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ATD Blog

Left Your Motivation at the Office? Re-Engineer Your Habits to Find it

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The coronavirus has forced millions of people to work remotely. When it was first announced, you likely experienced a rollercoaster of emotions. Among them was uncertainty over how you’d make the new office arrangement work for you. Then after a week (or maybe two), you figured it out.

  • Dedicated workspace. Check.
  • Tech equipment to communicate with colleagues and clients. Check. (Who knew green screens would become a high-demand item like toilet paper?)
  • In-person meetings moved to Zoom. Check.

Things were going pretty well—or, as good as they could be under the circumstances. Except for one not-so-minor detail.

You lost your mojo. Your motivation. Your drive. You’re having a hard time doing what you should be doing.

The RAIN Group Center for Sales Research conducted a study to understand what drives productivity. After analyzing data from more than 5,000 professionals, we found that extremely productive people (the XP) achieve better results than everyone else (the Rest) by following three keys. The first one being to manufacture motivation.

If you’re struggling in this area, hope is not lost. You can regain your motivation. You can build it back up by adopting the nine habits of extreme productivity. In particular, focusing on re-engineering your habits (the third habit on our list), which can significantly help you get back your motivation.

Ditch Habits That Drain Motivation and Adopt Habits That Build It

Certain habits drain your motivation, while other ones build it. Do you check email first thing in the morning? Do you find yourself easily distracted while working from home? Do you allow co-workers (both real and at-home ones such as spouses, children, roommates, and pets) to interrupt you?

All of these hurt your motivation and your productivity.

In fact, having productive habits is the largest difference between the XP and the Rest. Sixty-three percent of XPs agree that their work habits contribute significantly to their productivity. The Rest? Only 12 percent.

The good news: You can change your habits if you know how.

Habits have four elements:

1. Trigger: Something happens that cues a sequence of actions you tend to do. For instance, you open your computer.

2. Thought: The cue triggers a thought, even if it’s fast or subconscious. The thought may be, “I should check the news to see if there are any COVID-19 updates.”


3. Response: You take an action. You go to a news website.

4. Reward. This is your gain or payoff. “Oh, they’re sharing updates on testing. I’ll stop what I’m doing and see what’s going on.”

Once you pinpoint the habits you want to change, you can intervene at any point during the four elements. This will entail making a plan for how you’ll respond to those triggers.

Our research found that XPs plan for how they’ll respond to triggers 3.2 times more frequently than the Rest do.

Here are three ways to change habits and boost your motivation.

1. Start the Day With Your GIA
As you begin your workday, start with your greatest impact activity (GIA)—the task that will help you make progress toward your priorities and goals.

In The Progress Principle, Teresa Amabile shares findings from a multiyear tracking study looking at workers’ daily activities, emotions, and motivation levels. She writes, “On days when workers have the sense they’re making headway in their jobs, or when they receive support that helps them overcome obstacles, their emotions are most positive and their drive to succeed is at its peak. On days when they feel they are spinning their wheels or encountering roadblocks to meaningful accomplishment, their moods and motivation are lowest.”

Making progress toward your goals is motivating!

2. Say, “When I, Then I.” Ask, “Will I?”
In one study, 79 percent of participants who made “When I, Then I” statements actually did what they said they’d do, compared to only 55 percent of those who did not make these statements.

Say it aloud: “When I turn on my computer in the morning, then I will focus on my GIA, not read COVID-19 updates.”


You can even take it one step further by asking yourself, “Will I?”

“Will I get started on my GIA instead of checking news updates?”

Doing this has shown to increase accountability. The news can wait. Your goals can’t.

Identify which habits are getting in your way and stop them before they stop you.

3. Make Your Morning Routine Sacred
Many people feel down these days, so they aren’t in the right frame of mind to chip away at their weekly plan at the start of each day. If you want to be productive, you have to get in the right mindset from the get-go.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’d use my 30-minute commute to listen to an audio book or podcast that matched my mindset. Sometimes I just drove in silence and allowed my brain 30 minutes of being in low gear before I arrived at the office and tackled my GIA.

Even though my commute has changed from out the door to down the stairs, I still follow that routine. I have, however, had to adjust.

I ask myself, “How’s my mindset?” while I’m getting ready in the morning (and yes, part of my routine is showering daily and dressing in something other than yoga pants) then listen to a podcast, book, or music based on what I need. A few of my go-tos lately have been Terrible, Thanks for Asking with Nora McInerny, The Daily from the New York Times, and Unlocking Us with Brené Brown.

A consistent morning schedule can get your day started off on the right foot. In fact, XPs are 2.6 times more likely to have morning rituals that contributes to their increased productivity.

As difficult as times may be, it’s essential that you find your mojo if you want to be successful and achieve your goals. Employ productive work habits and use the hacks mentioned above to ignite the motivation that you left at the office weeks ago. Better late than never.

About the Author

As chief marketing officer at RAIN Group, Erica Schultz leads strategy and execution for all aspects of marketing, lead generation, thought leadership development, and branding. She is a key member of the leadership team and successfully started a new sales training company that grew to be a recognized world leader within five years, winning awards such as Top Sales Training Company (by Selling Power Magazine and Training Industry).

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