How to Find the Motivation to Work Hard

Updated 4 January 2023

Working hard is vital to success in every sector, as it helps you produce better work faster. Although sometimes it can be challenging to find the motivation to work hard, whether due to internal or external factors, you can take certain steps to be more diligent. In this article, we explore the best ways to find this motivation and provide top tips for working more efficiently.

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Intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation

There are two main types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic motivation refers to stimuli outside of yourself. For example, if a manager is pushing you to complete a certain project, this is extrinsic motivation.

You could also be extrinsically motivated by the promise of a reward after you finish your work – for example, being offered a bonus.

On the other hand, intrinsic motivation comes from within. You will feel intrinsically motivated if you have set yourself personal goals for this project and you know that you need to complete the task to feel a sense of accomplishment.

Related: Understanding Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

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How to motivate yourself to work hard

It's best to focus on both intrinsic and extrinsic parameters when looking for ways to motivate yourself. Here are some ways to focus on motivation:

Start your workday with the most important task

Starting your day right is imperative to workplace success and staying motivated throughout the whole day. If you begin your workday with this task, you will feel more inclined to complete all of your other tasks.

However, if you put it off, you may not complete the critical task with the same zeal and it may also hinder performance on your other tasks.

Make a daily to-do list

Making a daily to-do list is a great way to stay organised and focus on each task. If possible, write it the evening before going to work – or if not, make it the first thing you do when you arrive in the office.

Write down absolutely everything that you need to complete that day, big and small. Some people include personal tasks on their to-do lists or have separate ones for home and life. When organising your to-do list, be sure to put the most crucial task or tasks at the top. Ensure that they don't get lost somewhere towards the bottom of the list. This way, you'll be certain to tackle them first.

As you complete tasks throughout the day, keep revisiting your to-do list and tick items off as you go. Physically ticking items off the list will give you a sense of achievement and keep your motivation right on track.

Remember your ‘why'

Everybody has a reason for working. Whether you are working to afford to raise a family or have very specific career goals that you want to meet, there is a reason that you go into the office every day.

Remember this when you feel your motivation start to slip. To remind yourself of your ‘why', put some photos of your family on your desk or make a note of what careers goals you want to achieve on your phone. Looking at the photos or notes when you feel your motivation fade will help you refocus on work.


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Break big goals into small tasks

Big goals can seem incredibly overwhelming, and it's not unusual to feel completely unmotivated when faced with one. However, you can make them much more manageable if you break them down into smaller tasks.

For example, if you work in the human resources department of a supermarket chain, you may be asked to hire 100 staff members for a new store. This seems overwhelming initially. However, you can easily break this task up.

Your first task could be to find one store manager and four supervisors. Focus on this task until you have completed the step – whether that be to invite people to interview or actually hiring staff members. Then you can start looking for 20 checkout staff and complete the whole process again before looking for the next batch of staff members.

It's easy to feel daunted by huge, ambitious goals, but you can break these down into simple steps to make them feel a lot less overwhelming.

Stay focused

Staying focused throughout the day is imperative to working hard and finding success in the workplace. Researchers have concluded that interruptions can seriously hinder productivity; they can ruin the natural flow of work and disrupt our short-term working memory. Being completely focused means no phone, no email notifications and nobody disturbing you.

Here are some tips for staying focused:

  • Ensure that your friends and family know that you are unavailable to speak during working hours (except for emergencies, of course).

  • Put your phone on flight mode or turn it off and leave it at the bottom of your bag.

  • Turn your email notifications off. If it is appropriate for your workplace, set up an out of office message stating that you will only be looking at emails twice per day.

  • Ask your colleagues to respect your need for focus. If necessary, suggest a quick meeting before and after your focus block to discuss any matters that have arisen.

Related: 10 Tips for How to Be a Good Employee (Plus Benefits)

Reward yourself

Rewards are an important part of staying motivated – even if you're rewarding yourself! Treat yourself for completing particularly challenging tasks or for reaching a significant milestone in a project.

Make sure that any rewards are relevant to the work that you're doing and are rewards that you'll be able to maintain over a certain amount of time. For example, you shouldn't reward yourself by buying a brand new sports car when you reach a project milestone because this is obviously not a reward that you will be able to replicate at other times in your career. However, if you get a once in a lifetime promotion, a new sports car might well be a suitable treat.

Reward smaller victories with a self-care activity like a facial or manicure, a small gift to yourself or a takeaway from your favourite restaurant.

Take care of yourself physically

A crucial part of motivation is physical care. Feeling good helps you achieve your goals much more easily, while also ensuring that you have enough energy to do other, non-work related activities.

Make sure that you do the following as a minimum:

  • Sleep for seven to nine hours each night. The actual amount of sleep you need is highly personal, so set a sleep goal depending on your requirements.

  • Eat a generally healthy diet. There's nothing wrong with treating yourself, but try to make sure that you eat mainly healthy foods that will help you stay alert during the workday.

  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. This can include walking (walking to your office is a great way to fit it in!), jogging, exercise classes like yoga, or sports like tennis or cricket.

Surround yourself with motivated people

When you're in the workplace, try to befriend others who are always highly dedicated to their work and surrounded by great workplace success. If everybody around you is motivated, your brain will constantly try to do as they are. This means that if they are motivated by their tasks, you'll be motivated to complete yours too.

You can also swap motivation tips and work through ideas with each other, making tasks seem much less daunting.

Related: What Is Motivation in Management? (Examples and Benefits)

Give yourself regular breaks

A considerable component of working hard is allowing yourself to take time off. It sounds counter-productive, but breaks let your brain rest and recharge, helping you to focus more when it's needed. You should, of course, take holidays from work and let yourself recharge at weekends. You should also take regular breaks during the workday.

Most people work well if they take breaks every 45–50 minutes. If you stay focused for 45–50 minutes with no distractions at all, you can get more work done. Your mind reacts well knowing that there is a break in sight, and you will be able to focus purely on the task at hand.

This cycle works best if repeated – for example, an 8-hour workday could be split into seven blocks of 50 minutes and seven 10-minute breaks, with an additional hour off at lunch. You could also work for blocks of 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break.

Besides using the bathroom and getting a drink or something to eat, let your brain completely relax during your 10-minute breaks. Reply to messages during this time if that isn't too taxing, read a chapter of your book, listen to a short meditation or just scroll through social media. Don't think about work until you are in the next work block.

Hard work is essential in the workplace – and even if you are passionate about your job, it can sometimes be difficult to find the motivation to focus on tasks and complete projects. Using the tips mentioned in this article, you will be able to work harder and smarter and produce much better work much more efficiently.

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