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How to stay motivated at work when you feel exhausted, bored, or aren’t sure what comes next

Work can be one of the most rewarding things a person can do in their life. It can also be one of the most stressful. But, perhaps worse than being stressed, it can feel vague. You don’t know what’s coming next. You’re bored. You feel like you either can’t use your talents properly or you’re so overworked that you can barely think by the end of the day. It can happen to anyone, so if it’s happening to you know you’re not alone. If you’re wondering how to stay motivated when boredom or that feeling of listlessness hits, then keep reading.

Have goals outside of work

How to stay motivated: have goals outside work

If you’re feeling bored or burnt out at work, one of the first things you should do is make sure you have goals outside of work. In the hierarchy of how to stay motivated at work, this is one of the best low hanging fruit because it makes a lot of other steps easier. Since this is your one life to live, you need to do everything you can to accomplish the things you want to. 

To get a better sense of what you want in life, take a few minutes to write (or talk) about what your ideal looks like for:

  • Your family life
  • Your relationships outside family
  • Travel and seeing new things
  • Things or topics you want to learn about
  • How you want to feel on a regular basis

The more in touch with your deeper desires you can get, the more you can wade out a bad time at work because it’ll add perspective to your day.

Clarify career goals

know what you want from your career

About half of employees don’t know what’s expected of them at work, according to a Gallup poll. This is a huge amount of the workforce – but don’t let yourself be part of that statistic. Instead, think about your career long-term. Figure out what you want out of your working life at least a couple years into the future (longer if you have already been working for a while). This will help you identify what work you need to do – instead of waiting to be told what to do. 

Note that this step could be a bit uncomfortable, as you may realize that you are in the wrong role or at the wrong company for your personal career goals. If this happens, take whatever steps you need in order to get your career on the path to your personal goals. Few people can afford to simply quit their jobs and search for the next thing, so you may need to conduct a “stealth job search” until you can move onto a better working environment. 

Develop a morning or evening ritual

How to stay motivated: have a ritual to get to work

When it comes to how to stay motivated, humans can train themselves to get into a flow or deep work zone by setting a morning or evening ritual. By setting a ritual or regular practice that you do before you get to work, you prime your brain to get into work mode. This can help you push through creativity blocks, overcome boredom, or give you the confidence to ask tough questions at work. 

If you’re not sure that your job is right for you, this kind of practice could apply to your job search (or setting up a business). The best part is these don’t have to be complicated. You could try something like:

  • A standard coffee or tea order that you drink before going to work
  • Sitting down at your desk and simply saying “3, 2, 1… go” to yourself (or out loud) before getting to work
  • Writing out your priorities, either in the morning before you start work or in the evening, planning for the next day 

Offer to help someone else

offering to help someone can keep you motivated

Offering to help someone is one of the best ways to alleviate boredom or a feeling that you don’t belong. Since humans are fundamentally social beings, we psychologically thrive on working with others (at least some of the time). This can not only help you feel better about your own work, but you create good will when you help others succeed. 

Depending on your goals or environment, you could offer to help a colleague, you could volunteer outside work, or both. Simply helping others is a great way to reduce feelings of isolation. If you do this in a work context, you may find a new passion and move laterally in your organization. If you do this outside in a volunteering context, you open up your network more and learn brand new skills or about other communities. 

Engage in office social life

How to stay motivated: engage in office social life

Most offices, typically regardless of size, have social opportunities for employees. Take advantage of them! The events can give you a sense of belonging, help you make friends at work, and even give you more of a view into the organization as you socialize with bosses, managers, and people at different levels in the company. 

If your office only has social events that don’t work for you – for example if you don’t drink but every event is heavily centred on alcohol – offer to plan something different. That way you get more involved and you get the benefit of choosing what kind of event you do. 

Have a life outside work

diversify your life - don't focus only on work

Similar to having goals outside of work, remember that you work to live (not the other way around). If you have vacation days, don’t be afraid to take them. If you have an interest, pursue it, even if only just in a small way such as doing it on weekends to start. 

Think of having a life outside work as “diversifying” your life. Like investments, you typically don’t want to have all your eggs in one basket. The same goes for your whole life. If all you have in your life is work and that starts to go bad, then it can feel like your whole life is falling apart. But if you maintain other hobbies, things to do, or communities that you belong to outside work, they can help lift you up when work is going poorly. 

Maximize your benefits

How to stay motivated: maximize your benefits

Benefits can account for as much as 30% of your total compensation. And yet nearly 65% of employees are not using benefits to their fullest extent, according to a CNBC poll. This means millions of dollars in benefits are left on the table every year around the world, if not more. But the real issue is that benefits can help you push through a hard time at work (or a hard time in the rest of your life that is impacting your work). 

If you want to know how to stay motivated work, look at your benefits. Benefits such as massage, dental, vision, chiropractic, psychiatry, and more can help you discover more about your life, your goals, your vision, and what you want from your career. Even if all the benefit does is help you relax, like massage therapy, you will be in a clearer mindset to do the thinking you need to do. Some companies have unique requirements to claim your benefits, so make sure you know how your employer works. But use them! 

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