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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

5 Things to Do If You Don’t Want to Get Back to Work

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5 Things to Do If You Don’t Want to Get Back to Work

Some days, getting back to work is a real struggle. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by our endless to-do list or tempted by the social media or news just a tab away. And we can quickly find ourselves zoning out and procrastinating the work that needs to get done.

And let’s face facts—once we’re pulled away into distraction, it can feel nearly impossible to re-focus and motivate ourselves back to work.

So how do you shift gears and actually get back to work? Try these five proven strategies to get going again and finish what needs to get done:

1. Take a Time-Restrained Break

We all need natural breaks from work. While it might feel like we just need to plow forward and push ourselves to finish the work, research actually shows that short breaks can actually improve focus, replenish energy, and increase productivity.[1]

So, instead of pressuring yourself to “get back to work,” take an intentional break to refuel and enjoy the momentary pause that you’re actually needing.

But the key is for the break to be—a break. To keep yourself from getting lost in the break and never getting back to work, set a timer on the break. When your brain knows that the break is temporary, it’s more likely to maximize the restful benefits of the break and not try to get caught up in focused thinking about something new.

Whether you’re taking a 15-minute pause or a 30-minute lunch, a time-restrained break lets you rest and rejuvenate so that you can jump back into it when the timer goes off.

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2. Reward Yourself for Completing the Task

When we’re not feeling motivated, the most effective way to turn it around is to create motivation. Create some reward that you’ll give yourself if you complete the task at hand—it could be an afternoon walk, an ice cream sundae, or an hour of video games at the end of the workday. Whatever reward you choose, just make sure it’s one that actually excites you and that you’ll look forward to.

The anticipation of the reward will give you the motivation to finish the task because you begin to associate the task with the enjoyable reward you’ll get afterward. For example, if you’ve got to finish a report by the end of the day, you could decide to celebrate by picking up your favorite food for dinner. The entire day, the thought of that delicious meal can give you an added boost to get the job done.

But you don’t just have to wait until your work is finished to reward yourself. In fact, research shows that periodic rewards earlier actually improve productivity and focus the most.[2]

So, rather than wait until you finish the whole task to get the big reward, you could plan out smaller rewards in between, such as a coffee break after the first section or a walk around the neighborhood after the second. These small breaks are both time-restrained (as mentioned in the strategy above) and reward-based to give you the motivation to keep going.

And that extra motivation can help you get back to work and get the tasks done with a lot less resistance.

3. Make a Smart to-Do List

Getting back to work feels overwhelming when there’s a lot to do. And, these days, the endless tasks on our to-do lists make it hard to even begin to tackle them. When we’ve got a really long to-do list, our first instinct is actually to avoid doing anything rather than even look at that laundry list.

So, instead of focusing on all of the tasks, get smarter with your to-do list.

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Generic to-do lists don’t work for most people because they create overwhelm before the tasks are even started. But what does work is a manageable prioritization of what actually needs to get done.

To get started with a smart to-do list, make a list of everything you have to do, and then star the most pressing three need-to-do tasks and put the rest of the list aside.

When we’re forced to prioritize only three tasks, we shift our focus to what will make the greatest impact. And three tasks is a lot more manageable than the 50 we previously had on our list, so it’s easier to muster up the motivation to get back to work. We can all finish three simple things.

And then, if you complete those three tasks with time to spare, go ahead and choose another three., and then another three. By splitting the list up into sets of three by priority, you reduce overwhelm and increase the odds of getting more checked off the list.

Ironically, when you choose to cut your list down to just three tasks, you actually make it possible to do more tasks because you tackle the list in manageable bits that reduce overwhelm, increase productivity, and maintain the motivation necessary to get it all done.

4. Reach Out for Support

According to Newton’s Law of Inertia, an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted on by an outside force. Or, in other words, you’re unlikely to get yourself moving again without a little support.

It’s really hard to get started up again once you’ve stopped something. So odds of willing ourselves there without some outside force are pretty low. That means that you need something outside of yourself–like a friend or colleague–to re-motivate yourself.

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If you’re feeling stuck and unable to get back to work, reach out for support from someone who can give you a little motivation. You could bounce ideas off of a colleague to get yourself re-inspired; or work through your resistance with a quick phone call to a friend; or even get new ideas on how to tackle the project from a new angle.

In fact, research even shows that quick chats with colleagues and friends can actually boost the area of the brain that controls focus, planning, prioritization, and even organization.[3] That means that taking a moment to talk and ask for support can optimize your brain to be even more effective.

So, next time you’re stuck, reach out for support and chat your way back to motivation.

5. Just Start, And Start Small

The hardest part of getting back to work is always—getting back to work—or, actually starting up again.

But every big project is really just a compilation of small, simple steps. A proposal is started with just one word. A phone call is started with dialing one number. A new initiative is started with just one e-mail. Everything is started by just—starting.

It can feel overwhelming to get started when you don’t know how to complete the entire project or have clarity over what the end result will look like. So don’t.

Instead, just start. For example, let’s say you’ve got a massive writer’s block. You can simply start typing, “I don’t know what to write, but I’m determined to write today. So I’m going to keep typing until I have an idea.” And now you’re started. You’ve already overcome the biggest hurdle–writing words on a page.

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You may not have the clarity yet, but you’ve shifted yourself into the mode that will give you that clarity.

By beginning in the process of working again, your mind eventually switches gears back into work mode. You don’t have to be motivated to get back into it; you just have to start.

Final Thoughts

It’s really hard to get back to work when you’re out of the swing of it. It can feel completely overwhelming, like nothing can remotivate you. And all of the tasks are just hanging over your head, preventing you from even enjoying your procrastination.

The brain actually functions differently when it’s deep in “work mode” versus “non-work mode”, making it hard to switch from one to the other.

That’s why we need proven strategies that can help you get right back to work and finally cross what needs to get done off the list.

By giving yourself time-restrained breaks, creating rewards, making a smart to-do list, reaching out for support, and just starting, you’re setting yourself up for success in getting it all done.

And the sooner you get back to work, the sooner you can finish the tasks and enjoy your time off without anything else hanging over your head.

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More Motivational Tips

Featured photo credit: NordWood Themes via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Mike Iamele

Mike Iamele is a Purpose + Brand Strategist who figures out what makes you naturally successful. Then helps you do it on purpose.

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Published on September 27, 2021

What Is Incentive Motivation And Does It Work?

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What Is Incentive Motivation And Does It Work?

We’ve all needed a bit of inspiration at some time in our lives. In the past year or two, that need most likely has grown. Who hasn’t been trying to shed those extra pounds we put on during the pandemic? Who hasn’t felt the need to fake a little enthusiasm at joining yet another Zoom call? Who hasn’t been trying to get excited about trekking back into the office for a 9 to 5 (longer if you add in the commute)? Feeling “meh” is a sign of our times. So, too, is incentive motivation, a way to get back our spark, our drive, and our pursuit of the things we say we want most.

In this article, I’ll talk about what incentive motivation is and how it works.

What Is Incentive Motivation?

Incentive motivation is an area of study in psychology focused on human motivation. What is it that gets us to go from couch potato to running a marathon? What spurs us to get the Covid vaccine—or to forgo it? What is it that influences us to think or act in a certain way? Incentive motivation is concerned with the way goals influence behavior.[1] By all accounts, it works if the incentive being used holds significance for the person.

The Roots of Incentive Motivation

Incentive motivation’s roots can be traced back to when we were children. I’m sure many of us have similar memories of being told to “eat all our veggies” so that we would “grow up to be big and strong,” and if we did eat those veggies, we would be rewarded with a weekend trip to a carnival or amusement park or playground of choice. The incentive of that outing was something we wanted enough to have it influence our behavior.

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Growing up, incentive motivation continues to play a major role in what we choose to do. For example, while we may not have relished the idea of spending years studying, getting good grades, pursuing advanced degrees, and graduating with sizeable debt from student loans, a great many of us decided to do just that. Why? Because the end goal of a career, a coveted title, and the associated incentives of financial reward and joy in doing something we love were powerful motivators.

One researcher who believes in the power of incentive motivation is weight management expert, co-author of the book State of Slim, and co-founder of the transformational weight loss program of the same name, Dr. Holly Wyatt. Her work with her clients has proven time and again that when motivation fizzles, incentives can reignite those motivational fires.

“Eat more veggies, exercise, keep track of my weight: These things and more DO work, but bottom line, you gotta keep doing them. Setting up rituals and routines to put your efforts on auto-pilot is one way. And along the way, the use of both external and internal motivators helps keep people on track. External motivation sources are those things outside of ourselves that help to motivate us. They’re powerful, like pouring gasoline on a fire. But they may not last very long. Internal motivators are more tied into the reasons WHY we want to reach our goals. In my State of Slim weight loss program, we spend a lot of time on what I call ‘peeling back the onion’ to find the WHY. I think the internal motivators are more powerful, especially for the long-term, but they may take longer to build. They’re the hot coals that keep our motivational fires burning.”

Examples of Incentive Motivation

In the way of incentive motivation, specific to the external motivators, Dr. Wyatt challenges her clients to commit to changing just one behavior that will help them reach their weight loss goals. Clients must then agree to a “carrot” or a “stick” as either their reward for accomplishing what they say they will do or as their punishment for falling short. Those incentives might be something like enjoying a spa day if they do the thing they said they would do or sweating it out while running up and down the stairwell of their apartment building a certain number of times as punishment for not following through.

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Whatever they choose, the goal must be something they really want, and the incentive must be something that matters to them enough to influence their behaviors in reaching those goals. Some people are more motivated by some sort of meaningful reward (a carrot) whereas, other people are more motivated by some sort of negative consequence or the taking away of a privilege (the stick).

Another example of incentive motivation is playing out currently with companies and government entities offering perks to people who get the Covid vaccine. Nationwide, offers are being made in the way of lottery tickets, cash prizes, concert seats, free admission to events and discounts for food, and even free drink at local restaurants and bars. The list of incentives being offered to the public to increase vaccination rates is pretty extensive and quite creative.[2]  These incentives are financial, social, and even hit on moral sensibilities. But is this particular incentive motivation working?

Remember that a key to incentive motivation working is if the individual puts importance on the reward being received on the ultimate goal. So, not all incentives will motivate people in the same way. According to Stephen L. Franzoi, “The value of an incentive can change over time and in different situations.”[3]

How Does Incentive Motivation Differ from Other Types of Motivators?

Incentive motivation is just one type of motivating force that relies on external factors. While rewards are powerful tools in influencing behaviors, a few other options may be more aligned with who you are and what gets you moving toward your goals.

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Fear Motivation

In many ways, being motivated by fear is the very opposite of being motivated by incentives. Rather than pursuing some reward, it’s the avoidance of some consequence or painful punishment that sparks someone into action. For example, married couples may “forsake all others” not out of love or commitment but out of a fear that they may be “taken to the cleaners” by their spouses if their infidelities are revealed.

Another example wherein fear becomes the great motivator is one we’re hearing about more and more as we’re coming out of this pandemic—the fear of being poor. The fear of being poor has kept many people in jobs they hate. It’s only now that we see a reversal as headlines are shining a light on just how many workers are quitting and refusing to go back to the way things were.

Social Motivation

Human beings are social creatures. The desire to belong is a powerful motivator. This type of social motivation sparks one’s behavior in ways that, hopefully, result in an individual being accepted by a certain group or other individuals.

The rise of the Internet and the explosion of social media engagement has been both positive and negative in its power to motivate us to be included among what during our school days would be called “the cool kids” or “cliques” (jocks, nerds, artsy, gamers, etc.). We probably all have experienced at one time or another the feelings associated with “not being chosen”—whether to be on a team to play some game or as the winning candidate for some job or competition. Social rejection can make or break us.

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Before You Get Up and Go…

Know that, especially during these challenging times, it’s “normal” and very much “okay” to feel a lack of motivation. Know, too, that external motivators, such as those we’ve talked about in this article, can be great tools to get your spark back. We’ve only touched on a few here. There are many more—both external and internal.

Remember that these external motivators, such as incentive motivations, are only as powerful as the importance placed on the reward by the individual. It’s also important to note that if there isn’t an aligned internal motivation, the results will more than likely be short-lived.

For example, losing a certain amount of weight because you want to fit into some outfit you intend to wear at some public event may get you to where you want to be. But will it hold up after your party? Or will those pounds find their way back to you? If you want to be rewarded at work with that trip to the islands because you’ve topped the charts in sales and hustle to make your numbers, will you be motivated again and again for that same incentive? Or will you need more and more to stay motivated?

Viktor Frankl, the 20th-century psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, and author of the best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is quoted as having said, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” As important as external motivators like incentives may be in influencing behaviors, the key is always to align them with one’s internal “why”—only then will the results be long-lived.

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So, how might incentive motivation influence you and your behavior toward goals? Knowing your answer might keep you energized no matter what your journey and help to further your successes.

Featured photo credit: Atharva Tulsi via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Britannica: Incentive motivation
[2] National Governors Association: COVID-19 Vaccine Incentives
[3] verywellmind: The Incentive Theory of Motivation

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