I am losing motivation as a manager. I feel like the workload on me personally is quite heavy and I don't know where to go with it. The team is trying their best to support me but I've just got too much on my plate at the moment. I'd love to hear any guidance you can give.
Motivation relies on us being able to see a route to success so when you feel that there is simply too much to do we can begin to feel overwhelmed and that trying to keep going is pointless.
The more we lose motivation, the more overwhelming everything seems, and the lower motivation sinks.
In order to get out of the cycle you have first to recognise that you are the only one who can deal with it. Don’t wait to be be “rescued” even if it feels impossible to put one foot in front of the other.
Recognise that once you find a solution you will free your reserves of energy and your motivation will start to return.
It will probably help if you can talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Ideally your boss or someone who might be able to offer some practical help but failing that consider talking to a therapist because just offloading your feelings of emotional exhaustion might help you to feel more balanced and provide a new perspective.
Even if your team are doing their best to support you maybe there are things you can delegate. Have a conversation with them and ask about their current capacity. You may be surprised.
Now think about your own workload and be brutal with your prioritisation.
Identify the things that are both urgent and important and start there. If there is anything you can delegate, do so, but begin with those tasks.
The other thing you need to do will sound counterintuitive but you need to take a bit of time away from thinking about work.
Work some shorter days, invest some time in the people and interests that you enjoy, and generally do things that give you a sense of happiness.
When we feel demotivated we have nothing left in the tank to give and so the most effective strategy is to find some way of recharging. Taking time out from work is the best way of doing this.
Finally, try and give yourself some thinking time because being able to formulate a plan in your head can help to get you moving. Go for a walk at lunchtime and just give yourself some time and space.
Don’t try and force motivation, do the things I am suggesting here and I think you will find that it gradually starts to return.
Our energy and motivation is such an important part of how we show up in the world so I totally understand why you’ve asked this question. The main thing I’m drawn to is that you feel you have too much on your plate. You are but just one (amazing) human; you can only achieve so much in the day. If your workload is too heavy then it seems unlikely you’ll manage it, leaving you feeling demotivated, possibly even burned out over time. We get our energy from a feeling of efficacy; that we are able to achieve tasks. If we have too much going on, we feel overwhelmed and our efficacy is low (possibly zero). Maybe it’s time to review your workload with your seniors.You either need more support to achieve the demands, or the demands need adjusting. The areas that affect our emotional exhaustion include:
-Demand (I can manage what is expected)
-Control (I have agency and know what to do and what I offer)
-Support (I know who is there to help me)
I wonder how these areas feel to you and which ones need increasing or decreasing perhaps? This may be worth exploring with a therapist or an appropriate person at work.
What is in your control is your own energy, so what can you do if you notice it’s depleted or low? One obvious starting point is to look at how you build in breaks at work or transition from one meeting/task to another. An effective break is doing something totally different to the task we were doing before. So an online call to sitting on Instagram wouldn’t be felt as a break, but taking a walk, taking a few deep breaths or sitting outside with a coffee would be. Our minds can only focus for so long before they become exhausted; our cognitive energy needs recharging throughout the day. Sometimes we are socially depleted so sitting in the toilet for 5 minutes (where we don’t have to respond to anyone) can be enough to replenish our social energy. Is your freetime restorative? Does it offer you the activities you enjoy and a chance to reignite yourself or restore any drained energy, E.g. connecting with others, music, creativity, sports, debate, nature, etc?
Also look after your boundaries – do you have set work times and switch on and off from work, or do you work all hours so it affects other parts of your life?
Thinking about your whole self, are you where you want to be in your life? What makes you sparkle in your world? Make sure you have enriching times in your day and week that nourish you. This may be through your work and sense of purpose, or this may be through our hobbies or social connections.
You may be languishing and bored. Routine and familiarity can create safety but also kills motivation through fatigue. Introduce tiny tweaks of spontaneity and play – e.g. eat breakfast in a different room or walk a different way to work, do fund things in the office now and again. None of these need to be major events. Perhaps a session with a therapist to explore this further may be helpful? Or a good chat with a mate/partner?
You have brilliantly noticed that things cannot continue as they are, however you also have the power to do something about it.
You are struggling with your workload even though your team is helping you. You would like advice on what to do as you are losing motivation.
The following are suggestions that should help you:
What are the signs that your workload is too heavy? Think of the examples that let you know this is a problem. The examples are important as they may alert you to where changes are needed to improve things.
How is this heavy workload impacting you? You talk about low motivation. Are there other impacts? What will happen if nothing changes in the short and long term?
Check-in with yourself about your working style. Do you regularly order your priorities and work in accordance with what you know about the priorities? Are you organised? Are you an effective communicator? Try to assess yourself realistically in terms of your current strengths and weaknesses. This may be hard without help. Speak to us at Spill if you need support or seek feedback from your team who may be able to help you see gaps.
When people are busy, they often forget to take breaks and just forge ahead. What happens is that without breaks work starts to take longer. What could have taken us 1 hour if we had a break becomes 2.5 hours of work because we have lost capacity to focus without one. Aim to have a 10-minute break each hour and have your lunch break to see if this makes any difference to your productivity. Avoid overworking too where possible.
When people are busy, they also tend to multi-task and become reactive. Again, this lowers productivity and can lead to feeling frazzled and losing motivation. Aim to focus on one task at a time. Turn off email and/or Slack if they are too distracting.
Eliminate any other distractions in your work environment where possible or have days when you can work from home if this helps.
Set boundaries. I often hear people complain they have too much to do but they also never say ‘no’ to additional responsibilities or opportunities to develop. Don’t kid yourself, you can do it all. Everybody has limits and we need to know what they are.
Talk to your own manager about your workload and your struggles giving examples.