27 September 2023

Perking up: How to breathe life into that blah-blah job

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We all have those bad days at work, but when they stretch into something more May Busch* says you will need to find ways of getting out of the rut.

Most of us will have those days when work feels like a drag and we lack motivation.

When you are in that negative state for a long time and can’t figure out how to get out of it, it’s time to make a change.

While leaving for another opportunity is certainly an option, you owe it to yourself to consider interim strategies before you take an irrevocable step.

Be Entrepreneurial:

When it feels like everything is laid out for you and there’s no room for creativity, that’s the time to be an entrepreneur.

Experiment with ways to do things better.

Keep an eye out for improvements in efficiency and outcomes.

For example, if you’re saddled with highly repetitive work, could you figure out a way to automate or outsource it, or eliminate the need for it altogether?

Once you’ve come up with an idea, you can pitch it to your managers.

The beauty is, when you’re the one who comes up with a different (and better) way of doing things, you’re the natural one to be put in charge of the new system.

Where could you innovate in your workplace?

Start a Side Project:

Starting a project on the side can provide a creative outlet when your ‘day job’ doesn’t provide the right kinds of challenge.

Depending on what you feel is missing from your work, you could choose from a variety of options.

If you want learning opportunities, then it could be taking a course or getting a degree.

If you’re interested in creating an additional revenue stream beyond your job, you could monetise your expertise through one of the many ways Dorie Clark describes in her book, Entrepreneurial You.

Position Yourself for the Next Opportunity:

If your motivation is low because you’ve topped out in your current job, it’s time to position yourself for the next opportunity.

Whether that’s going after a promotion, getting staffed on a new project or leading an initiative, make sure you’re taking actions that will help demonstrate you’ve got what it takes.

A great place to start is by activating your network, which means having conversations with people to share your ideas and aspirations.

That way you get advice on what accomplishments are needed to get where you want to go.

In particular, it’s useful to speak to your boss and mentors about your desire to advance and determine some actionable steps you’d like to take.

Maybe you could propose a new project or take a course to learn a new skill.

Perhaps you need to make the case for more resources, so you can delegate and step up to a more strategic level.

Look at Things from Your Manager’s Perspective:

If your boss is a demotivating factor for you, take a moment to look at things from their perspective.

It’s hard being in charge when you don’t have much leeway to make your team members’ jobs inspiring.

It’s challenging to keep doing more with less resources.

In all likelihood, your manager may not know how to be a great boss.

Often, people get promoted into management roles because they excelled at an area of expertise, not because they are already great managers.

They’re expected to hit the ground running without training or support.

So, how can you manage upward and help your manager be a good boss for you?

Create New Habits:

It’s harder to feel motivated when you’re tired, stressed or feeling unhealthy.

Maybe it’s staying up late, having that extra glass of wine, or eating junk food when you’re on the go.

Habits are simply what we routinely do, and it’s up to each of us to choose the habits that give us the best chance to get and stay motivated.

Finding and harnessing your own intrinsic motivation is a powerful driver for a successful career and a life worth living.

It requires some focus and attention to get and stay in that zone of self-motivation.

So, when you’re feeling stuck, take a moment to figure out what the issue is.

Is it the lack of alignment with your organisation or job? The people, whether that’s your boss or colleagues?

The absence of opportunities for learning and growth? Your personal state of well-being (or lack of it)? Or something else?

Knowing the answer makes it easier to identify whether the issue is specific to you, to your work situation, or a combination of both.

This in turn drives the strategies and action steps you choose to pursue.

Some action steps you can take unilaterally without anyone else’s cooperation or permission.

For example, changing your habits and adopting a different mindset.

Those are good ones to start with because you can get going right away.

Other strategies involve getting buy-in from others — asking to be staffed on new projects or negotiating for more resources — and may take longer to implement.

Your path to self-motivation will likely include a mix of several strategies.

The key is to experiment and find the combination that works for you.

Finding and harnessing your motivation is a powerful driver for a successful career and a life worth living.

*May Busch helps leaders and their organisations achieve their full potential by working with entrepreneurs and managements to build their businesses. She can be contacted at [email protected].

This article first appeared on May’s blogsite

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