Everyone has lapses of motivation in their career. It can last a day or several months, but in any case, it is always annoying and can make you feel guilty. Since becoming a mum, I find my motivation fluctuates more than before. It might be a produce of more tiredness or of the fact that there is now a very strong interest outside of work (the kids) that can easily overshadow the average work tasks. Sometimes, it can be linked to a more profound need for “more meaning” in one’s work, maybe triggered by the emotional transformation that parenthood can bring, rendering routine assignments more menial.
In my case, I also find that the level of guilt associated with temporary lower motivation has increased since I became a mum. After all, if I leave my 2 daughters all day to go to work, I better make the most of it right ? And when that doesn’t happen, I wonder if I am making the right decision to work full-time and advance my career.
So over the past 3 years, I have developed some techniques to kick myself back into flow. Nothing revolutionary that a good self-help book cannot teach you, just a few easy tips that I want to share with you today.
- Shorten your work day : if today is a day where you know you will struggle to get things accomplished, then sometimes to best thing to do is call it quit. I am not suggesting leaving work at 2pm, but maybe focus on admin tasks with low brain intensity and leave work an hour earlier than usual. Lack of motivation can stem from tiredness so taking a break can be a good first step.
- Plan your work for the next few days : This can help to surface exciting tasks that are coming and perk you back up. It is also excellent to keep guilt and procrastination at bay and to give you confidence that you will be able to achieve what you need to do even if you slack for one day or two. And if you realize timing is too short, then this might just jump you into action right now.
- Just get started : sometimes a particular task is just not motivating. It can be because you actually doubt your ability to get it done, or because it is downright menial and boring. If it is the former, getting started is the only way to build confidence. Maybe you have never written a contract for a supplier for example : in that case, getting a first draft done is a good objective that diminishes the pressure and will get you closer towards your goal of finishing it. If it is the latter, put your headset on with good music to make the whole experience nicer. A small reward at the end can help too (in my case, it is usually a nice latte from a coffee shop, but it can be a walk, a break with a book or anything that does not take too much time but brings satisfaction)
- Talk to colleagues : Find the ones who can give you a pep talk and buy them a coffee in exchange for a motivational boost. Or see if one of them will help you through a specific task and make it a team project. Or if you can simply delegate the task to someone who will enjoy it more.
- Find the short-term why : Motivation is hard to maintain when we don’t know why we are doing something. If that is the case, taking 15 minutes to think about what return you are seeking can help. Sometimes, you need some clarification from your boss too but most of the time, you can work out a satisfactory answer for yourself. Maybe this project will help you gain exposure to help future projects succeed. Or maybe it will make your customers’ life easier. Or maybe your colleagues’.
- Remind yourself of the long-term why : Why do you have a career ? Is it to afford a nice lifestyle ? To give your children access to education, travel, activities ? To be financially independent ? To be a role model ? To make the workplace better ? To make the world fairer ? To bring innovation to customers ? It is likely a variety of reasons and they are very personal. There are many reasons why mothers may want to pursue their career ambition post-kids, hopefully you will find the ones that resonate with you and to help sustain yourselves through periods of doubt and lower stamina.
Whilst temporary lack of motivation is frequent, longer dry-spells can be a sign that your work needs adapting. Remaining self-aware is essential to know when low motivation has been going on for too long and change is needed. You only can know that. But hopefully this short list will help you boost yourself up when you are sitting at your desk watching through the window instead of writing that dam*** report !