We’ve all experienced the bittersweet feeling that attends the conclusion of a major project.
On one hand, you’re elated and relieved to finally have a proverbial monkey off your back, and proud of your achievement. On the other hand, you may ask yourself “Now, what?”—or, “How should I get started with this next thing?” Your first strides in a long race seem like a distant memory at the instant you cross the finish line, and sometimes, the thought of taking on another complex, multi-faceted assignment can be overwhelming. You may find it difficult to focus or apply yourself, and that your progress is slow and laborious.
What can you do to stay motivated, avoid burnout, and muster your creative and productive energies for the next big undertaking?
When you become particularly engrossed in a project, you may find it difficult to tear yourself away from it. But from day to day, constant work can take a toll on your nutrition and physical fitness—since you may be short on time for food preparation and exercise. But the paradox of overwork is, by devoting all your attention to your professional duties and neglecting self-care, you may eventually lose stamina, experience burnout more quickly, and become more susceptible to illness.
Pencil regular breaks and downtime into your busy schedule, and adhere to it. Allow yourself time for exercise and a healthy diet. Imagine that you are sacrificing a little bit of productivity now in order to gain significant productivity later.
In between big assignments, you may want to allow yourself a more substantial unwinding period, and get away from your workspace for a while. Within reason, of course.
Give yourself things to look forward to, unrelated to your work.
Activities away from work—like hiking, soccer, mini golf, or skiing, barbecues at the beach, dinner outings, trips to the movies, and hanging out with friends—are both pleasurable in themselves, and means of escape from the daily grind. Even if you love your job, hobbies and extracurricular pursuits can offer relief from the various pressures and challenges you face every business day, and a reward of sorts for your efforts. And while you’re involved in something completely unconnected to your work, an ingenious idea may occur to you...
At the end of the work day...stop working.
As a society, we are inundated with electronic gadgets that compete for our attention. Our expectations of each other seem to have changed too—whereas decades ago, people were assumed to be “unreachable” at particular times (like while driving, or out and about), today it is common to assume that no one is ever out of contact—and therefore, why should a work-related call, e-mail, or text message have to wait until the morning or the end of the weekend? One consequence has been a tendency for work time to bleed into leisure time.
It’s important to establish ground rules, to the extent you can. Make clear to your colleagues and associates that when you clock out for the day, you’re done. Unless it’s a genuine emergency, it can wait.
Why is this important to you?
One cause of flagging motivation at work is the perception that one’s job, or a specific aspect thereof, is not really meaningful. When confronted with the daily tedium of “going through the motions”, many professionals feel disinclined to exert their best efforts. Instead, they may wile away the hours by indulging in distractions and diversions at work—like games, online shows, or Facebook.
Of the many advantages of entrepreneurship, arguably the foremost is the knowledge that you are your own boss—and thus, you reap the benefits of your own hard work. Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to set goals for yourself that are both ambitious and realistic, while remaining mindful of the importance of the task at hand. If you can’t remember why it’s important, then your best bet is probably to leave it aside and move on.