Self Improvement for Dummies
November 4, 2006 10:51 AM   Subscribe

How can I improve my work ethic?

I work in a creative field, and lately I've run into a rut. The first "honeymoon" phase of a project is great. I feel inspired, the drive to work hard comes naturally. As the project goes on, however, I find it very difficult to remain inspired and stick to my guns through the grunt labor. I know this is an important part of the process, and I don't feel above it in any way. Once this phase kicks in, I get very easily distracted, motivation wanes, and I lose any sort of passion for the project.

I respect and admire the sort of work drive that pushes projects to become "spectacular", and I feel that until I achieve that, I'll never create anything more than mediocre. I've never been a lazy person, I always work to get where I want to be, but I can't seem to genuinely motivate myself long-term when it gets down to the nitty-gritty. If anyone has had similar problems, I'd love to hear how you coped with them, and what motivated you to get past the whining.
posted by still to Work & Money (8 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Some people swear by GTD. It seems to be popular in techie circles right now.

Pulling the network cable out of the PC works for me.
posted by Leon at 10:59 AM on November 4, 2006

Take a look at this post and download the document there. Excellent advice, if followed.
posted by LeisureGuy at 11:16 AM on November 4, 2006

Google's solution is that 20% of your time is spent on side projects completely unrelated to your main job. That way you aren't trapped in extended phases of doledrum. Give yourself a small separate project, and alocate an hour a day to it, if you can.
posted by furtive at 11:49 AM on November 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Make yourself some checklists.

I have major problems with motivation myself, but I find that it's mostly because I get totally paralyzed by the Big Picture. So here's what I do: Start out by just writing down the end goal at the top of a piece of paper. And then just make a list undeneath that of all the major steps you need to do to get there. So far, so predictable.

But then, break each of those steps down into smaller and smaller increments, and make yourself a new checklist every single day. I usually make a list on a Post-In note of three or four things for the morning, and then three or four things for the afternoon. And these checklists are really simple things -- call this person, email that person, I will finish making three slides for tomorrow's presentation before I can go to lunch, that kind of thing. For me, when I break everything down into really concrete tasks that I can check off a list, things I would otherwise procrastinate doing finally get done. It is absolutely pathetic how motivated I am just by checking such simple things off the list, but there you go. Works wonders for me.
posted by limicoline at 12:03 PM on November 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

I am surprised nobody has mentioned the possibility that yours might just not be the right kind of job. personally, I find myself more motivated when I am being pushed. an impossible deadline, a challenge, potential for a huge outcome ... the more important my role and the more responsibility I have, the more I work. if on a project I feel like just another cog, I on the other hand tend to slack off and occupy my mind otherwise. I can handle those on autopilot.

are you being challenged? are you being rewarded for good performance? when is the last time brass has come around and really told you how much your work has meant for the company, how much they have noticed your input?

if you don't get the feedback and motivation you need, you have the wrong job.
posted by krautland at 12:24 PM on November 4, 2006

Best answer: Did you see this related question?

I think most motivation issues fall into one of two categories: either you're not interested enough in the reward, or you're not confident that what you're doing has a good chance of delivering that reward. These are not mutually exclusive, of course, and even reinforce each other - when you're not that interested in the potential fruits of success, your performance is worse and that makes you lose confidence.

My suggestions are 1) Make sure you set your sights high enough, and 2) Spend time visualizing success in as much detail as you can. Think about how it's going to feel.
posted by teleskiving at 2:53 PM on November 4, 2006

You sound like a "big picture" person rather than a detail-oriented type of worker. Some people can easily visualize the big picture and the final project - the concept mind - but falter on the follow-through. Others may take their time warming up to the project, methodically work the details step-by-step and finish strong. If someone has both, they should consider themselves lucky. Not that this helps in the immediate sense, but recognizing your work style is the place to start when searching for solutions to problems like yours.

posted by Gerard Sorme at 6:17 PM on November 4, 2006

I too have this kind of problem. For me personally I have to try to keep the ultimate goal in mind somehow. I try to remind myself of what I'm aiming for, and as hard as things might get, I try to remain focused on that goal. Recently I've been pretty depressed with my school work and I've had doubts about what my degree will actually mean, but, when I see myself as an engineer actually making a difference to people, I manage to continue.
posted by Aanidaani at 10:28 PM on November 4, 2006

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