How to Motivate Yourself: 25 Tips to Work Harder AND Smarter

Your guide to keeping yourself in self-motivation’s good graces.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

How to motivate yourself

Do you ever find yourself sitting at your work desk, head in the palm of your hand, staring at the virtual clock on your screen that seems to have stopped moving? You have a mammoth pile of tasks waiting for you, and your past self has certainly not done you any favors by procrastinating some tasks indefinitely. Now it’s clear as day: something needs to change.

Whether you’ve been chronically disengaged at work or your lack of motivation is fairly new, there are thankfully steps you can take to regain your sense of drive and purpose. Here are 25 tips that can help you find motivation in the workplace and (hopefully) keep it, as well as some broader insights on where motivation comes from and why it’s important.

What is motivation?

Motivation can be thought of as a kind of drive or inspiration that stems from within and pushes us to act a certain way. Whether that’s consistently showing up to art class in the evening, no matter how tired we feel, or hitting the gym at 6am before the sun has even risen.

In the workplace, when we talk about being motivated, we typically refer to our level of engagement and drive, and how committed we are to performing consistently. The less engaged with or interested in the work we do, the likelier we are to start putting decreasing amounts of effort in.

Why is motivation important?

Looking for ways to stay motivated at work can sometimes feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack. All the search does is leave you even more exhausted than you previously were. However, unless you find a way to keep keeping at it, your performance and chances of advancing your career will start to suffer greatly.

That’s why it’s important for you to feel like you have a good reason for doing what you’re doing. If you can find some kind of meaning or reward in a task, whether it’s to come during the task or once it’s been accomplished, that can act like gas in your tank, so to speak, and keep you moving forward.

Tips to motivate yourself

Not everyone finds the same things motivating. And, sometimes, it takes a combination of things to give us that push we so desperately need! Here are 25 self-motivation tips and strategies that can help you regain your drive at work:

1. Set goals

Many of us come into work, sit at our desks, and just begin working on the tasks we’ve been given, without having a greater goal or sense of direction in mind.

But without having a clear vision and knowledge of how your work impacts the bigger picture, you may end up spending more time on unimportant tasks, rather than ones that will actually be beneficial to you and your organization. Clarify what your objectives are, and focus on them being your end result in order to keep going.

2. Commit to doing your best

If you always strive to do your best, you’ll never feel disappointed in yourself. And the less disappointed you feel, the easier it is to keep pushing forward. Giving 100% to any task will give you a real sense of satisfaction. The only way to expect good results is to make it your mission to achieve them.

3. Set up a reward system for yourself

Do you have a really boring task like filing what you’ve been putting off virtually forever? Instead of procrastinating (because, let’s be honest: the task isn’t going anywhere), set up a reward system for completing similar tasks. If you’re a coffee-lover like me, for example, treat yourself to a Starbucks once you’ve finished the job. Likewise, if you have a sweet tooth, indulge in one of your favorite snacks.

4. Try a to-do list

An organized to-do list can be life-changing. If you don’t have one, make one now!

Compile a list of all the tasks you need to complete, whether they’re for today or the end of the month. Once you have your list, organize the tasks by urgency, plan the tasks that you must complete that day, and tick them off as you go. Crossing them out one by one can be really motivating, as it will give you a sense of accomplishment!

5. Focus

You can hear Jane behind you spilling some juicy gossip from the bar on Friday night, your phone then buzzes, and you’ve got a text from your “love interest” — and before you know it, you’ve lost concentration and motivation for the task you were doing.

Staying focused in a busy office is one of the hardest things, but try to find ways to block out your surroundings and become engrossed in your work. You could try listening to a motivational playlist you created or keeping your smartphone in your pocket.

6. Take regular breaks

Many of us get sucked into our work and neglect taking a break, which makes us feel restless, tired and discouraged. Getting away from your desk, even for 10 minutes, is vital to getting your creative juices flowing again and feeling energized. If you have a long lunch break, try doing some stretches or taking a walk to relax your mind.

7. Be present

Whatever you’re working on, give it your all. And whatever you commit to doing, do it willingly and consciously.

Don’t just go for after-work drinks because you’re telling yourself you “have to”, for example. Reframe your thinking, and view it as a chance to get to know your coworkers better and form stronger relationships. Then it won’t feel so much like a chore, and you’ll notice you’re getting some kind of reward out of it.

8. Challenge yourself

If you’re feeling a little underwhelmed by or fed up with your day-to-day tasks, ask for a new project or an increased workload to challenge yourself. You can also take a course and learn a new skill that will benefit you and your company. The novelty or added difficulty can make for excellent motivators!

9. Ask for feedback

We have this idea that feedback is frightening, but it can also be incredibly motivating. Think of a baby: they’re constantly receiving pointers on what they’re doing, be that eating food alone or taking their first steps. The more you celebrate their progress and gently correct their mistakes, the more driven they are to do more.

As adults, we crave the same inspiration to strive to do better. Plus, any critical feedback we might receive can help us in our self-improvement, which can also be motivating!

10. Congratulate yourself every evening

Nine times out of ten, we focus on what we’ve done wrong, instead of what we’ve accomplished. Over time, this focus on the negative can lead to a loss of motivation. To change this, take two minutes before you go to bed every night to list your achievements of the day or week, no matter how small. You’ll be surprised with how many you come up with.

11. Prepare mentally

Are you faced with a task that you don’t really want to do? Maybe you have a big presentation coming up in front of the whole company. Prepare yourself mentally for the task ahead by picturing yourself not only doing it, but also crushing it.

Visualization can work wonders when it comes to boosting confidence. Plus, a lot of the time, the anticipation feels way worse than the actual event. That’s something worth remembering, too!

12. Break down your tasks

If you have a big, complicated task on your list, it makes sense that you won’t want to start it right away — even though you know that procrastinating will only make matters worse. Instead, break it down into smaller tasks, and tick them off as you go. When you’re halfway there, you’ll be feeling accomplished and driven to carry on!

13. Use motivational quotes

Motivational quotes have gained popularity in the last few years, flooding our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds. Instead of just scrolling past them, screen grab the ones that really resonate with you, and refer back to them when you need a boost. Or you could even print them and put them somewhere visible on your desk. It’s funny how a few powerful words can keep you going and remind you of your goal and how you can achieve it.

14. Don’t beat yourself up about your weak points

We all have weak points, that’s for certain! None of us are perfect. But being hyper-focused on your flaws can and will destroy your motivation to take on anything new or challenging. After all, you can’t push forward if you keep telling yourself that you don’t have what it takes to do so. Instead, practice patience with and kindness towards yourself: the more you believe you can do it, the likelier you are to strive for bigger, better things.

15. Learn from your mistakes

We are all human and we all make mistakes. So, the next time you feel like you could have done better, stop beating yourself up, and focus on how you can improve next time. Every aspect of our life is a learning curve, and the important thing is to take the knowledge that arises from making mistakes in order to grow in the future.

16. Plan a vacation

For most people, a vacation abroad or another part of the country is one of the most exciting events of the year. So, get planning, and book a date in your diary that you can look forward to. This can increase your drive to work, knowing that it’s paying for your getaway (and that you’ll soon be escaping this nightmare called “the office”).

17. Jazz up your work wardrobe

If you’ve hit a bit of a slump, go on a shopping spree and spruce up your work attire. Looking sharp in the workplace can boost your confidence, which then positively impacts your productivity. Yes, that’s how powerful it is to feel fighting fit in your new outfit!

18. Hang out with your coworkers

Building bonds with your coworkers is vital to enjoying (or at least tolerating) your work environment. By having someone to chat to on your break, who can provide support when you need it, you can stay more motivated. It also helps when you can offer each other new ideas and solutions to problems you may have encountered, overcoming them faster.

19. Count your blessings

You’ve heard the saying “the grass is always greener on the other side”. This is ever so true in today’s working world.

We all want a better paycheck, more benefits, flexible working hours and a shorter commute. But we never stop to think how lucky we are that we even have a job that lets us keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. Plus, even if another company is willing to pay more, its leadership might be so poor that its employees are, in fact, worse off. Let’s face it: the perfect job does not exist.

20. Don’t stress about the things you can't control

If you’re guilty of stressing over the things that you can’t change, then you must find a way to stop. The more you worry unnecessarily, the more you’re going to make yourself sick; and that’s a surefire way to kill your motivation. Instead, learn to let go, and build your confidence so that even if the worst-case scenario materializes, you can trust yourself to cope.

21. Plan

Planning is essential to getting on at work. Whether it be planning the tasks you need to accomplish today, or where you want to be this time next year, coming up with actionable steps can be a great way to stay on track. It will also allow you to go back and overview your progress, which can be a motivation booster. So, make long-term goals and work towards achieving them to motivate yourself.

22. Embrace discomfort

Stop letting a bit of unpleasantness kill your motivation, and use it as a lesson to self-motivate, instead. After all, as the saying goes: with no pain comes no gain.

In an article on motivation, Inc. quotes manager Mart Nijland: “For anything you want to work harder for, you have to go beyond that threshold… Because you grow into a totally different, much stronger person.”

23. Make hard look easy

Another good way to motivate yourself is to view the tasks you’re dreading as, in fact, not that difficult. “Make hard look easy,” mediator and facilitator Marie Stein writes. “I like that challenge. I like being the kind of person who is capable of that.”

24. Live a balanced life

Living a balanced life is vital to feeling motivated. For example, eating unhealthy foods often makes you feel lethargic, which will make it impossible to want to accomplish any goals.

So, try to eat a well-balanced diet, rest enough and exercise several times a week — even a 30-minute brisk walk will do — to maintain your motivation. This can increase levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine (a neurotransmitter responsible for alertness), which reduces stress and helps you stay focused and driven.

25. Consider the bigger picture

Oprah Winfrey once said: “Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.”

When you seem to not be able to stay motivated, think about why you’re doing this job in the first place and what you’re working towards. If it’s a promotion you’re after, for example, work hard and show how much you deserve it.


Motivation can seem like rocket science to the chronically demotivated. If this is a subject that has had you scratching your head for a good while, read on to learn the answers to some common questions.

How do I maintain motivation?

Figuring out how to maintain your motivation can take a bit of trial and error. First, you must try out different motivators (like setting up your own reward system or reframing your mindset around making mistakes) to see which ones are most effective for you.

Another thing worth thinking about is what the cause of your lack of motivation might be. Is your lack of focus, interest or engagement in the workplace coming from being unwell physically or mentally? If there are any unresolved issues outside of work that might be seeping in and affecting your performance, then the first step in regaining your motivation is addressing whatever it is that’s bothering you independently of work.

What do I do if I lose motivation?

First of all, you shouldn’t panic or feel like there’s something wrong with you. Motivation wavers for the majority of people, especially when our physical needs aren’t being met. If you haven’t been eating or sleeping well or getting enough exercise, you’ll likely have an even harder time concentrating and pushing yourself. So, the first thing to do is ask yourself if you’ve been neglecting your self-care.

Then, it helps to remember that there are many, many ways to self-motivate, such as setting realistic goals and coming up with a personal reward system.

If you start to struggle with your motivation for months on end, you may want to consider whether the company you work at or your industry overall is a good fit for you.

Are there “good” and “bad” ways to stay motivated?

Motivators can be divided into two categories: intrinsic and extrinsic. As the words suggest, one kind stems from the inside while the other comes from the outside. Some examples of intrinsic motivation include going to the gym because it makes you feel good or helping others because you find it rewarding. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, includes things like going into work to earn money and volunteering because it looks good on your résumé.

Though both types of motivators can keep you going (and many of us can benefit from a mix of the two), intrinsic motivators seem to be a little more reliable in the long term.

Are some people inherently more motivated?

Science seems to think so. Research has shown motivation to be linked to dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter, and a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. But before you go blaming biology and genetics for the fact that you still haven’t finished that report from three weeks ago, you may want to hear this: science thinks that change is possible.

An article shared by the University of Michigan suggests the following for the non-go-getters: celebrating small wins, single-tasking, learning from mistakes, and even changing your diet to impact your motivation levels.

Could it be my job and not me?

In all honesty, yes, the type of work you’re doing could be impacting how well (or not) you stay motivated. If you think you may be in a profession or industry that’s a totally wrong fit for you, then try as you might, things might not budge in terms of your motivation levels.

When our work doesn’t align with our core values, it’s hard to push against the metaphorical current that’s trying to wash us away on a different shore. So, should this apply to you, find some types of extrinsic motivators that work for you short-term (like ordering in your favorite coffee after completing your tasks) and consider rethinking your career path.

Key takeaways

People often reach the workplace in the morning only to realize they’ve forgotten all their motivation at home. As common as this may be, there are ways to “summon” our motivation back to us, even on the days where we’d rather be anywhere but the office.

To overcome a lack of motivation and stop the constant feeling of wanting to quit your job and run away, remember to:

  • Try out different self-motivation techniques. What works one day might not necessarily work the next, and it often takes a combination of tactics to preserve your motivation.
  • Rely a little more on intrinsic motivation than extrinsic motivation. Finding work or activities that are meaningful to you is more sustainable long-term than buying a Frappuccino every time you finish a tedious task.
  • Focus on self-care. Trying to stay focused and motivated can become near-impossible when your body is lacking sleep, exercise and nutrients.
  • Allow yourself to “just be” sometimes. If you can’t always stay 100% driven, know that that’s an experience shared by most people — and totally normal.

Have you tried any other methods to get motivated in the workplace? If so, share your experiences with us in the comments section below.

Originally published on September 11, 2017. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.