• Feeling happier at work is crucial for finding motivation
  • Find joy and meaningful purpose in your work, no matter how small
  • Take control of your work style to boost and sustain motivation
Getting “in the zone” at work is a truly magical thing. It’s that feeling where your work feels effortless and the hours fly by. When it gets to the end of the day, you’ve been super productive and feel really good about yourself.

You hear about getting in this flow all the time but you’re rarely ever actually in it. Most days, you feel like you’re draggin’ your ass.

You’re going through the motions and if you’re truly honest, you don’t give a shit about the quality of work you’re putting out. At least, not like you used to.

Just getting it done feels like you’ve performed a miracle. You just don’t have the energy for smashing it out of the ballpark anymore.

But it’s not your fault. You're not lazy. It's a combination of your lack of confidence in yourself and your unhappiness at work. Together, they kill your motivation.

It’s hard to keep motivating yourself every day when the office is such a dull and uninspiring place to be. Even a ton of motivational quotes or confidence affirmations won’t supercharge your enthusiasm when this is the case.

But here’s the good news.

It doesn’t have to be a huge challenge to get into a “happy productive” state that will help you get in the zone more often. The trick is to find joy in your work, even if it's only in certain parts of it. 

How Happiness Helps You Make Progress

Happiness increases productivity. It’s the reason for succeeding at work, not a byproduct of it. Check out this study from the University of Warwick in the UK for just how powerful the link can be.

The equation is simple - if you’re not happy, you’re less productive. And motivation is hard to come by in this scenario. It makes sense, right?

When you don’t enjoy doing something, you try everything to avoid it. Productivity is non-existent because you’re making up excuses for not getting your shit together.

It’s a catch-22 situation but you can break the cycle through self-motivation.

Trouble is, work is often something to be endured. You show up, slog away, and live for the moment you can go home. It’s the rest of your life where you try to find meaning and happiness.

But if you can let happiness happen at work more often, it can transform your productivity and the quality of your work.

Yep, that’s right.

You can think yourself happy while you’re at work, even if you’re not exactly jumping for joy when you show up.

How To Get Into A “Happy Productive” State

Just because you find it hard to motivate yourself, it doesn’t mean you’re lazy. And that means you can turn things around. Getting into a “happy productive” mindset is tough when work sucks and you’re having to self-motivate all the time.

But here’s the thing. You can find ways to make work life more bearable and even find parts that bring you joy. And that joy can also be one of the best ways to manage work stress.

Trust us, it’s definitely possible, no matter how far away it feels right now. And when you feel happier at work, motivation is much easier to come by.

Try these tips to take control of your motivation. 

1) Find A Work Style That Works For You

If you’re trying to force yourself into a work style that isn’t right for you, you’ll never be as productive as you could be. You’ll constantly feel like you’re fighting yourself.

Personality has a big input here. Some people work better as part of a team. Others do their best work going solo. Some people like to spend a lot of time on prep and planning but others prefer to jump straight in.

Playing to your strengths makes you more productive and satisfied with your job. This study in the Journal of Career Development sums it up. Trying to be something you’re not never works. Embrace who you are and how you work best.

When you’re using the right work style, getting “in the zone” is a lot easier. Work is more enjoyable and you’re not counting the minutes until you go home.

2) Don’t Rely On External Motivation Only 

Motivation tends to fall into one of two categories.

External motivation means you’re looking outside of yourself for the push to get things done. Usually, you’ll either be trying to gain a reward or avoid trouble. Think money, a promotion, or validation.

The trouble with external motivation is that the fear or rewards that drive it can diminish over time. If there’s no reward or punishment, it can be hard to find motivation.

Internal motivation comes from within you and that’s the one that’ll bring you the most success. You’re not relying on anything else to get shit done. It’s all on you and you’re doing it because you want to.

But because there’s no external reward being offered, this type of motivation doesn’t always get recognized by other people.

This study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology shows how powerful internal motivation is. If you have internal motivation, you’re more likely to be productive, perform better and enjoy your work.

It’s not that external motivation is bad. Sometimes, it can give you the push you need to keep the momentum going when things get fucking hard. When the incentive is so close you can almost touch it, your determination to get there increases.

It’s basic human psychology.

Given a choice, we’ll almost always choose instant gratification over expected rewards sometime in the future. When you’re working on something that’s boring or challenging, external motivation can help get the job done. 

3) Find Your Purpose To Keep You Going

“Find your purpose”. You see it everywhere but what does it actually mean?

It’s not as ambitious as cultivating world peace, fighting global hunger or something else that’s going to be a massive deal for humanity.

No matter how pointless your job may feel, it exists for a reason. Getting to the heart of this is an incredibly strong motivator. If you feel like you’re doing something valuable through your work, you feel much more satisfied with your work.

Take a look at this 5-minute video from Big Think.

It spells out how you can find purpose in the job you already have. No need to reach for grandiose humanitarian goals. It’s a lot closer and attainable than you think.

VIDEO: Find purpose in the job you already have
YOUTUBE: Big Think
LENGTH: 4:52
Summary points:
  • Purpose is a lot more accessible than you think
  • You can find meaning in different ways at work
  • Identify where and how your contributions make an impact to get that sense of purpose
It’s also essential for keeping a positive attitude, even when work truly sucks. And it’s a trigger for the intrinsic motivation we’ve just talked about.

Morten Hansen nails it in his book Great at Work: “You have a sense of purpose when you make valuable contributions to others (individuals and organizations) or to society that you find personally meaningful and that don’t harm anyone.”

Your mindset is key. Finding meaning and purpose in every project is the secret to making your job awesomer and dealing with a work environment or boss that sucks.

You might need to dig deep to find it, especially if your work tends to feel pointless and meaningless. But when you can find joy in what you’re doing, motivation won’t be too far away. 

4) Focus On Priorities & Do Them In Small Chunks

A plan is crucial for motivating yourself. It’s not like this project is the only thing on your mind. You’ve got a bunch of other tasks to do too. And then there’s your overflowing inbox and calendar packed with boring stupid meetings.

You need a plan to help you work out how you’ll balance everything that needs your attention because everything can’t be number one. It’s all about prioritizing the most important things and working on those priorities in small sections.

That way, it doesn’t feel as overwhelming and you can break it down into bite-size chunks that feel a lot easier to get done.

The secret is simple. These chunks of work need to be small enough that you can get them done in less than half an hour. You’ll see why this is such a powerful motivator later on.

But don’t spend too much time on this one. It’s easy to get sucked into overplanning and use it to procrastinate on getting shit done. 

5) Celebrate The Small Wins

A lot goes into wrapping up a project. The big stuff is great but don’t make the mistake of thinking nothing else matters.

Celebrating every little win is crucial for staying motivated. Rewarding yourself in this way brings satisfaction and pride to your work. It’s a super powerful motivator.

Breaking up projects into smaller mini-deadlines is the way to go. Every mini-milestone is another opportunity to score a victory.

It’s like training a dog. Every time they get it right, you give them praise and reward.

You have to do the same for yourself.

You need to celebrate every little victory that comes your way. And when you’re making progress, it motivates you to keep going.

In a recent Harvard study, 238 company employees were asked to keep a diary so they could research their emotions, perceptions and motivation and see how it impacted their performance.

Their findings were pretty damn conclusive. When people made progress, no matter how small it was, they were more productive, creative and engaged.

The findings summarized that, “People are most satisfied with their jobs (and therefore most motivated) when those jobs give them the opportunity to experience achievement.”

Now for the science part.

Every time you score a small win, it triggers the release of dopamine. Dopamine is dubbed “the feel-good hormone”. It produces a “hit” that quickly gets addictive. The more “hits” you get, the more you want.

You get hooked on dopamine so you look for new ways to get more happiness hits.

Keep chasing those small wins to keep your motivation high. It’s another way to find joy in your work and avoid the crushing effects of procrastination.

6) Block Out Time For Deep Work

One of the biggest motivation killers is shallow work. You know exactly what we’re talking about. It’s the constant checking of your inbox for quick replies, browsing the web for clipart, decluttering your cubicle, etc

Too often, we get sucked into doing work we think will help us progress, when it’s really just superficial tasks that don’t meaningfully move things along.

It’s false productivity.

You’re not “moving the needle” on shit that really matters. You’re just avoiding getting your act together until the deadline is about to slap you in the face. Then you panic and scramble to make it work.

To keep your motivation high, you need to avoid shallow bullshit work and focus on deep work. This involves blocking off periods in your schedule to focus solely on one task at a time - it’s called monotasking.

This is how you “get in the zone”. It’s totally different from shallow work but it’s the secret to being truly productive and motivating yourself to do the work that really matters.

Motivate Yourself For Success

We all want to get into the groove with work but for most of us, it doesn’t come naturally. That’s perfectly normal. It just means you’ll have to be more creative to motivate yourself.

And, you know yourself best.

Finding joy in your work is crucial. You’re not suddenly going to love every little bit of your role overnight. That’s just not realistic. But finding your purpose and celebrating every small win can help.

When you feel like your work has real meaning and has a positive impact on you, it’s much easier to motivate yourself to do it. Plus, it helps you keep a positive attitude at work too.

Just don’t rely purely on external motivation to find your enthusiasm. It’s much more effective to look inside yourself for motivation. You can tap into this even when you’re not feeling it.

And that “flow state” you think you can’t ever get into?

It’s much closer than you think.

Feel Better,

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