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Why can't I stay motivated at work? Help me.

Old 02-19-21, 01:30 PM
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FastJake
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Why can't I stay motivated at work? Help me.

I've noticed this since my first professional job but it's slowly gotten worse and I worry it's reaching a breaking point. I'm an engineer, 33 years old. I do an absolute bare minimum of work not to get in trouble, like Peter Gibbons in Office Space. I mostly waste time browsing the internet. But even when I close everything down, sometimes I just sit and stare at my desk because I don't want to do my work. Then sometimes near the end of the day I have this burst of motivation (typically fueled by guilt) and I get stuff done, sometimes staying late even though I could've left early if I'd just done it hours ago.

And here's the kicker: I like my job, I love my co-workers and my employer and my boss. Literally everything except my motivation for doing my own work. Even the work is interesting. Ok, sometimes it's boring paperwork but that's part of any job. For what it's worth, I've never been fired and always gotten at least average performance reviews. So I'm not totally incompetent. But it feels like it's heading in that direction. At home I generally have the motivation to work on projects, dream up new bike ideas, etc.

To answer the obvious questions: no problems with alcohol, drugs, family/relationship, depression (as far as I know?), etc. I've had a totally normal life. Which is what makes this so pathetic. I have no excuses, no one to blame but myself. I hate it.

What is wrong with me, and how do I fix it?
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Old 02-19-21, 01:49 PM
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I would suggest engaging a psychologist. Foo is pretty good with flip answers for silly problems, sounds like you need something more.
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Old 02-19-21, 01:49 PM
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I hear you. Many people feel just like you do. There are lots of people out of work right now so I encourage you to keep at it. A lot of people practice "gratefulness" - it seems to help them. Very few people have jobs that feels meaningful enough to be personally motivating.

It's very easy to become complacent when everything seems to be going well. Your post is a good start. Find people you can trust to keep your feelings private and share your thoughts with them. Come up with some goals and projects to keep yourself motivated. Look for ways to help out your coworkers when you can. Don't burn any bridges unless you already have another job lined up.

My personal faith in God helps keep me sane, but I certainly won't use a forum to expose my personal beliefs.
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Old 02-19-21, 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by mtnbud View Post
It's very easy to become complacent when everything seems to be going well. Your post is a good start. Find people you can trust to keep your feelings private and share your thoughts with them. Come up with some goals and projects to keep yourself motivated. Look for ways to help out your coworkers when you can. Don't burn any bridges unless you already have another job lined up.
Thanks. "Private" is why I posted here rather than posting on my personal Facebook page or coming clean to my boss (which I've considered, and seems like a terrible idea.) I certainly don't expect everyone here to have easy answers, but I thought it was a good first step.

I definitely don't want to burn any bridges. I love it here and want to make it work.
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Old 02-19-21, 02:33 PM
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Drew Carey addressed this once in his show. He said something like: "Oh, yeah, there's a support group for that. It's called everyone and we meet at the bar."

I don't think you can get too far with this group. My advice fwiw, is to think about a way out, into something that you find is a worthwhile use of the short time you have on the planet. But, take care of yourself financially, too. You may have to wait it out for a few years and take some classes on the internet at night to get certified to do something you find meaningful.
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Old 02-19-21, 02:36 PM
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First and foremost... It is called "work" for a reason... if you were super motivated to do it, they probably wouldn't have to pay you.
Second, don't smoke dope. It is a motivation killer... (don't know if you smoke or not... just putting that out there).
Third, divide the work up... don't take on the biggest tasks all at once...Taking small steps and finishing those gives a sense of accomplishment. Reward yourself for a task completed.
Forth, stay off the internet, it can be a frivolous time waster...

Just a few ideas... good luck.
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Old 02-19-21, 02:51 PM
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This is way more common than you probably realize.

I'm typing this from work, where I've done very little of my current tasks (nothing urgently time sensitive), but have spent a lot of time browsing BF, social media, and other sites related to my current hobbies. I know myself well enough to know that I ALWAYS get my work done on time. I also know that I am very productive when it's time to get stuff done.

"I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find the easy way to do it." - Bill Gates
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Old 02-19-21, 04:03 PM
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Winter blues... Was out of the gym this week because I’m not working out in a garage that is 15 degrees. Organized the gym, looked at the weights and no motivation which always leads to a bad workout with poor form. Now I feel like I’m not committed to weight training and cycling. After a rare cold snap everyone around here is just dragging on. I know it will pass motivation will return. Saying I just don’t give a #*#*#*# is great medicine. Like genec says marijuana is a motivation killer that is why I don’t smoke it because you just stay idle start eating potato chips and get fat. The rare snow melted the sun is out but the motivation isn’t back yet. Going to get some softener salt and a 6 pack of Blue Moon, grill me a steak and turn up some Ozzys Boneyard and get ready to return to normal. Which for most is constant state of insanity . Foo is the perfect place to hang out and vent because nothing is too serious and everyone shares crazy stories about anything and everything.
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Old 02-19-21, 04:04 PM
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Have a talk with your boss. Tell him you just don't feel like working and see what he suggests.
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Old 02-19-21, 04:19 PM
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I work for myself and sometimes I lack motivation... at least there's generally no one around to catch me noodling on the internet. That's because my fill in work is building, eventually that gets a bit repetitive.
As for motivation, can you use your skills to do something interesting with your life? I've pretty well figured out we ain't around that long so we may as well make life interesting and take the opportunities that arise. So far I've worked in the desert of Australia, the jungle of Papua New Guniea and my lastest schtick, working in Antarctica over summers. No degree, no trade, just the school of life. All by just jumping at the chances that arose.
I'll probably be a bit poor in retirement, and nobody will believe the stories I tell, except I have pictures... I just haven't figured out where I want my ashes scattered, they were all interesting places in their own way, and I reckon I've got a few good decades in me yet.
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Old 02-19-21, 05:11 PM
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It could be worse...
Arizona man accused of faking own kidnapping to evade work
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Old 02-19-21, 09:37 PM
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I know exactly how you feel. Motivation can sometimes be a tough one. I wish I had an answer for you.
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Old 02-19-21, 10:15 PM
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Fortunately I never liked dope and don't smoke anything. But I've seen what it can do to people. And I'm starting to feel just as lazy as those people! Alcohol is my vice, but I gave it up for a while as an experiment and my work didn't change. I'm not showing up hungover, etc.

We have very few deadlines and almost no oversight so it's easy for me to "just do it later." But my bosses aren't stupid, and people that do nothing eventually get canned. I may have been a bit better at my last job due to the sheer volume of constant meetings, updates, and general babysitting. But it took so much time to do all that stuff I'm still probably getting as much done at this job.
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Old 02-19-21, 10:43 PM
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If you are an engineer there's a lot of things that should help you hold yourself to a high standard.

One way of doing it is by considering your customers. Not always the people who are buying the product. Think how many people you reach - not just the buyers or the people who touch it but the end users. My dad worked on autopilots in the 2nd half of the 20th century and everyone who ever flew on a 727, 737, 747, 757, 767, DC-9/MD-80, DC-10/MD-11 benefitted directly from his job. Everything he did all day, for millions of people. I can't come close most of the time, but I have some good days.

Learn something that helps you feel clever, superior to the guy in the cube next to you. Geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (ASME Y14.5) is one that I don't get to use very often but it makes me feel clever and really made me sit back and think about how things work and fit together in a way that I hadn't before. Try thinking about all the things your chief engineer thinks about. If you don't like him for some reason - some of them are just promoted project engineers - find one you do admire, someone who knows your entire product and all the processes to make it nose to tail and cradle to grave. Get at least a project engineer's understanding of the processes parallel to yours and prior and following. Better yet see if you can do them. It's very good to spot when they're being done wrong.

Just pick up a thing and think about it. Is it good? Nearly everything you touch every day is engineered and some of it is crap and some of it is excellent; think why. But it all got sold; think why. In my field of view there's this PC, a table and chairs, an Apple watch, a kitchen island, a vase, a potato jar, an Altoids tin, the house itself, on and on. By far the best thing is the Apple watch. The worst is the island, which is falling apart after thirty years of having its drawers overloaded. Its construction was weak and of low quality; I've looked and that's my opinion. How did all those things make it to you, what were they when they left the ground and how many processes happened in between and will there be any more? The potatoes aren't done yet, they still need some processing.

Watch some Good Eats; watch some Mythbusters; watch some How It's Made. On Youtube, try Arduino Vs. Evil. If you are wasting time reading about bikes anyhow, go read Peter Verdone's blog. He has a certain attitude but his opinions are backed up by experience and he's showing his work when he tries them out. He's not a constant suckup like Zinn's column and he's not just running other brands down to sell bearings like that ham bone guy who tears up carbon frames.

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Old 02-20-21, 06:59 AM
  #15  
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Originally Posted by FastJake View Post
Fortunately I never liked dope and don't smoke anything. But I've seen what it can do to people. And I'm starting to feel just as lazy as those people! Alcohol is my vice, but I gave it up for a while as an experiment and my work didn't change. I'm not showing up hungover, etc.

We have very few deadlines and almost no oversight so it's easy for me to "just do it later." But my bosses aren't stupid, and people that do nothing eventually get canned. I may have been a bit better at my last job due to the sheer volume of constant meetings, updates, and general babysitting. But it took so much time to do all that stuff I'm still probably getting as much done at this job.
Rather than "do it later," set a goal to finish something daily, or at least once a week... (depending on the size of task). Seriously, set your own deadlines. Then reward yourself when you finish.
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Old 02-20-21, 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by FastJake View Post
I've noticed this since my first professional job but it's slowly gotten worse and I worry it's reaching a breaking point. I'm an engineer, 33 years old. I do an absolute bare minimum of work not to get in trouble, like Peter Gibbons in Office Space. I mostly waste time browsing the internet. But even when I close everything down, sometimes I just sit and stare at my desk because I don't want to do my work. Then sometimes near the end of the day I have this burst of motivation (typically fueled by guilt) and I get stuff done, sometimes staying late even though I could've left early if I'd just done it hours ago.

If you were motivated enough to get an engineering degree, you certainly have conquered this issue at times.

-Engineering often requires you to bust your hump completing several projects on time, only to inherit another stack of monotonous projects with even tighter deadlines. As seen on the old Nike t-shirts, "There is no Finish Line".

-As suggested above, set up your own small reward system. Allow yourself 5 minutes of internet surfing for every 55 minutes of work, or something similar to that.



I am a Licensed Surveyor and work with civil engineers almost daily.
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Old 02-20-21, 12:37 PM
  #17  
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I'm no Psychologist, but you are emotionally and maybe physically exhausted. Your personal life might seem OK to you but maybe you are too busy at home? You might be caught in the "busy trap". I've gone though this myself a couple times and it's been different causes each time.
To me you might be caught in the what I call the "busy trap". You didn't have enough work to do so you try to look "busy" to escape the anxiety of disappointing your Boss/Co Workers. And you started sneaking little internet breaks here and there to fill up the time. Well not being busy and trying to look busy actually takes more effort then being busy. Which makes you mentally tired. To cope you are looking at the internet which is giving you information overload which again makes you more mentally tired. 3 ish is when many people either get really tired or their second wind. Sounds like you get your second wind and start wanting to focus and work.

Things to help are getting better/more sleep and looking at changing some lifestyle habits. For myself I started leaving the cell phone in the car during the morning, and stopped watching movies late at night.
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Old 02-20-21, 12:53 PM
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Do not mention it to your supervisor or his supervisor, that's an almost sure-fire way to get fired, or laid off in the next company downsizing. Look and see if your company has a counseling program (usually titled something like 'Employee Assitance Program') and use that. Its usually a contract counseling service, the employer does not know who uses/used it, so you get some free advice.

I liked my job, but the management recently changed to a lot of hard-driving taskmasters who practice top-down/no feedback management and its made the workplace really tough to tolerate. Lots of folks are leaving. Lucky for me I work out in the field with customers a lot, so minimal (as it can get) contact with management. I'm closing in on 65y.o. so I just need to keep a low profile, keep getting good customer feedback, and I'll be gone as 65 with a decent (not great) pension.

Nope, don't do this:

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Old 02-20-21, 01:38 PM
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I actually did something like that... to "the Bobs." Not exactly the full "Peter," mind you.

I was a good week or more away from finishing a project... and a director called me into a meeting office... first it was odd, as it wasn't his office, but a "neutral" interview office... within moments HR stepped in... I knew what it was, as cut backs had been happening... but I expected to be left alone, as I was still working on the latest "save the company" project.

I was wrong. I was gently let go. They offered counseling and placement services etc and a nice severance package. I smiled, wished THEM the best of luck and thanked them. I was escorted out.

Within a week I was called up by a temp agency... They NEEDED to hire ME to go to work for that employer I was just let go from... They insisted it had to be me... so I negotiated a very good rate.

Within days I was walking into the front door of the company that had just laid me off... and I ran into the director that had done the deed to me... he was dressed quite casually... and he inquired: "So here to pick up that last check..?" "No." I announced, "I am here to work" "And you?" I asked, noting the attire. "Uh, I was laid off too..." he said. I just grinned and went on into work... at a much higher rate than they were paying me just over a week before.

I finished the project, sent the data out, and finished the contract. Later, I saw the product for sale at Verizon, By that time, I had picked up a new job with someone else. One door closes, another one opens.
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Old 02-20-21, 02:03 PM
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Iíve been in similar situations but always came out better. Once I just quit, it was wonderful. Whatever was holding me back was just gone. I felt free. Secondly, I got fired. My boss was not bad, he was just someone I didnít respect much. He was a great paper pusher so his boss loved him, so I let him know in different ways what the situation was. Soon enough I was out the door and feeling free. I donít recommend doing this often but consider this, thereís no slavery. They need you as much as you need them. I spent a weekend hiking in our woods before I got my head straight and Iím glad I did. And best of all now Iím retired! Good luck to you.
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Old 02-20-21, 05:27 PM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by Joe Bikerider View Post
I’ve been in similar situations but always came out better. Once I just quit, it was wonderful. Whatever was holding me back was just gone. I felt free. Secondly, I got fired. My boss was not bad, he was just someone I didn’t respect much. He was a great paper pusher so his boss loved him, so I let him know in different ways what the situation was. Soon enough I was out the door and feeling free. I don’t recommend doing this often but consider this, there’s no slavery. They need you as much as you need them. I spent a weekend hiking in our woods before I got my head straight and I’m glad I did. And best of all now I’m retired! Good luck to you.
Amazing feeling, eh? I have never just quit... I have always had something else lined up... and often set things up so I got some good time off to reflect as I changed jobs... I have done long bike tours and sailing trips that way... the next employer seemed to understand that I wasn't just giving 2 weeks notice and coming right to them... And it gave me a clear head to start anew.

I did retire once... I have been laid off 3 times now... all three times were due to the company cutting divisions and staff, and eventually closing their doors... high tech can be brutal that way. And I have worked contract... which is fine if you are willing to come and go on a whim.

But the motivation thing of the OP... well that one is a bit more difficult to work with... every job I have ever had had aspects I did not enjoy, but came with the territory... and one simply has to apply personal discipline to overcome that motivational barrier regarding those tasks. If it is the job itself... time to move on, like you did.

One thing I have done is avoid burning bridges... and have found that one tends to meet up with or be called back by those whom you treated well.
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Old 02-20-21, 10:08 PM
  #22  
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I don’t think here’s enough information here to really make a recommendation, but I feel for you. I suppose it could be classic burnout. Or is it associated with this past year of the pandemic? I’m not sure your work habits, as described, are a lot different than most of the coworkers of mine, and me, on some days.
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Old 02-20-21, 11:06 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by FastJake View Post
I've noticed this since my first professional job but it's slowly gotten worse and I worry it's reaching a breaking point. I'm an engineer, 33 years old. I do an absolute bare minimum of work not to get in trouble, like Peter Gibbons in Office Space. I mostly waste time browsing the internet. But even when I close everything down, sometimes I just sit and stare at my desk because I don't want to do my work. Then sometimes near the end of the day I have this burst of motivation (typically fueled by guilt) and I get stuff done, sometimes staying late even though I could've left early if I'd just done it hours ago.

And here's the kicker: I like my job, I love my co-workers and my employer and my boss. Literally everything except my motivation for doing my own work. Even the work is interesting. Ok, sometimes it's boring paperwork but that's part of any job. For what it's worth, I've never been fired and always gotten at least average performance reviews. So I'm not totally incompetent. But it feels like it's heading in that direction. At home I generally have the motivation to work on projects, dream up new bike ideas, etc.

To answer the obvious questions: no problems with alcohol, drugs, family/relationship, depression (as far as I know?), etc. I've had a totally normal life. Which is what makes this so pathetic. I have no excuses, no one to blame but myself. I hate it.

What is wrong with me, and how do I fix it?
Besides visiting a psychologist, counselor, whatever you're comfortable with to cope with those issues, see a medical doctor for a through checkup including lab work for problems that may not be obvious including metabolic disorders.

Back in the 1990s I went through a similar phase with a job I loved. But I had no energy, couldn't seem to concentrate and finish projects. I saw my doctor, counselors, etc. No help.

Years later, after I'd lost that job, I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder that killed my thyroid. Every symptom was there, but my doctor when I had health insurance didn't bother to do any lab work to identify the real problem.

The neglected thyroid problem eventually developed cancer, which I had surgically removed a couple of years ago. I'm on thyroid supplement meds for life now. Took another year to calibrate the dosage because my new doctors are very thorough but cautious. I also had bone density problems related to the thyroid disorder, and if the supplement isn't quite right it can lead to osteoporosis.

Anyway, two years after that surgery and many visits with my endocrinologist, immunologist, etc., I feel better than I have in 20 years. I dropped 55 lbs, started riding bikes in 2015, and a few months ago added running to my exercise routine. I cannot imagine running 20 years ago when I was going through that undiagnosed auto-immune disorder. I had zero energy to spare and could hardly get out of bed some days.

But it was too late to save a job I really enjoyed.

So get a proper medical exam. Don't assume it's "all in your head." The body and mind are inextricably linked.
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Old 02-20-21, 11:27 PM
  #24  
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If you have the option to do so, consider deliberately scheduling your work time around when you're likely to be productive. Especially now if you're working from home, make a schedule that works for you. I've been taking at least a half day off each week to do a 50 mile ride or so (I'm fortunate to live somewhere I can do that in the winter, though). I've told my boss that I'm doing that for my mental health and he accepts it. I've also been doing a lot of work between 8-10pm when my kids are asleep and my coworkers aren't asking me questions on Slack, when I wouldn't normally be working if I were in the office during the day. If you have time you're wasting on the internet, and you can't find a way to get work done at that time, then see if you can use that time for something else worthwhile instead, and shift the work to the time when you're more able to focus on it.

Last edited by nathand; 02-20-21 at 11:28 PM. Reason: correct punctuation
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Old 02-21-21, 07:41 AM
  #25  
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For me motivation comes and goes. Watching others it seems like it's everybody. When we're busy it's not a problem. It's right after that busy period.. I think some idling is necessary. Otherwise people overstress and don't perform as well.

I try to think up projects. Both grandiose and small ones. Then chip away at them from time to time. Both when busy and idle. Some of my projects are just daydreams, never completed.. But the pieces completed help with other parts of work in the long run.

No real advice from me. Others above have given good advice.
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