Determination and drive falter as a matter of course. It’s not a failure so much as a simple fact of our frailty as humans; going all out, every single day, simply isn’t sustainable for most of us over a long term period, and in the absence of long breaks to recharge your batteries, there are periods where your enthusiasm wanes and the work is a slog. Creativity and focus might seem as though they’ve abandoned you, and nothing you do rises to the level of your own expectation for yourself.
That loss of motivation might feel especially prevalent during a pandemic. There’s nothing like a bit of anxiety to give most of us extra energy to burn, but that stress wears on us and our peace of mind over time. The work is all we have to distract ourselves, but the work can feel insignificant or unimportant in the face of everything else going on, or even a distraction from life outside the (home) office. With family and life conspiring to further occupy our time, it might feel next to impossible to get anything done, or to even want to carry on with the work. I have routinely found myself bargaining to stop work early—which would be a deal that I am striking with myself!
It’s easy to be hard on yourself for these perceived shortcomings; after all, motivation is largely intrinsic, and thus a lack of it, may be seen as an inability to push yourself hard enough. And given everything that’s happening out in the world, it seems the least you can do to put forth the effort necessary to do the work required—work you should be grateful to have, the news would seem to say.
Given all that, it’s understandable why you might feel uncharitably towards yourself when you find yourself bereft of ideas and without anything but the most perfunctory energy to offer towards your current projects, but the key to rediscovering that motivation is to embrace that feeling rather than simply looking to ignore it. Yes, you’re tired and distracted and the world has made you wish you could crawl into bed until the end of time, but you’re not alone in that; I daresay it’s the people who are moving through their days unaffected that are the outliers. You’re struggling in the way we all are, to some extent, and that should offer the comfort that you’re not the only person to feel that work is a burden you’d rather not bear at the moment.
But, it’s okay to do less because pushing yourself when you are burnt out will not yield results. In fact, sometimes a digital detox or even a small break—half day or couple of days as a staycation—can work wonders for your mindset.
What should serve as motivation is remembering the satisfaction and enjoyment you got for your work before everything was upended, back when the world was a seemingly normal level of complexity, rather than whatever it is now. Work was hard, sure, but there was the simple pleasure of a job well done, and the reassurance of knowing that you were employed in something that you felt you were meant to do, something where you employed the skills you’d developed over years or decades.
Championing the joy of work might sound trite, but it’s the simple things that we have to look towards in such complicated times. Our own little worlds become so filled with extraneous concerns that the actual performance of the job can seem rote, as our minds are occupied thinking of the next step or even the tasks after that. Sitting back to strip all of that out and focusing on the work that we (hopefully) actually love can remind us of why we chose to do what we do. In writing, it’s finding the right words to express those thoughts, and putting those thoughts together to form enough sentences to create a complete work, with the motivation of knowing that you’ll never reach perfection but can continue to improve and always be learning.
It’s not a perfect formula to maintain your motivation indefinitely; life and family will insist upon you, as well they should. Work is important, but so are those closest to us, and no push towards achievement should come at the expense of those things you should value greater than your career. And such is the current state of the world that your attention is necessarily diverted towards broader societal issues, and if that is where your energy and focus needs to go in the moment, grant yourself that latitude. But when it comes to work, finding yourself in the work itself—and only the work—can help to overcome the drain against your energy and allow you to recover your passion for the job. #onwards
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