Have you noticed that you’re losing motivation at work? Don’t panic. There are lots of reasons why you might be having trouble getting out of your own way — and most of these problems are very fixable.
First of all, understand that a certain amount of fluctuation is normal. Humans aren’t robots. No one feels the same level of focus and enthusiasm each and every day. These things are meant to wax and wane.
But, just because dips and rises in motivation levels happen periodically, doesn’t mean you should ignore them. These cycles are often trying to tell you something about your job and about yourself. The only way to treat the problem is to unpack and address its causes.
Here are 7 possible reasons for losing motivation at work (and what to do about it)
1. Your willpower has given out
Willpower is a wonderful thing. It can help you to get tasks accomplished efficiently. But, it isn’t an unlimited resource by any means. Ideally, you should also rely on other tools to help you stay engaged at work. For example, if you’re sincerely interested in the tasks at hand, or if you’re creatively engaged, that can go a long way to fuel your intrinsic motivation and you won’t have to rely on sheer willpower.
If you try to conquer tasks by willpower alone, you can burn out. You simply can’t push yourself at the same rate day after day. So, search for deeper meaning and motivation in your work rather than relying on willpower alone to get the job done.
It might also help to establish more frequent checkpoints for noting your progress. Celebrate getting started on big projects, organizing your notes and materials, or just getting the first sentence written down. Acknowledging smaller victories along the way (especially at the beginning of a project when it can be especially difficult to feel motivated) can help you to feel excited and engaged.
2. You Don’t Have Much autonomy
What makes you happy at work? Your first thought might be, “Money.” But while salary and status may be important to you, keep in mind that they’re not the only thing that matters.
Research has shown that autonomy goes a long way toward helping workers enjoy their jobs. Think about it this way: you probably don’t love it when someone is hovering over you all the time telling you how to do your work. In fact, this is exactly the kind of thing that destroys most workers’ motivation.
If lack of autonomy is part of the cause for your dip in productivity, you might want to consider looking for ways to gain independence at work. You might volunteer for a project that allows you to work with other teams, or ask about telecommuting privileges. Or maybe you can check in with your boss to discuss ways you can contribute with more autonomy. (Just remember to present the suggestion as a solution to an existing problem for the team, not a perk for you.)
3. You’re focusing on the negative
Sure, there are tons of external factors that contribute to how motivated you feel at work. But, ultimately, we are all responsible for the way we think and feel. If you haven’t been as motivated lately, it’s worth taking a look at your own mindset in order to determine whether or not it’s a primary factor.
There are so many ways to be your own worst enemy at work. Beating yourself up over mistakes, for example, won’t help you to feel motivated. You’ll feel better if you can learn to let go of perfectionist tendencies and embrace errors as opportunities for growth.
Adopting a positive mindset can help you to feel more motivated. Focus your attention more on what is working rather than honing in on what you don’t like about your job. Set goals that help you to stay motivated and excited. Get plenty of sleep during off hours, and also spend quality time with friends and family so that you feel rested and ready for the workday.
If you’re feeling less motivated because of a negative mindset, take responsibility for moving things in a better direction. Try getting regular exercise, meditating, or spending more time outdoors. Taking good care of yourself can go a long way toward helping you to feel better.
4. You’re wasting your energy on less crucial tasks
Motivation is not an unlimited resource. (This worth repeating because it’s so central to learning to control the ebbs and flows of your productivity and drive.) If you’re burning too much energy on the wrong tasks, you might find yourself in short supply when it comes time to really get to work.
You’re probably busy a lot of the time while your at work. You answer coworkers’ questions, check email, etc. But, how much time and focus are you really giving to the most essential tasks of your workday? These are the things that should be getting the bulk of your attention.
Rather than schedule your heavy-lifting work — think new projects, creative challenges, important meeting preparations, etc., — for midway through the morning, after you’ve checked your email, do it first thing. Set priorities carefully and intentionally, and keep your energy levels in mind. Remember, you only have so much you can give each day. Direct your resources to the tasks that really matter. Your emails, and that chat you’ve been meaning to have with a coworker, can wait.
5. You’ve gotten comfortable
Were you super motivated when you first starting out in your career? Maybe you had dreams and a vision for where you wanted to go, and you worked hard and passionately in an effort to get there. But, perhaps now that you’ve arrived, things feel different.
Maybe you really like your job, and you’re happy with where you are in your career. If so, feeling a lack of motivation can be upsetting. But, it’s possible that nothing is terribly wrong here. You may just be entering into a new stage of your career where you’re not motivated to advance.
There’s a difference between being comfortable and being complacent, though. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying your job and not wanting to “move up the ladder” — that is, as long as you stay engaged and passionate. If that’s started to wane, it could be a sign that you’re ready for a fresh challenge. (See No. 6.) Or perhaps you simply need to reenergize your daily routine. Try new things. Work with different people. Maybe consider taking on a mentee to share your hard-won knowledge.
If you’ve gotten really comfortable at your job, and you sincerely enjoy it, be grateful that you’re at a point in your career. Now, your motivation will need to arise from another source. Take responsibility for that yourself and do what you can to freshen up the way you do your job.
6. You’re ready for a change
Sometimes, lack of motivation at work can be an indication that you’re ready for a change and a new challenge. If you don’t feel excited about your job, and if you aren’t learning and growing, you could experience a dip in motivation. This is worth acknowledging.
Be honest with yourself about where you are professionally. Are you bored with what you’re doing and ready for something new? Your lack of motivation could be trying to let you know that it’s just about time to move on.
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7. You don’t feel valued
Feeling undervalued is commonly associated with a lack of motivation, and for good reason. It’s hard to keep going when you feel like no one is noticing what you’re accomplishing. Even a simple “thank you” from the boss can go a long way.
Some leaders are better at making their workers feel valued than others. If you work for someone who doesn’t reliably appreciate your accomplishments, or anyone else’s for that matter, there are a few things you can do. First of all, don’t take it personally. If it’s happening to everyone, or almost everyone, then it’s safe to say it’s not about you. Don’t take your boss’s lack of engagement personally. Second, find other ways to note and celebrate your progress. Talk with trusted friends, coworkers, or family members about what you’re up to. Simply sharing your accomplishments with someone else helps them to feel real.
Finally, you might want to keep a list of everything you’ve handled exceptionally well to bring to your next meeting or performance review with your boss. Explain that you’d like to share a few things that make you feel proud. It might help you to get some recognition for your efforts.
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