Originally published on Forbes.
I wrote recently about common distractions at work, and how they interfere with employee productivity. Cell phones, the internet, and gossip are undoubtedly among the list of those responsible for affecting our focus during the workday and decreasing productivity… This got me thinking about ways to combat and minimize workplace distractions so that our economy and employees continue to grow.
And this brings me to the inevitable question…Why are so many people distracted at work? Is it because the distractions are readily available and they make it hard to focus? Or do employees lack motivation, which causes their minds to wander over to these distractions?
And hence, a typical “chicken or the egg” question.
Lack of motivation at work isn’t a foreign concept. In fact, most of my clients have sought me out for career coaching because they’re no longer being challenged or feeling connected to their current roles. Going to work every day has become dull to the point of being painful, and they’re desperate for change. They’re relieved to learn there’s nothing wrong with them—that their lack of motivation isn’t because they’re lazy or bad employees, but simply a natural result not doing work that is stimulating or challenging.
In fact, I teach them to celebrate the fact that certain tasks bore them. It’s just feedback to get them into the right career path.
However, lack of motivation at work is a real problem for the economy. One study revealed that only 13% of the workforce is actively engaged in their job. That’s one out of eight employees. The majority of employees in the study—63%—reported being “not engaged,” meaning they were somewhat productive but overall lacked motivation to do their jobs fully. The remaining 24% of respondents reported being actively disengaged. Not the type of data employers want to see, and not good for employee morale, either. Happy employees are good employees, and the effects of going to a job every day that you dislike are crushing.
Here are seven ways to increase your motivation in your career if you’re struggling lately.
1. Find work that interests you. Employees report that doing work that interests them is the number one factor that motivates them. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to quit your job. It could simply mean asking your boss for a new project to keep your interests piqued, or perhaps shifting to a different role at the same company. Doing work that is interesting and fulfilling is one of the best ways to ensure you’re staying engaged and motivated day in and day out.
2. Request feedback from your boss or colleague. Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in our daily tasks that we don’t realize the subtle ways that we can potentially improve, nor do we recognize the areas where we are adding the most value. Take a moment to consult a supervisor or colleague. Ask if they think you’re doing a good job and if there are ways you can improve. There’s always room to learn and grow in any professional role, and there’s no one better to help you target specific areas of growth than the people you interact with daily. Their feedback could be key to getting clarity for your next role.
3. Learn a new skill. It never hurts to have another skill to add to your resume, and data indicates that learning new skills keeps your brain sharp. Identify a skill relevant to your current role that interests you, and pitch the idea to your boss. Especially if it’s something that will benefit the company, they might even be willing to fund your training or allow you to use work time to develop it. It’s a win for you to add value to the employer, while also adding value to your marketability.
4. Ask for a raise. Ok, so this one might sound a little superficial, but it’s not. You deserve to get paid what you’re worth, and data shows that financial incentives are one of the best ways to motivate employees. Now, of course, if you hate your job, the money won’t completely fix the leak. But if it’s been a while since your last pay increase, talk to your boss about it. Research what employees in roles similar to yours are making. Remind your boss of your recent accomplishments. There’s no guarantee your employer will be receptive to your request, but it’s unlikely to have a negative effect on your role with the company even if the answer is “no.”
5. Remind yourself of your “WHY” for doing the work that you do. Studies indicate that most employees, especially Millennials, want to do work that is fulfilling. However, it’s not always easy to connect to that deeper meaning to our actual daily tasks. So why is it that you do the work that you do? Find a way to remind yourself often how you are contributing to the greater good through your work. I highly recommend Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, so that you can more deeply connect to your personal career mission.
6. Lose yourself in service. Sometimes feeling disconnected to your job can translate into an overly self-focused mindset that doesn’t move you forward. Whenever I feel that I’m spending too much time on the “me channel,” I take it as an invitation to volunteer and lose myself in a cause bigger than me. This sort of commitment frees up areas of constriction in the mind and can often connect you to your authentic spirit. Give if you want to receive—only always.
7. Take a vacation (for everyone’s sake). Americans leave an average of 3.2 vacation days unused, and this has got to stop! In a study by Harvard College, 94% of workers who took a vacation stated that they had as much—if not more—energy after coming back from a good trip. In fact, 55% confirmed that they returned to work with higher levels of energy than before the trip. Plus, a mental timeout can trigger the “resting brain” effect, and that space increases productivity.
We all fall into motivation slumps in our careers at some point or another.
…I’ve been there. I get it.
But knowing how to respond to these lulls without getting distracted is everything. It’s about getting connected to a purpose bigger than yourself, knowing why you do the work you do, and creating a space for yourself to thrive, be it through taking vacations or communicating with your boss (whether it’s to change your role, get a raise, or collect basic feedback).
And if you’re anything like I once was, perhaps you’re on the wrong career path. If that’s the case, learn to celebrate your shortcomings as much as your strengths, because they’re all pieces of feedback that will eventually push you on the right path—if you’re willing to do the self-exploration required to leap.
The world needs whatever it is that you’ve got to give. Take that lack of motivation as an invitation to play bigger, and to own who you truly are.
You’ve got this.
Ashley Stahl helps job seekers find their purpose, land more job offers and launch their dream businesses. Sign up here for her free jumpstart course on how to land a new job you love.