3 Ways to Overcome Lack of Motivation

Written by
George Dickson
George Dickson

Everyone loses their motivation sometimes.

That's okay. It's part of the natural ebb and flow of the current of inspiration within you. There's an important distinction between a temporary lack of motivation and a chronic lack of motivation, though.

Chronic lack of motivation is problematic for individuals and for the organizations they work with. It can negatively impact a large number of important areas: productivity, quality of work, customer service, and employee retention are just a few of the many.

The good news is that a lack of motivation is curable. It's not often a particularly difficult problem to solve  you just need to know a bit about what drives work motivation and build from there.

Expand your understanding of motivation

Start by understanding the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. If you're foggy on that topic, check out this article on employee motivation.

Don't have time for that? Here's a one-sentence summary: Extrinsic motivation comes from external sources; intrinsic motivation comes from within.

Stoke the coals

Intrinsic motivators provide sustained motivation that will carry your team through difficult times.

Intrinsic motivators are extraordinarily powerful, but aren't as immediately obvious as tools for managers. Although you can help people find intrinsic motivation, you cannot give someone intrinsic motivation  or take it away, for that matter.

Here are a few ways you can help your team find intrinsic motivation and build a strong foundation that will withstand the inevitable bumps and dips all organizations experience:

Help your colleagues find the purpose in their work

It's one of the most effective ways to build intrinsic motivation.

It doesn't matter where you work, or what type of work you do, you can always find a purpose. There are no 'purpose professions,' as Imperative's Arthur Woods explained in a recent interview:

We find that purpose is derived from your relationships, your sense of impact, and your sense of personal growth.
-Arthur Woods

Pour on some extra fuel

Although a lack of motivation can't be fully cured without a solid foundation of intrinsic motivators, extrinsic motivators can be helpful tools, too.

Use caution with extrinsic motivators, because when applied without much consideration, or as a stand-alone solution, they can actually be counterproductive. When they're applied effectively, extrinsic motivators build from a foundation of intrinsic motivation.

How do you apply them effectively?

There are a few quick points to keep in mind that will dramatically improve the impact of any extrinsic motivators you choose to deploy:

Keep it timely

Don't use extrinsic motivators as an afterthought if you want them to work. Use them in the moment, when they have the greatest potential for impact.

Keep it fair

Extrinsic motivators can be counterproductive if the group doesn't believe they're being distributed fairly. Make sure the extrinsic motivators you're using are part of the cure for a lack of motivation, not the cause.

Measure the effects

Don't waste time, effort, or money on extrinsic motivators if you can't measure how well they're working. Solicit feedback from your team on the effectiveness of the program.

In conclusion

We've covered some basic ways to improve the overall foundation of motivation in your organization, and some specific tips and basic guidelines to help make it more effective. Keep in mind is that every organization is different, and these steps are just the beginning.

It's up to you to tailor these approaches to your team. Remember, understanding what motivates them, and providing an environment that supports that are the first steps.

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Originally published on July 15, 2015 → Last updated August 24, 2019

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George Dickson

George is dedicated to strengthening organizational cultures with thoughtful leadership and frequent recognition. George formerly managed content and community at Bonusly.


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