Staying Sharp in Six Simple Steps: a Guide to Motivation
Maintaining our motivation is obviously key for success in this industry, but it might surprise you to know that this is not something we accomplish by focusing solely on work. Of course, it is during business hours that we really need to shine, but often the fuel we need comes during off-hours and from unexpected sources.
Let’s look at some ways to stay sharp on the job, ways that touch upon what we do both in and out of the office. We’ll start with what’s obvious and then move to a few less obvious means of motivation.
1. Know your role and tasks.
In our day of 24/7 digital media and social networking, it sometimes feels like a Herculean effort to simply begin a task and complete it without distractions. No sooner do we sit down and try to focus than we receive a text, an email, or some other notification that nags at us, demanding our attention. Sometimes reorienting ourselves is as simple as remembering what our company’s big-picture vision is and where we fit into making that vision a reality for our clients. Anything that comes across our desk (or our screen) needs to contribute to the role we play in realizing the overall goal, and if it doesn’t, it’s a distraction and can wait.
2. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses.
No one is a jack-of-all-trades, and whether we like to admit it or not, we have areas where we are weak as well as ones where we’re strong. The least effective people in life are always those who don’t know what they are bad at, and the sooner we identify our shortcomings the better. Do your clients like you because you’re meticulous and careful with the numbers? Or is it that they appreciate your warmth and ability to relate? Whatever it may be, figure it out and both play to your strengths and seek to improve on your weaknesses. Know yourself, figure out your identity, and be that person for the people whose needs you serve.
3. Seek and respond to feedback from others.
Quarterly reviews and other formal assessments are fine, but self-examination only goes so far when we just engage in it when required. If you want to stay sharp, seek out some informal feedback. A culture of accountability and drive for excellence is contagious, and the more you challenge your co-workers to challenge you, the greater success everyone in the office will have.
4. Exercise and (for goodness’ sake) eat better!
Not to get too preachy, but when our diet consists largely of rich, heavy foods like burgers or pizza and our exercise is gotten mainly from walking from our office to the restroom, is it any wonder that we find ourselves sluggish and lagging? Starting the day with a bit of cardio and a healthy breakfast will work wonders for keeping us sharp and focused.
5. Engage your creative side.
Not everyone is creative in an artistic sense (but if you are, more power to you), yet we all have a part of us that enjoys a brief suspension of the “grind” of reality. Whether it’s by reading books or enjoying films and television, sometimes it is healthy to unplug from the pressures of the workplace and escape for an hour or two. And believe it or not, it is often when work is the last thing on our minds that we have moments of inspiration and clarity that lead to greater career success. Spending every waking minute either working, or thinking about work, only produces diminishing returns. Being well-rounded people will make us better at everything we do, including our jobs.
6. Socialize with co-workers.
Whether it is group lunches during the work week or weekend events, establishing friendships with co-workers is a healthy way to stay motivated. In a competitive career culture it is all too easy to see others as impediments to our success or potential rivals, all of which leads to a draining work day. But when we get to know our colleagues in a personal way it can actually make the office a fun place to be. Plus, talking shop over some drinks and laughs is not only a good use of our time, but we also may learn a thing or two. (See #2 and #3 above.)
Don’t let the dog days of summer sap your strength. Be deliberate and purposeful, stay sharp, and maintain a healthy work/life balance. Results will follow!