So, ugh, I am unmotivated. Again. I do not want to commute from my bedroom to my home office again, participate in a series of zoom meetings or spend all day on the computer. Spring is here, and I just want to get outside and lie in my hammock. I feel this is something I should not admit, most certainly not with my colleagues. Work is so competitive at times and the desire, no need, to look perfect can be overwhelming. When I am overwhelmed, I lose my motivation.
Yet I rarely think I am attempting to look perfect. I think I am desperately trying to look merely competent. The truth is that my standards are far higher than I will admit. I want to look good because I have convinced myself that my long-term employment rides on this illusion. I am old enough now to know that it doesn’t and that there is much room for missteps when working on a team; but I often forget, and when I forget, I become anxious. When anxiety hits the tipping point, I find myself on that slippery downward spiral, imagining all sorts of failures.
The problem with runaway anxiety is that it is a product of my mind and its insecurities running my life. I end up taking everything personally so that every sideways glance or uncomfortable tone of voice means something is wrong with me. This is not true.
To combat this, I must acknowledge this pattern for what it is and call on my rational brain to intercede. My rational brain has served me well by learning a variety of tools and techniques to quiet my primitive brain. When I do this, the anxiety ebbs, perspective returns and so does my motivation. If I can shift my perspective, I silence the inner critic and speak with my internal optimist.
Once I have made this shift, I can start using one or more of the tools I have to bring back my motivation:
- I can dig into projects I find overwhelming by breaking them into smaller tasks.
- Similarly, I can “chunk” my time by limiting how long I spend on a task, usually about 20-30 minutes. I find this really helps me to start projects I would rather not. Once I start, I often keep going, and the motivation to finish takes over.
- Another trick I use a lot is to consider how I am being of service in the tasks I perform. I feel motivation when I believe my work is valued, so this helps me focus on what I am giving, rather than getting.
- I can also change my perspective by recalling the ways I behave when I am stressed. I can then see that others’ behaviors are not aimed at me personally. They are simply evidence of another person’s irritation, fear, anxiety or impatience. I don’t have to see external behaviors as reflecting a failing on my part. It is easier for me to stay on track when I don’t personalize outside events or behaviors.
- Finally, I reach out to my colleagues. Having a conversation about the task or project at hand will usually bring new insights that help me move forward. It may also raise questions I had not considered. In this way, I may find motivation to answer some of the questions my colleagues have raised.
At the end of the day, I think the most important thing we can do when faced with a lack of motivation is to be kind to ourselves, understanding that as humans, our energy and enthusiasm ebbs and flows. If I am in ebb, I need to realize it will eventually return to flow, and that any slowness I experience now will provide the quiet time my brain needs to be able to get moving again.
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