Five strategies to stay motivated at work this winter
For the past month, you’ve left for work in the dark and arrived home after sunset. The winter weather makes for long, difficult, and sometimes dangerous commutes. Add to that grumpy colleagues and tight end-of-year deadlines, and it’s not surprising to feel your motivation for work decreasing.
If this sounds familiar, then you’re not alone. Many people feel more tired and irritable than usual during the winter; a condition generally referred to as “the winter blues.” Some people even suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder; a form of depression caused primarily by the decrease in natural light during the winter months. However, even if the change in seasons doesn’t affect you, cold weather, stress at work, and less personal time due to longer work hours and bad traffic are enough to sap anyone’s enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, when you become less motivated, you’re also one step away from becoming less productive and compromising your professional performance—and that’s something you certainly don’t want to have happen!
So how can you stay motivated?
The first thing you need to do is understand what happens in your brain when you lose motivation. In her Psychology Today article titled “Neurochemistry of Motivation,” Judith E. Glaser explains that negative input involving some level of fear triggers the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol puts your brain into a state of hyper alertness that lasts between 13 and 26 hours. Because your brain is now busy protecting you, it greatly reduces the energy necessary for thinking and interacting with others. Of course, if you experience further negative input, more stress hormones are released, your brain remains on high alert, and your cognitive and interaction skills remain compromised.
Knowing this, it’s easy to understand how something like a near-collision during the commute; negative feedback from your boss; or a difficult conversation with a client can trigger this reaction. It’s also logical that it results in loss of motivation, because a single event can effectively impair your performance, which then usually results in more negative feedback and ends up forming a vicious circle.
So here’s the good news: you can stop this process by making sure you get positive input. Positive input triggers the release of dopamine, which makes you feel happier, more confident, and capable. And while you can’t control how other people act or what they say, you can create opportunities for your brain to release dopamine by engaging in activities that make you feel positive about your job every day.
1. Be mindful of what you do well. Pay extra attention to your performance, and give yourself mental praise when you’re doing a good job. Do this even for small tasks such as answering emails or explaining a process to a new hire.
2. Get involved in a positive project. Volunteering for something that’s inherently positive like helping produce the company newsletter or organizing the holiday dinner can be a fun, rewarding activity.
3. Learn a new skill. When you learn something you can put to good use in your job, it can help you advance and simultaneously earn you the appreciation of your boss. Make sure to select a skill that’s relatively easy to master. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure.
4. Read books by thought leaders in your industry. This is a great way to increase your motivation, since thought leaders typically excel at communicating their passion and enthusiasm. Plus, you’ll gain more insights into your industry!
5. Do something positive that doesn’t pertain to work. If all else fails, you’ll have to build your motivation by means of extra-curricular activities. For example, you could begin training for a 5K; teach yourself how to use Photoshop; or start doing volunteer work on the weekends. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that will make you feel good because you can measure your progress, improve your results, or earn appreciation from those around you.
Keep these strategies in mind, and you’ll soon find your motivation returning! Keep it up, and you could find the energy to achieve things that previously seemed beyond your reach.