Being Motivated at Work: Tiny Tweaks That Make a Big Difference

Interview with Sarah Aviram for the Women in STEM, Reimagined masterclass.

Sarah has spent her career in human resources and talent development in Fortune 500 companies and smaller high-growth technology companies. She has helped thousands of people with programs and processes to feel more fulfilled and excel in their careers. She has worked remotely from twelve countries and, through that experience, developed insights for the challenges faced by remote workers, which she turned into a book, “Remotivation: The Remote Workers Ultimate Guide to Life-Changing Fulfillment.”

Today, she is a guest here at Women in STEM, Reimagined to talk about motivation. 

How can we stay motivated in times of uncertainty?

From 2020 to 2021, we have all had to adjust our normal work routines to adapt to these unprecedented times. Although we likely feel more isolated than ever, Sarah believes that we are all going through it together and facing the same challenges. Therefore, we can all benefit from similar mindset shifts. “There are a few ways we can focus on what we can control versus what we cannot,” shares Sarah. “A lot of people are making decisions they never thought they would have. It’s easy to feel like we don’t know what to do.” Circumstances are constantly changing, which can lead to decision paralysis. To help yourself, focus on what you can control. What Sarah does personally and recommends others do, is pick a topic you’re facing a decision in and make a list. Here’s the catch: every point starts with the phrase, “I know for sure that…” For example, when writing about a possible job offer, write, “I know for sure I can learn a lot from this manager.” It’ll start broad, but then it’ll get more exact. You will realize that you will know what the best next step is. Even if it isn’t the complete answer, this exercise will give you the next step. 

This is a great way to calm yourself down and let the writing on the page do the talking. “It’s quite empowering,” says Sarah. “Because you see that you do have options. In five minutes, you’ll have a mindset shift, and it’s quite powerful.”

What do you advise for when everything seems like a drag?

We have to do things we aren’t enthusiastic about, to say the least. Sarah suggests another exercise for situations when you’re struggling to build the motivation to do something that you just don’t want to do. She calls it Renegotiating Agreements. “Every relationship has an agreement,” states Sarah. In both professional and personal relationships, you have formed an agreement. A lot of these agreements are unspoken and based upon assumptions of what the other wants. 

When the work from home started at the beginning of the pandemic, it happened quickly, not leaving much time for people to prepare. People had to set up quickly. You got into routines that you weren’t given time to put much thought into optimizing. Since then, you likely haven’t had a chance to take a step back and look at the thoughtless routines like how you are running meetings, completing daily tasks, and more. But you can take a step back and look at your agreements. Ask yourself: “Is this how I want to be working?” “Is there anyone I need to talk to about my process?” Ask those people and discuss it and see if you can adjust the unspoken assumptions for everyone’s benefit. Sarah shares her experience: “You’d be surprised; they may say, ‘I’m so glad you brought that up.’” Your coworkers and spouse are not the only people you can renegotiate with. You can also renegotiate with yourself and regain a sense of control, and know you choose what you do. 

What are the key elements that make up for an unmotivated week?

Whether working from home or not, the same six main drivers of motivation apply, says Sarah. 

They are as follows: 

  1. Money: Your job is financially rewarding, allowing you to maintain or uplevel your quality of life. 
  2. Identity: Your job represents who you are or the person you want to be.
  3. Routine: You have the security and comfort of going through the motions.
  4. Opportunity for growth: Your job contributes to where you want to go
  5. Impact: You know you provide something important to others.
  6. Joy: What you do is engaging and gets you excited. 

Sarah found through her work in focus groups and surveying workers that the most fulfilled people first minimize the obstacles to money, identity, and routine and then optimize the opportunity for impact and growth. From that point, joy flourishes. 

What’s the best way to make a bigger impact?

“The truth is we don’t need to change the type of work we are doing to make a bigger impact,” states Sarah. Sometimes we just need more context to understand what you are doing and the impact it makes. For example, you spend a month working on a presentation and when it’s ready, pass it to your manager, who then passes it to the CEO, and you never hear back. 

But you can take an active role in learning the impact of your work. Sarah suggests asking your manager what the impact was of the presentation. Ask what the feedback was. Did your manager take a survey after the presentation? Seeing the results of that survey can help you feel more connected to your work’s impact. 

Missed Women in STEM, Reimagined? 

Sarah Aviram. Sarah Aviram has spent her career in Human Resources and Talent Development leadership roles within Fortune 500 companies as well as in smaller, high-growth technology companies. She has created programs and processes that have helped thousands of people (including herself) to feel more fulfilled in their careers and perform at their best.

Sarah has worked remotely from 12 different countries, and her experiences have provided her with insights into challenges and opportunities for professional fulfillment faced by remote workers.

She is the author of the book, “Remotivation: The Remote Worker’s Ultimate Guide to Life-Changing Fulfillment”.

Dr. Nicole Tschierske is a positive psychology coach who helps women in STEM get noticed in their company so they attract their next opportunity with total ease.

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