Maybe you’ve put the words “self-starter” on your resume. Or you’ve described yourself in this way in an interview. After all, employers are drawn to those who can self-motivate without the need for pep talks, external rewards, or constant supervision. Yet, even if you have the best of intentions, it can be challenging at times to find that internal gumption.
You don’t have to psyche yourself up too much to keep reading; this article discusses how to self-motivate at work. 😉
Importance of self-motivation at work
You know what it is like to lack motivation. Instead of doing the work to meet that deadline, you find yourself scrolling your social feed on your phone. You make a tour of the office catching up with everyone rather than review the files. Or you reorganize your office instead of making that client call.
Effective strategies for self-motivation at work can help to turn this challenge around. When you can motivate yourself, you can get more done at work without a manager breathing down your neck or a colleague having to prod you to do your part. This helps you contribute more effectively to the team, which can improve your professional relationships. You’ll also require less attention of your supervisors, which can enhance everyone’s efficiency. All this makes it easier to meet goals, which can increase your satisfaction at work and engagement and growth with your company.
From an employer perspective, of course, boosting workplace productivity through self-motivation is a huge plus. From a personal perspective, though, it’s easy to guess that self-motivation can hardly become a workplace policy.
How to start self-motivating at work
It can help to first evaluate what type of motivation approach you typically rely on. Psychology Today suggests two types: the “ought” self-guide or the “ideal” self-guide. When you think in terms of “I ought to do…” you focus on accomplishing your responsibilities by motivating yourself with fear or anxiety. You get things done because you worry about disappointing others or falling short.
Those who motivate using the ideal self-guide approach, focus more on the desire to achieve goals. They get things done with an eye to creating opportunities and seeking success. This approach is more aspirational, which can lead to higher levels of happiness and confidence.
This perspective can help you see the value of the first strategy offered in a Harvard Business Review article on self-motivation at work: “Design goals, not chores.” Looking at what you have to do as a chore is an “ought” mindset. Setting a goal, on the other hand, can trigger your intrinsic motivation.
Especially if you set a specific goal. For example, saying you want to “do better” is vague and difficult to realize. Setting a goal to allot thirty minutes every Tuesday to pursue continued learning related to improving your public speaking or subject area knowledge is more concrete.
1. Break your goals into parts
Try to think of your work as a collection of smaller tasks. This lets you gain a sense of accomplishment from achieving the parts of a larger goal. It can also help to create a list of steps to help you to achieve your specific goals.
You might set deadlines for each step along the way as well to help motivate yourself to persist. Tracking your progress against your deadlines can help you to identify areas that might need improvement to sustain your self-motivation.
2. Recognize progress
When you accomplish a task, acknowledge the progress you’ve made. Don’t be stingy with your self-praise. By congratulating yourself along the way, you can retain motivation. Focusing on what you have completed can help you see the finish line as being within reach, which can drive you to increase your effort.
Acknowledging your success can also help you to remain optimistic. Taking a positive perspective is key to self-motivation. We’re all going to encounter challenges or make mistakes, but trying to find the silver lining can help your resilience.
3. Reward yourself
When you have to do a task that is unseeing, it can help to self-motivate by promising yourself a rewarding activity as the follow-up. If you hate catching up on emails, but enjoy talking to a loyal customer. Do set a time frame to clear your inbox (continuing to value quality over speed) and then make that call to confirm a sale or discuss a new product.
You might even gamify your tasks with a surprise reward. It may sound counterintuitive, but experiments discussed in the Journal of Consumer Research found that a reward of uncertain magnitude was actually more motivating than a reward of certain magnitude. People in the study invested more time, effort, and money when they had a 50% chance of a $2 and 50% chance of a $1 reward as opposed to when they knew they’d get the $2 reward.
One more suggestion, from a behavioral science professor, is to leverage this finding by keeping two envelopes at your desk with two different value treats. When you complete your task, you could reward yourself with picking one of the two rewards at random.
4. Make it personal
You’ve likely heard of two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. The rewards approach just discussed takes advantage of extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is tied to our values and passions.
Linking your tasks to your personal interests can be highly motivating. Imagine the power of shifting your perspective as demonstrated in these examples:
- I will meet that deadline because…I might get a raise vs. I will feel calmer and more in control.
- I will help my colleague at work because…I will look good to my boss vs. I will feel supportive and get to see them thrive.
- I will remain focused at work because…I can earn more vs. I will be free to leave on time and spend more time with my friends.
5. Pay attention to what works
When you successfully complete a task, take a moment to reflect on what worked for you. Were you motivated by the reward? Or did it help you to have smaller tasks and deadlines? By identifying your own most effective strategies for self-motivation at work, you’ll know how to set yourself up for success in the future.
You made it! Hurrah!
You already knew this article would only take a few minutes, but you can still acknowledge your achievements in having read to the end! It’s just one of the small, simple steps we’ve outlined that can help you self-motivate at work.
Next, we’ll look in more detail at challenges that can get in the way of motivation. Then, we’ll round out this series with a look at strategies to help leaders encourage self-motivation and externally motivate their employees. While boosting workplace productivity through self-motivation is an exciting opportunity, organizations need to take a holistic approach to keep teams inspired and engaged.