I remember, back in 2020, when lockdowns first began and we were all forced to stay home for a prolonged period of time. Some of the habits we adopted to cope ended up being better than we imagined: learning to bake bread from scratch, spending all day in leisurely outfits, spending an obscene amount of time watching TV series. But then, like the movie Groundhog Day, life started to get a little more than mundane.
By the time 2021 rolled around and many of us began returning to the office, we weren’t exactly prepared to confront our “new normal.” The thing is, everyone’s minds were still trapped in survival mode. Sure, we showed up and did the work, but our drive had lost its luster. As Elana Lyn Gross writes for The Muse, even if we love our company and our co-workers, it’s likely that our day-to-day’s starting to feel pretty stale.
“It happens,” she notes. “And while you should probably start thinking about what’s next, you should also take a few steps to revitalize your current role and make it all feel exciting again. After all, work shouldn’t make you want to fall asleep.”
I couldn’t agree more. After year two, it’s time to take off our pandemic sweats and change up our routine. While “return to work” scenarios are consistently changing, committing to a more healthy work environment at home and in the office can transform your perspective of your workday. Here are 5 tips to renew your motivation.
Be mindful of what you love (and loathe)
In other words, take an energy audit. Take a conscious look at what depletes or incentivizes you. Licensed psychotherapist Sarah Greenberg suggests the following exercise. “For the next three days, write down all your tasks at work and beyond, and note whether each one drains you or fills your cup. Include both intentional activities and unintentional diversions (i.e., procrastination or getting caught up in emails).”
“After three days, review your balance sheet,” she adds. “Ask yourself if there are any changes you can make to do less of what drains you and more of what enlivens you.” Understanding when you are at your most energetic can help give you a starting point for doing more of what motivates you.
Make a point to be generous
According to research conducted by University of Wisconsin–Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs in 2013, altruists in the workplace are more likely to help fellow employees, be more committed to their work, and be less likely to quit.
Their findings reveal a simple truth: Helping others makes us happier. Even spending 10 minutes of your day assisting someone with a difficult project can give you the inspiration you need for your own workload.
I’ve witnessed this firsthand at my own company, where teams go out of their way to be supportive to one another. But doing so has an added benefit: it fosters camaraderie, which is a key ingredient to happiness at work for employees.
Shamelessly bribe yourself
When I first became a parent, I was told never to bribe one’s kids—advice I discovered was nearly impossible to maintain. But with time, I learned that setting up a reward system ended up being crucial for helping my kids break negative patterns and even build new habits.
As adults, we’re not so different. The Muse contributor Catherine Jessen puts it this way: “If you don’t love the things on the to-do list in front of you, try incentivizing yourself with basic bribery.”
Say you have a lengthy presentation to finish—you can reward yourself by planning a happy hour with friends that night. Jessen even suggests creating a rewards jar as a way of giving yourself something to look forward to at the end of the day. And remember, this isn’t about breaking the bank—even a simple morsel of salted chocolate after a job well done can give you that extra boost.
Prioritize rest and recharge time
It’s easy to fall into the trap of dragging yourself through a slog of endless tasks—both at work and at home. But thinking you should be running on all cylinders now that you’re back at the office doesn’t take into account the rest and recovery you need to function at your highest.
Penelope Brackett, a practice development manager at RiseSmart, tells Business Insider individuals should try taking 10-15 minutes for themselves, whether it’s meditation, taking a walk, stretching, listening to music, or tuning into your favorite podcast. “Allowing yourself more ‘you’ time can help you feel more grounded and excited about work, as well as less stressed.”
Don’t lose sight of the “why”
To revisit the Groundhog Day plot: Phil, the main character, shows viewers an important lesson. When we’re caught up in an unending cycle of sameness, the greatest motivation-changer available to us is to make meaning from our circumstances.
Susan Peppercorn offers a similar message in her story for Harvard Business Review: Focusing on meaning requires a level of self-reflection and effort. “But when you approach work situations mindfully, with an eye toward contributing to others while honoring your personal identity, you’ll find opportunities to practice the skills that help you find the intrinsic value in your work.”
Aytekin Tank is the founder of Jotform, an online form-builder.