assigned something, ask the reasons you’re doing something instead of just how you’ll do it. Check in with your supervisor to see the results of your efforts, and ask your co-workers where they see the ripples of your work affecting the company.

Seeing the big picture helps you stay motivated, because you can see how the work you're doing fits into accomplishing larger goals for everyone.

6. Pay attention to how hydrated you are.

Just a 3% drop in hydration can lead to a 50% drop in productivity! So keeping an eye on your hydration throughout the day is a must.

PC: WaterLogic Australia 

The amount of water a person needs depends on climate, clothing, and the intensity and duration of time spent exercising.

A person who sweats a lot will need to drink more than someone who doesn’t. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, may mean you need to drink more water.

But waiting until you’re thirsty to start drinking water means it’s already too late.

A good standard for optimal hydration is to drink half your body weight in ounces. Example: If you weigh 200lbs you should drink 100oz a day.

Hydration, much like food, keeps you from feeling sluggish and helps circulate your blood to keep your mind active and alert.

7. Talk with your supervisor about your goals.

Having open conversations with your supervisors breaks down barriers keeping you from trying new things, bringing up ideas, or feeling confident about your work life. You need to feel like you can share opinions and have some autonomy to boost your motivation at work.

In fact, 70% of a person’s engagement at work has been found to be affected by their relationship with their boss. Cultivating a positive relationship is clearly important, but how do you do it?

PC: Lighthouse

For starters? Ask.

Set up times that are dedicated between you and your boss to talk about work and future goals. This builds, not only a relationship, but knowledge about things you might not have a direct hand in. Over time this creates empathy between you and your boss, which helps in keeping you in the loop and motivating you to do your best.

Learn your boss's favorite communication methods (whether it’s one-on-one conversations or instant messages) to set up these meetings, and pay attention to behaviors that excite them at the office. Maybe your boss really values you speaking up in meetings or seeing you show up to the office 15 minutes early.

8. Make sure you reach the deepest part of sleep.

The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep per night. But just putting your head on the pillow for that long isn’t enough. You need slow-wave sleep.

PC: VCOM

Slow-wave sleep is the deepest part of sleep, and has the biggest impact on mood and performance.

So how do you make sure you get it?

Electronic devices are usually the main culprit behind people not reaching the deepest part of sleep. Many people enjoy falling asleep to TV or a video on their phone, but this actually hurts your sleep cycle.

The lights from phone screens and TVs suppress melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates sleep, and activate different parts of your brain that you may not realize, both of which keep you from getting the deep sleep you need.

So, put away electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime. You should ideally shoot for an hour before bed to get the best possible sleep. The better you sleep, the better (and more motivated) you'll feel at work.

9. Celebrate small victories.

Text Request has a special Slack channel dedicated to small victories. This includes sales that we didn’t think would close, mentions by other companies, trade show news, account upgrades, and so much more.

It’s the small things that boost your spirits (and release dopamine) throughout the day. Plus, making it a point to celebrate the small things doesn’t just boost your spirits, but your co-workers' too. Seeing what others are doing in your company helps you connect with them and increases camaraderie.

Then you can all feed off each others' motivation.

Make it a point to celebrate small victories with your company as a whole, too. This can be through annual holiday parties, eating out together, and after hour activities (our office enjoys axe throwing).

Keep nudging yourself.

Work's not always going to be exciting—and that's okay. What's important is recognizing what you're mentally feeding yourself. Are you being negative and bringing yourself down when things are dull, or are you finding silver linings to keep yourself going?

All it takes is a few conscious steps to start having more days filled with motivation. What will you do first?

Related: 10 Ways to Make Life at Work Substantially Easier