5 Kind of Fun Strategies to Stay Motivated at Work

When I was growing up, my mom often made us listen to one of her favorite bands, Pink Martini, as we drove around in our white minivan from one activity to the next.

They are an international jazzy sort of group that record songs in various languages: some originals, some classics, and all unlikely favorites of an eight-year-old who failed to realize this genre was too sophisticated for her.

One of my favorites was a French tune entitled “Sympathique” which translates to “Nice” or “Pleasurable.” This song taught me the only French phrase I know:

“Je ne veux pas travailler
Je ne veux pas déjeuner
Je veux seulement l'oublier
Et puis je fume.”

In English . . .

“I don’t want to work
I don’t want to eat breakfast
I only want to forget
And then smoke.”

In those days, I had little knowledge of what the words meant as I enthusiastically sang along . . . now I know better, and they often resonate with me.

Ultimately, motivation at work is something we can choose on any given day, including today!

There are definitely days I’d prefer not to go to work—although I don’t smoke, and I like to eat breakfast (or any meal, really).

I think we all have those days where we are unmotivated, don’t feel productive, or are just stuck in a work rut.

This doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you, that you should quit, or stay home and smoke. There are simple, actionable steps you can take toward finding motivation at work once again (and none of them involve starting an unhealthy, expensive habit . . . even if I still think it looks cool).

1. Mix It Up

Routines are good and fine but sometimes if we’re in a rut, we need to snap out of it. Some ideas:

  • Get up early and go to a cozy coffee shop to read before work.
  • Stop by a local bakery and start your day off with a delicious croissant or breakfast sandwich.
  • If you’re married, surprise your spouse with an early breakfast in bed. (If you’re not married, try having breakfast at your kitchen table for once instead of over the sink seconds before running out the door).
  • Ask some friends if they want to get drinks on a random weeknight (or try your hand at bartending and invite them to your house for a cocktail).
  • Find a trivia event at a local restaurant or bar and make a team with your co-workers.
  • Go to an exercise class you’ve never tried before (kickboxing, barre, yoga, pilates, etc.).

A simple change in your day-to-day rituals can bring a sense of freshness, inspire your work week, and help you rekindle your motivation to kill it at your job.

2. Invest in Your Coworkers.

How well do you know the people you work alongside day in and day out? You may engage in small talk in the breakroom or greet them in the hallway, but do you know anything about them other than their job title?

View your work as a mission you have chosen to accept: “I will find meaning in this difficult or menial job, and I will do it to the best of my ability.”

It is worth getting to know the people you work with. This also gives you a greater incentive to work hard (even if you’re feeling unmotivated in a specific task) and be proud of the company you are a part of.

Invite someone from work to lunch or to grab coffee this week, it’ll break up your workday in a pleasant way and give you something to look forward to.

Just don’t invite Peter . . . he’s weird.


3. Elevate Your Workflow

“Change your habits, change your life.”

- Matthew Kelly

Do your work habits need changing? There are ways you can get yourself in the mood to work and have a productive day. Try listening to an inspiring work-related podcast on your way to the office, or read a chapter in one of these books:

You can also switch up your work playlist by making a new one or choosing one already crafted on Spotify, Pandora, or Youtube. Consider trying a genre you’ve never listened to before or checking out a new artist (maybe Pink Martini!).

Make sure your office is clean, and if you don’t have any photos or decor you enjoy, bring one or two pieces in to brighten up your workspace.

If you can bring a sense of purpose into your possibly mundane job, you will work harder, become a better coworker, and even improve your workplace.

I find my photos of myself incredibly inspiring. ;)

Find a few inspirational quotes that speak to you and place them where you can see them often.

There are also a plethora of productivity hacks to try when you’re feeling particularly unmotivated or tempted to procrastinate. You may have to practice trial and error, finding what works for you.

Get your copy

4. Challenge Yourself

I have the privilege of having a job I enjoy. I know many people don’t. If you find your job meaningless or even downright painful, take heart.

View your work as a mission you have chosen to accept: “I will find meaning in this difficult or menial job, and I will do it to the best of my ability.”

Sometimes motivation just means a change in mindset. It can feel a bit like lying to yourself (bending the truth possibly), but the reality is that we need work. We need work because we have financial responsibilities, and we need work because (as much as that French song may have said otherwise) too much downtime isn’t good for us—and neither is smoking. (For the record, I do not endorse smoking.)

Please don’t sue me.

Find meaning and a sense of achievement in doing things well, even if no one notices.

You have a choice: to make the most of where you are and the work entrusted to you, or to let the days slip by.

Find meaning in the fact that you are providing for yourself and your loved ones (or potentially your future self or family).

Find meaning in the fact that work is designed to make us better people.

If you can bring a sense of purpose into your possibly mundane job, you will work harder, become a better coworker, and even improve your workplace.

Challenge yourself today: Do your job, and do it well. Smile at the coworker you’re not crazy about (but not at Peter, because he’s the actual worst). Pay extra attention to the task at hand instead of letting your mind wander. Make a to-do list to start your day in an organized manner . . .

And then take pride in the fact that you went the extra mile today (or extra inch), and thereby took one small step toward becoming a-better-version-of-yourself.

5. Be grateful

If you’re reading this, I would assume that you have a job. Not everyone does. Work—as sometimes frustrating, tiring, or boring as it can be—is a gift. Even if you are not where you want to be, even if you know this isn’t a “good fit,” be grateful that you have a regular paycheck, something to do, and an opportunity to do it with distinction.

You have a choice: to make the most of where you are and the work entrusted to you, or to let the days slip by full of wistfulness and “if onlys.”

My mother instilled in me a love for Pink Martini, but as much as I will belt the song with enthusiasm, I most likely won’t stay home and smoke anytime soon . . . even though I may not feel like working. Ultimately, motivation at work is something we can choose on any given day, including today!

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