It’s only been a few days since the new year began and many people are feeling that special sort of deflated that comes after the festive holiday season and the zeal to stick with resolutions. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s also not helping that daylight is scarce.
Thankfully, science has the antidote, particularly for how you can revitalize your relationship with work based on your individual work style. You’ll also discover how to make any job more meaningful, according to research in positive psychology.
First things first, start at the end of your workday. You read that right. Amantha Imber, founder of behavioral science consultancy Inventium, recommends resisting the temptation to tie up loose ends at the end of a workday. Instead, she advises stopping halfway through a sentence, a slide, a line of code, or whatever task you were in the middle of doing. “By finishing halfway through,” she wrote, “you’ll find it far easier to get started the following day and have a much more time-wise morning.”
Imber also has tips for getting motivated to do things you just don’t want to do, some of them as simple as rephrasing the negative self-talk that’s all too easy to indulge in when approaching a task you’ve been putting off.
And speaking of that pesky inner voice, CEO Nora Tobin wrote how we tend to beat ourselves up if we fail to hit the mark, focusing on the letdown rather than how to move forward. Tobin suggests a three-step exercise you can do in just 10 minutes to stay focused on why you want to achieve that goal. The act of writing it down is helpful, but more importantly, you can revisit this document week after week as a reminder to stay the course and be consistent.
The other way our mind can sabotage us is through fear: of failure, competition, of disappointing someone else, etc. Best case, you push to get stuff done. Worst case, it can burn you out. Leadership adviser Victoria Song offers three tips for tapping into a more sustainable fuel for motivation to reach your goals without burning out.
Goal setting (which can often be disguised as making resolutions) at this time of year can elude even the most dedicated professional. But Ayelet Fishbach, a professor of behavioral psychology at the University of Chicago, encourages making sure that you’re actually setting goals, not just the means to those goals. “When you’re setting goals, try defining them in terms of benefits, rather than costs. It’s better to aim for ‘finding a job’ than ‘applying for a job.’ Achieving a goal is exciting; completing the means is a chore,” she wrote in her book Get It Done.
Aileen Xu, creator of the Artist of Life Workbook, recommends three exercises for staying motivated to achieve bigger, more audacious goals, starting with a simple visualization of “current you versus future you”—which may be all the motivation you need to get a jump-start this January.
Keep in mind that it’s perfectly normal to experience the doldrums after a flurry of activity (or lack thereof). It helps to be patient with yourself while you resume routine tasks and work toward completing new projects. Finding ways to make work enjoyable and purposeful can contribute to sustained motivation throughout the year.