13 Ways to Motivate Yourself at Work

Remember your first day of work in your new job?

You were probably so excited about your new position—chock full of ideas and inspiration. You couldn’t wait to get going. Fast forward 1,000 days later. Are you lacking the motivation you came blazing through the doors with? Do you feel beaten down by your day-to-day routines? And worst, have all of your brilliant ideas fallen by the wayside?

Before we dive into how to re-motivate, let’s identify why you may have lost your steam. After a few years on the job, it’s easy to lose motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes from internal drive, but what makes up internal drive? According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a psychology theory introduced in 1943, humans are motivated by these five drivers:

  • Physiological
  • Safety
  • Love/Belonging
  • Esteem
  • Self-actualization

It happens to all of us. It can be difficult to lose your joie de vivre at work. However, that doesn’t always mean it’s time to move on and start a harrowing job search. Here’s a few ways to get your spark back at work.


Let’s create a large goal first. This is your ideal, your “five-year plan” if you will. Start by setting a SMART goal for yourself. According to Edwin Locke’s goal-setting theory of motivation, goal-setting is linked to task performance. By setting specific and clear goals, individuals experience greater output and better performance. Here’s the tricky part. Don’t get overwhelmed by your “big goal.” With our next few steps, we unwrap ways to work towards this larger goal. 


If you’re taking the steps to make SMART goals, you will start with the specific. When you get specific with your goals, you are much more likely to achieve them. To set the specificity of your goals, let’s start with the five Ws.

  • Who: Who is involved in this goal?
  • What: What do I want to accomplish
  • Where: Location of goal 
  • Why: What’s the specific reason, purpose, or benefit from setting this goal?
  • When: What’s the time frame in which I want to achieve this goal?

By breaking up a large goal into smaller pieces, you can intentionally chip away at your larger goal, piece by piece. 


We all have days where we get bogged down by details. We all have work that we hate doing. This is advice we all need to write on a post-it and stick to our monitors.Do your least favorite work first. When you let your to-do list pile up with tasks that you despise doing, it can turn into a motivation killer. Start your day by ticking annoying, repetitive, or labor-intensive tasks off of your to-do list. Instead of repeatedly pushing it to the side, get the work done—and get back to doing what you love to do.  


When was the last time you learned an entirely new skill? If this question brings you back to your first weeks at work or worse—your undergraduate career—it might be time to learn a new skill. There are plenty of places to learn new work-related skills. Maybe this is the day you finally take that UX design class. Go for it. Inquire as to whether your company has educational stipends—and take full advantage of them!


If you’re really struggling with motivation at work, maybe it’s time for a job makeover. That doesn’t mean you need a new job—it might just mean you need to re-work your responsibilities and workload with your boss. To begin, schedule a weekly check-in with your direct manager. Use this time to work out the kinks or the boredom you’re experiencing. These 1-1s don’t have to last forever. Come into the first meeting with a game plan. Voice your concerns, make some tentative plans, and arrive with an open mind for feedback and direction. 


We’re all about mentorship. Find a mentor within your industry and swap stories. A great mentor will have actionable advice on how to propel your career forward. Whether you want to eventually move up in your company, take your current position to the next level, amp up your skills, or make a big career pivot—there’s a mentor out there for you. 


You have a job. You’re receiving a paycheck and benefits (or, at least you should be!) Try to shift your perspective. Rather than drudging through another Tuesday, recognize the good things about your job, your company, and your coworkers. Studies on practicing gratitude at work have linked it to reduced stress, more positivity at work, and increased goal-setting. If gratitude works for you, spread it. Positive feedback and words of encouragement can be just as contagious as negativity is in a toxic workplace. Pay it forward. 


Here’s a fun one for you. Let’s get together to make a passion diagram. What do you love to do? Is it writing? Do you love burying yourself in research? By creating a passion diagram, you create a visual representation of what you love to do, what you do at work, and the places in which the two might intersect. If you’re not happy with the intersection—or if there is no intersection at all—find ways to infuse your job with more of what you love. For example, if you love to take photos but you’re a copywriter, reach out to your social media team. Is there any help they need in creating stories or other content?Find ways to marry what you love doing with your day-to-day work. 


We’ve been talking about this point a lot lately—and we’re guilty of it, too. We all need to slow down for a second and celebrate our accomplishments. This doesn’t mean skipping out of work for bottomless margaritas because you surpassed your monthly traffic goal. Rather, it’s taking a beat—and sharing the news with another coworker, your mom, or your significant other. We work hard every day. It’s easy to get so lost in a comparison trap and forget to celebrate our own accomplishments. Try it out. Go back over your last year and point out your accomplishments. What did you achieve in your first three months at your position? Your first six months? Take note. It’s never too late to celebrate—even retroactively. But seriously, get in the habit of celebrating—or at least acknowledging—your successes. Write them down. Share them. Give yourself the pat on the back that you deserve. 


We all know that misery loves company. If you’re feeling unmotivated at work, there’s a pretty big chance that you’ve already complained about it aloud—maybe even to a colleague. Avoid the work colleagues that tend to neg on the company. Better yet, challenge their negativity with a positive reply. See if you can channel positivity from a throwaway negative comment. Instead, surround yourself with the coworkers who are motivated and lively. Bounce ideas off each other and work together on new and exciting projects. Start a club or organization to foster more inter-team collaboration. 


Make the time to get feedback—whether from your manager, a coworker, or maybe a mentor within your industry. Examining your frustrations with someone else could (and usually does) give you perspective on what you can do to improve or change your outlook. Listen, really listen, to feedback. Make a game plan for how to address any feedback—negative or otherwise—in the coming weeks. 


If you’ve gone through all of the above steps and you’re still feeling completely unmotivated, maybe it’s time for a break. Maybe it’s a break from the industry you’re in, the toxic work culture you’re experiencing, or maybe it’s as simple as finally taking those vacation days. Heck, it might be as simple as turning your phone off for three hours on a Saturday. Give yourself permission to take a break—then take it. Taking time—whether on vacation or a hiatus from work—is like taking a long shower. Suddenly, your thoughts become clearer and more lucid. By giving yourself a break, you can open yourself to ideas and inspiration you were simply to busy to see. 


This should probably be tip number one. Keep positivity around your work. Remember that you are in control of your career—only you can make the changes to reward and stimulate you—both professionally and personally. You’ve got this.