5 simple things to do today to get motivated for work

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Did you know that four in 10 employees are less motivated to work since the pandemic?

This is one of the major findings of a study by Morneau Shepell, a Canadian mental health services provider. The study also says that “strained mental health of Canadians may be here for the long-term, driven by concerns about the second wave of the pandemic, an impending lockdown and continued uncertainties regarding when things may settle, and what life may look like.”

How are you feeling?

Several experts have tried explaining this feeling of “blah” or lack of motivation. One writer called it “acedia” which initially meant the “deadly sin of sloth”. Today it is used to generally mean a lack of interest or caring, or simply, apathy. Psychologist Adam Grant, on the other hand, uses the term “languishing” to describe a state that is in between depression and flourishing. It’s like having the energy to still function everyday but not having enough drive to excel. Because it’s a mild mental state, most people don’t even recognize it. Most slog on through the day, hoping the next day will be better. This can be dangerous. Psychologists believe that people who are languishing now could be the same group who will be depressed in the near future.

Do you think you might be languishing?

Here are the common symptoms:

  • Lack of concentration or focus
  • A feeling of aimlessness
  • Preference for predictable activities
  • General feeling of emptiness
  • Not enthusiastic about work or doing other activities (like exercising)

If you’re experiencing any or all of these symptoms, here are a few quick tips:

5 tips to ease your acedia:

  1. Start with a good night’s sleep

    Are you one of those people who indulge in “revenge bedtime procrastination”? This is when you binge-watch Netfilx or scroll online (or do any other activity) until the wee hours of the morning. Bedtime procrastination, according to scientists, is a response to stress or a lack of free time earlier in the day. During the pandemic, the uncertainty of the situation can also be the reason that pushes people to extend the hours where they feel most in control.

    Doing this occasionally (especially during the weekends), is probably fine. But when it becomes a habit, bedtime procrastination leads to sleep deprivation. This can negatively affect your physical and mental health. Not only will you have difficulty concentrating (among other things), it can also weaken your immunity.

    Having at least eight hours of sleep is necessary to have pep and energy in the morning. So don’t pass up on this period of rest! Feeling refreshed and energized sets the tone for the entire day.

  2. Make a list

    Starting your day with a to-do list does two things: First, you are reminded of your goals and the amount of tasks you need to accomplish, and second, you’re creating a map that will give you direction for the day. This prevents you from hacking at tasks aimlessly.

    Personally, I make lists because I look forward to the satisfaction of crossing out each item at the end of the day. This gives me a sense of accomplishment that fuels my drive to do more.

  3. Focus on small goals

    Feeling overwhelmed because of a big project? It can be demotivating. To help you feel less overwhelmed, divide the project into small chunks or small tasks. This will help you focus on what you can accomplish right away. You’ll also be able to recognize the tasks that can be delegated, or those that are too big for you and would need collaboration from others. It’s true that “many hands make light work” so accept the reality that we can’t do it all on our own and it’s okay to ask for help.

    Rewards can help increase motivation when dealing with rote work. These are tasks like filing, making phone calls, even answering emails. Promising yourself a 15-minute break or a treat (like a cup of coffee) for finishing an unexciting or tedious task can help push you to do them.

  4. Take a midday walk

    Take a brisk walk outside during your lunchbreak or at any time you feel that your energy is low. Being outdoors, especially in green spaces, has been proven to improve brain function and concentration. Breathing in fresh air and getting exposed to sunlight improves your mood because it gives you oxygen and vitamin D which are essential to healthy brain function.

    You can go outdoors in any season. Just make sure to bundle up when it’s cold and put some sunblock on during sunny days.

  5. Set boundaries

    Setting boundaries is especially important when you’re working from home. Remote workers have a tendency to go beyond office hours because the work is just there; there’s no stopping workaholics from finishing tasks or obsessing about a call, report, or some other thing they feel they could get into quickly. Work then merges with home life, and before you know it, you’re answering calls or sending emails at dinner time or even on weekends.

    This can lead to burnout. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress (CAMH). It can make you feel drained and unable to function. It’s actually worse than languishing.

    Setting boundaries requires proper time management and self-respect (this applies too when you’re in the office). If you tend to go beyond work hours, set an alarm to signal the end of the work day. Learn to say no to rush jobs or those that have unreasonable deadlines. Learn to value your time so that others will value it too. Always know that it’s okay to prioritize your well-being over work.

If you’ve tried all five suggestions and don’t feel any different, perhaps your lack of motivation is a symptom of a deeper cause. This is the time to consult a professional. Talking to a psychologist or therapist can help you understand your situation better. They can also provide a more personalized advice or plan of action that can help get your mojo back faster!

Where to get help:


  • Mental Health and COVID pandemic, CAMH
  • Wellness Together Canada
  • Conquer Anxiety and Depression (ICAN) Program or download the app
    Sources: Mental health and COVID pandemic, CAMH resources; and There’s a name for the blah you’re feeling: It’s called languishing, Adam Grant, The New York Times. Accessed February 9, 2022.

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