Staying Motivated During Laborious Tasks

Boring admin is often part and parcel of any job. There’s a finite number who can say that throughout their career they haven’t had to do some form of ‘boring admin’ one way or another. Boring admin spills into our personal lives too – how often do you hear a friend or loved one say “I’ve got some life admin I need to do”?

Staying motivated during these more laborious tasks is one of the hardest things I have found to do in my short career (I’m 27, I’ve worked professionally for about 6 years since finishing university). It’s the ability to stay motivated even when the task is so soul-destroying that has led me to a rather fortunate position of being both an employee and part-time freelancer. You might say where does the time go and how do I stay motivated?

Understanding motivational tactics, what works and what doesn’t.

In order to understand how I can be better productive during my time spent working I’ve taken a chunk of time to research what motivation is, how it works and how it’s misused to manipulate and control others. As outlined in DRIVE: The Surprising Thing That Motivates Us carrot and stick methods have never motivated me. Even when I worked for a marketing agency, the bonus scheme made me far less engaged and productive until I forgot that it was even there.

The thing about ‘carrot and stick motivation’ or ‘Motivation 2.0’, is that it’s scientifically proven, through endless studies, to not work long-term. Usually, after the first attempt and inspiration of chasing something of value, and especially if we fail, we tend to feel down and out, and the majority of cases results in us not wanting to make the effort to chase the carrot again. It’s alarming to see that 89% of companies believe they lose talent for more money when only 12% of this number go on to earn more money.

In certain areas such as sales, however, where targets and bonuses are part and parcel of the game, motivation 2.0 can work. I have many friends who work as financial advisors and business development managers and their mindset is clearly pieced together differently than mine. They’re motivated by targets, wealth and everything that comes with it. What I would say is that I’d love to see how often they hit targets, how they feel when they do and how they feel when they don’t?

With that in mind, what motivates the wider consensus, as often declared by authoritative figures in leadership, is the ability to celebrate successes, big or small, at various stages of the project. Additionally, recognising good work with a “thank you” or a “this is great” is the type of activity proven to incur a positive response and increase in engagement and productivity with the project/next project. So in this instance, it’s the leadership style that is the motivation factor, not the place of work or financial rewards. This is proven by the fact that 75% of employees leave their jobs due to their managers, not their employer! More needs to be done to improve recognition and personal impact for leaders within organisations.

Self-motivation, the hardest trick of them all.

If you think motivating others is hard work, wait until you have to motivate yourself. I remember procrastinating so hard at Uni that I ended up having to pull an ‘all-nighter’ writing a 3,000-word article on the ‘depiction of females within film noir’. Not my finest moment! Within digital marketing, I find myself procrastinating with the more laborious and soul-draining, yet important admin tasks. For example, building links. While not my favourite task, I know the importance of improving a brands link-profile, and therefore, I know I need to motivate myself to get the work done. But how?

I’ve found I’m more productive and far more motivated when I map out the task or project in hand. Actually, the planning stage is the most liberating part of performing the whole exercise. I find a clearly mapped out plan of attack, with milestones, delivery dates, tactics etc. is the best way for me to get my work done.

What this allows me to do is set realistic timelines for my brain to comprehend how long a task is likely to take, and when I will complete it. By doing so, I can accept the time that I am going to need to give to any project.

Additionally, it’s important to break regularly and I do so in short spells. This way of working is effective for me. Once I’ve finished specific parts of tasks, I take a stroll for some water, stretch a little or make a cuppa, depending on how many I’ve had of course. These methods are proven ways to prevent fatigue when working and keep you continually engaged throughout the day.

I also listen to music, and where studies suggest you should listen to music you wouldn’t usually listen to so that it focuses your mind, I find this to not be the case for me. I am much more motivated, focused and creative when listening to music that gets me excited, or in a ‘feel-good’ mood. I’m all for anything that reinforces positivity – this impacts your mind frame to lead better, more inspiring days.

Once you’ve found what motivates you and know what you need to do to stay motivated, life gets a lot easier. Granted, some days are harder than others but knowing that there are things you can do to keep you going or give you that little boost is a nice little trump