How to find motivation to work

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Melbourne has surpassed an ugly milestone, suffering through more than 200 days in lockdown. Congratulations to us because that means we’ve now had the longest running lockdowns anywhere in the world. And for adding insult to injury, we’ve experienced some of the harshest restrictions on freedom and community engagement, too. 

In short: We’re over it. We want to get back on track with our businesses and personal lives and being constantly held back is causing widespread mental health issues and the emergence of a nasty-edge to society. 

In our personal lives as well as at work we find ourselves feeling confused, scared, angry and downtrodden, with “normal” forever shifting and changing, not just lockdown to lockdown, but sometimes daily as well. How are you supposed to stay motivated and drive your business forward? 

The lockdowns have also taken a huge toll on mental health. According to The Guardian, there was an increase in the use of mental health services in Victoria during the 2020 lockdown when compared to previous years, with many more Victorians feeling the strain without calling for help.

People are missing life, their freedoms and normal activities. In business, we’re locked out of in-person coffee meetings and in-person networking events that are so important for the business growth and overall motivation to keep building. Instead, we have to work as though everything is normal, but it’s not, and the feeling is, it might never be again.  

If you are wondering why you’re not feeling motivated to work, look no further than the lockdown, especially if you are an extrovert and need to be around people to get that energy boost. So where do you go for assistance? 

If self-help books and online articles aren't working, it’s them, not you. Sure it sounds like solid advice to “take a walk outside and get some fresh air”, but at this level of a highly stressful situation and extended lockdowns, a stroll around the block is hardly going to be enough to lift your spirits and get you back in the game. What you need are some sure-fire actionable steps to follow, which we have for you here, to get you back on track and power through your workday. 

We’ll help you identify the areas that are holding you back and help you face the problem head-on to regain the strength and momentum to return to work and find fulfilment in it. 

That way, when we get to the other side of this (and we will get through this) you’ll be ready and raring to go.

Anyone can feel demotivated, from admin staff through to CEOs and entrepreneurs, but the key is to recognise when you’re in the spiral and do something about it. 

Reality check: What the situation looks like right now

COVID-19 has changed the way businesses operate and interact with their customers. It’s made it more restrictive with social distancing measures and safety guidelines that limit human interaction and indoor activities. 

For small business owners and their employees, these changes can be very limiting, especially since most businesses have to implement work-from-home setups and are forced to communicate only through group calls and instant messaging. 

But more than that, these restrictions have taken a psychological and physical toll on working individuals. Many of them feel mentally and emotionally exhausted from the new setup, to the point that they avoid work, procrastinate on deadlines, and even distance themselves from their colleagues just to make sense of how they’re feeling. 

Since retail, dining and recreational facilities are closed or allow only a number of people to enter, there is little to do to de-stress and clear your head when things get too much to handle. 

When this happens, it’s a sign that you’re experiencing lockdown fatigue. 

The Australian Psychological Society defines lockdown fatigue as the “state of exhaustion caused by the long-term effects of COVID-19 and the changes it has caused to every aspect of your life.” This feeling is often characterised by irritability, mental and physical exhaustion, and a lack of motivation to work. 

In the face of all this, business owners can find it difficult to maintain that image of a strong leader. Many business owners pretend that everything’s okay to boost employee morale and instil a sense of normalcy in the workplace. We’re all human and it’s okay to admit you’re feeling unmotivated and are longing for the good old pre-COVID days. It’s time to stop faking it and accept that the situation is actually horrible. You’re not the only one feeling this way, so by being honest, your team can relate and share their experiences with you and everyone can overcome the stifling effects of lockdown together. 

Grieving for the “old normal” is a part of the healing process, so allow yourself to go through the emotions to get to the other side of them. When things become overwhelming, you can seek help from family, friends, or a licensed therapist to get you through the pain and loss. 

Facing and overcoming these issues are important in finding motivation and allows you to get unstuck and keep pressing forward with business innovation and flexibility so you have an advantage when we get back to running at full capacity.

This situation won’t remain the same forever. Eventually, the country (and even the rest of the world) will find a way to adapt to COVID-19. If you stay stuck and not motivated then, when that time comes, other competitors might have the edge over you if they were able to grow and adapt through lockdown while you were standing still. 

Why you feel unmotivated to work

Being productive can be difficult when you’re experiencing the effects of lockdown fatigue. You need to be aware of what’s killing your productivity and be able to read the signs that indicate you need to take action and get moving again. Some signs that you are unproductive and unmotivated include: 

  • Procrastinating – When you find yourself putting off work for hours or days, even if you know they are pressing and important tasks. 
  • Repeating the same mistakes – If you’re not mentally and emotionally energised, you'll find yourself making the same simple mistakes over and over, costing you time and productivity and increasing your frustration.  
  • Shutting down and not communicating - When you lose hope of ever finding motivation again, you start to distance yourself from other members of your work team. This can lead to miscommunication or a total lack of communication among staff members, which can consequently lead to misalignments, project delays, and even failure to deliver quality output. 

When you’re experiencing any of these signs, it’s best to stop, take a step back, and reassess how you feel about the situation. By doing this, you can clear your mind and understand that you need actionable steps to get over your lack of motivation. 

Knowing the root causes for your lack of motivation will help you come up with a working plan for how you can move past these feelings and get your energy back.

This will take some time, so be kind to yourself and take everything a step at a time, especially with the sudden major adjustments of lockdowns being lifted and then reimplemented without warning. This can be disorienting at times because of the jarring nature of having to adjust to work-life at home and regularly scheduled hours in your traditional working environment.

To help overcome lockdown fatigue, you need to establish a daily structure or routine. This involves making a list of the things that you need to accomplish, creating a schedule, and planning ways to achieve your goals. A lack of structure can result in feeling apathetic, directionless, and withdrawn from your surroundings, which is not conducive to self-confidence, motivation or business growth. 

Why you won’t find motivation in listicles

With lockdown fatigue affecting most parts of the globe at one point or another, the internet has been flooded with listicles on how to find motivation and regain motivation for work that brings little to moderate results. These articles can be helpful reminders of what you can do to get out of a rut, but unless you can evaluate yourself and find what the driving factors are, you’ll eventually slide back to feeling stuck and unmotivated. 

Listicles can be great at helping you recognise the issue, learn from tips with short term action steps and acknowledge that you’re not alone in feeling this way.

Where they fail however is in failing to provide long term solutions or an outlet for you to get back on track. A coaching program is a much more effective program as it holds you accountable, targets your areas of need and is focused on your business recovery, as well as your personal progress.

If you are no longer finding relief from reading listicles, or the tips and techniques you have been using so far to enhance your motivation just aren’t working for you, you can start reigniting your motivation by going back to your “why”. 

Knowing your business’ why is important for your marketing communications as well as your personal motivation. It’s a statement of purpose for what you do and why it’s important to you and your customers. This will be the driver that motivated you to take the risk and start your business in the first place. It’s the perfect way to find motivation and the light at the end of the tunnel because it's important to you and will make a difference in the world.

When it comes to business leadership, we’ve already mentioned that “fake it til you make it” isn’t the healthiest approach for your emotional and mental well being. Rather than hiding your emotions and powering through with a smile, here are some things you can do to be a resilient leader and establish yourself as a point of inspiration to your team:

  • Put your business goals first – At the end of the day, you’re at the helm of your small business. It’s important that you prioritise your company’s goals. That way you’re better positioned to meet KPIs, organise your team and devise a solid output strategy. Rather than focusing on what comes next with Covid measures (which is out of your control) you can focus on what your business does next to meet its own goals, which is inspiring and exciting. 
  • Act fast – The pandemic and the safety measures introduced to stop its spread means we are subject to rapid changes. In response, small business owners need to be just as quick to decide what’s needed to be compliant and still operational, in order to make the most from the situation.  
  • Plan ahead – It’s best to come up with feasible and concrete actions you can do to prepare for worst-case scenarios for your business and mitigate possible loss or failure from it. 

The right mindset and your conviction to actualise your “why” can help you prepare for unpredictable circumstances and let you regain the energy and focus to move your business forward. 

How setting goals and focusing on your vision can drive motivation

When everything feels uncertain and unpredictable, (like the situation we’re living through now), it’s more important than ever to keep your eyes on the prize. Don’t lose sight of your vision, just continue setting and accomplishing goals to make them happen. 

Stay focused on your three-five-seven year vision and get your business coach in to help if you are stuck. Start this by visualising the future you want for the company.

Ask yourself: 

  • What do I want for my small business five to ten years from now? 
  • What departments do I see expanding in the near future? 
  • What do I want to improve on right now?  

When you answer these questions you’ll have solid business goals with tangible outcomes and be able to create strategies that will get you to that vision, step by step, even during the pandemic. 

Make sure your goals have heart. It’s not enough for your goals to be externally motivated. Money and fame are nice to have and can be motivating to begin with, but bigger goals that are more meaningful to you will be the ones that steer you through tough times. Perhaps you want security for you or your family, to be able to help people, find personal growth or make a meaningful difference in the world.

If you need help with finding or redefining your “why”, or if you are struggling to find or action your business goals, you can also employ a business coach. A good business coach has the expertise to guide you through slumps of demotivation or get you to the next level if you hit a plateau. They have the background, tools, and strategies in place to give you the push you need in your business and get you on the path to success. 

Another great resource you can turn to is joining a business community. Being surrounded by like-minded business owners can hold you accountable so you stick to your goals and it’s also a safe place to talk about the problems you are facing and get advice from other business owners. There are people who were down-and-out, just like you, who found ways to overcome lockdown fatigue and implement strategies to strengthen and grow their business in lockdown, and they’re happy to help out.

Lockdown has been hard and we hate it, but we can't give in. Our businesses need us to stay with it. There are real ways to actively reboot your energy levels and increase your motivation and productivity and it’s through connecting to your goals and vision, no matter what comes next. 

If you want to stay in touch with us and talk to a community of small business owners about this topic, visit our Facebook group, The Business Evolution and join the conversation. 

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