Doug Dvorak's Blog

Motivation in the Time of COVID

Now that we’re all firmly in work-from-home mode, many of us are struggling to have the same connection to our work that we had pre-COVID.

While working remotely was once considered a perk for fortunate employees at some of America’s more forward-thinking companies, it’s a whole different ball game when it becomes required for everyone. To make matters worse, you can’t just go back into the office if you find working from home isn’t for you.

The truth is, most people are motivated by social interaction – both positive and negative – and working remotely has stripped us of this very basic part of what it is to be human.

No longer can we look up from our computers and gain motivation from wanting to impress the co-worker in the next cubical. Perhaps never again will we come face-to-face with the salesperson we’ve been killing ourselves to beat out for Employee of the Month.

As mentioned earlier, it’s a whole new ball game and it’s one we are all playing whether we like it or not.

In addition to having less contact with others, you’re probably now operating with far less structure in your life. Plus, we’re all dealing with the increased stress of the outbreak and all of this can make it difficult to get – or stay – motivated.

However, there are steps you can take to feel more motivated to engage with your work and not let this event derail your career. As is so often the case, the best place to start is with creating a list.

Lists, lists and more lists

Taking into consideration your current circumstances, your list should include answers to questions like:

  • What have I always liked about my job?
  • How can I continue to advance while working from home?
  • Am I using this time to develop new professional skills?
  • Is working remotely enriching me personally?

And, perhaps most importantly:

  • How do I apply myself to my job even when I’m feeling unmotivated?

Mostly, you’ll find that you already know the answers as you write the questions. They’ll typically include things like:

  • Start the day by accomplishing an easy task (e.g. make the bed)
  • Reward yourself whenever you cross something off your list
  • Break projects down into manageable tasks
  • Schedule fun activities or time with friends or family

One day at a time
Obviously, the best approach would be to engage a motivational speaker or coach to virtually help customize a plan for your specific situation. If you’re an employer, this is certainly a great option to consider if you have noticed a drop-off with previously high achieving or productive employees. But, if that’s not an option, here are some basic remedies to some common negative feelings relating to the pandemic:

  • Lethargic: Get plenty of sleep, eat well and exercise.
  • Anxious or depressed: Confide in a friend or family member and if it seems like more than a typical reaction to the pandemic, give your primary care physician a call and book an appointment.
  • Overwhelmed: Create a list (or lists) and just keep crossing things off. In the words of the golf great Tiger Woods: “Just keep chopping wood.”
  • Unmotivated: Don’t be afraid to confide in your employer or supervisor. Chances are they’re going through the same thing. You should also consider investing in a session or two with a motivational coach.

Overall, it’s important you avoid feeling sorry for yourself if you’re experiencing any or all these emotions. The fallout from COVID-19 is something the world hasn’t seen in 100 years meaning there’s literally no-one around who has been through it before. Learn to take it one day at a time and ask for help if you need it.
Stop watching the news on television
Most modern journalists and news outlets seem a lot less interested in disseminating information for the public good than they are in ratings and political side-taking. It’s regrettable this once honorable profession and essential public service has devolved to this point but, you’re not being completely honest with yourself if you believe that it hasn’t.
If you just have to know what’s going on, do your own “investigative reporting” and visit the websites of organizations like the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control to gather information and draw your own conclusions.
The truth is COVID-19’s numbers are bad even when compared to the benchmark of how many people typically contract and die from the flu. Globally, WHO estimates the flu kills 290,000-650,000 people every year.
And, while understanding the true scope of the situation may not do anything to change the toll it has exacted on your life, it may just help put things in perspective and give you the resolve you need to get up tomorrow, see a little light at the end of the tunnel and keep chopping!


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