Even at the best of times, it would be rare for anyone to describe job search as “inspiring” or “fun”, all the more so now, during the rough times we are currently facing. Presently, job seekers are confined to their often busy noisy homes, facing competing demands for their time and attention from children, room mates, and pets. This makes it more challenging than ever to find a quiet focused block of time to browse through the internet for jobs, network on LinkedIn, or to take an online course.
But finding time is really just part of the challenge – harder still is finding the motivation, focus and self discipline to prioritize it and get it done. And the resulting guilt and sense of failure only makes it even harder.
Why is Motivation Sometimes so Hard to Maintain?
Being motivated is often more easily said than done – you know that you need to get something done, but it’s just not happening. Somehow, you just can’t dig up that willpower to even get going on — what should be — a simple task. Many of us have this idea that we are the only ones struggling to find motivation to do seemingly easy tasks, but the truth is that everyone faces motivational challenges every now and then. We just don’t talk about our struggles, because we think that it’s a sign of weakness or that we are the only ones dealing with this issue.
We know that motivation is much easier found when we enjoy a task (for example, having a meal), or when we are doing something for someone else (such as attending to a needy child). Doing something that’s not enjoyable, not expected by others, or not immediately rewarding is where motivation can become difficult.
When the goal seems difficult to achieve, it’s even harder to muster up motivation to get it done – think of the struggles so many people face with fitness or weight loss, for example.
For job seekers — especially right now — finding work can feel unattainable. Maybe you have been looking for postings and found nothing you could apply for, or maybe you’ve sent out multiple job applications and no one has responded. Also, constant news about layoffs and increasing unemployment make finding a job sound nearly impossible. So, for many job searchers, as they make their way through each day, it’s challenging to find the time and motivation to look for work — and many find themselves, instead, taking of others’ needs or just sleeping in, mindlessly watching TV or just generally feeling ineffective.
Feeling like you are just not getting things done can lead to a sense of failure, regret and self loathing, which can, in and of itself, feel paralyzing. Soon, it can feel like a rut that you are stuck in, watching days go by and feeling like time is being wasted.
So What Do We Know About Motivation?
What motivates us? Human motivational drivers are as diverse as we are from each other. We are driven by the obvious forces such as finances, of course; but we are also driven to feel competent, be creative, have a sense of purpose and very importantly, feel connected to others. Right now, with our choices being so limited by the pandemic, it’s harder than ever to meet all these needs, which makes finding motivation even harder.
One interesting scientific finding is that motivation is a limited resource. We all start our day with a certain amount of willpower which eventually gets depleted as we face each of our daily challenges. A stressful multitasking day, spent attending to the needs of others, doesn’t leave you with a lot of reserves to do what is needed for yourself.
We also know that motivational challenges are also different for different people – for some, the challenge is getting through a long to do list, and for others, simply getting out of bed and facing the day can be hard.
Finding the Willpower to Get Things Done
Self help experts might tell you that “it’s all in your head” – that it’s all about attitude. They might tell you that you need to decide to act and overcome your resistance. The problem is that even though you might have the best of intentions and a carefully laid out plan, it can sometimes feel near impossible to find the willpower to get it done.
Turns out that motivation isn’t simply a switch you flip on. Getting motivated is part psychological and emotional, but it is also, in large part, physiological – but it is also impacted by your physical ability to focus and persevere. If your health is compromised because of factors such as stress, isolation, poor sleep, lack of activity or poor nutrition, getting things done is much harder.
Sleep is an important and often neglected factor.
Many doctors are reporting that an increasing number of their patients are experiencing sleep issues. I certainly have struggled with that myself, and have heard from my job seeking clients about getting to bed way after midnight and sleeping in until the afternoon. The fact is that poor sleep has massive impacts on our overall health, impacting on our ability to manage stress, focus, and yes – stay motivated — especially when it comes to uninspiring tasks such as job search.
One interesting simple tip: try to get to bed before midnight. Turns out that, according to the experts, the couple of hours before midnight is “a powerful phase of sleep because it is the period in which the body is replenished”, physically, mentally and emotionally. Make sure your room is dark, quiet and not too warm.
If you are waking up exhausted, finding energy to get things done during the day is going to be very difficult.
Keeping a routine.
Many job seekers are telling me that despite being at home for almost a year now, they are still struggling with establishing a routine. We usually draw our motivation from on extrinsic factors, such as a boss expecting you at work, or a child needing to be dropped off at school at a certain time, which forces us to get up and get moving at a certain time of day. When these extrinsic factors are lost, and routine is unpredictable (caused by changing school schedules for children, health issues etc), it becomes harder to get those things done reliably.
Build job search into your calendar, rather than just hoping you’ll find the time. Maybe daily is too much – perhaps you can give yourself one hour a day, every second day of the week, to get online and start applying for jobs. Taking small steps might feel less overwhelming than taking an all or nothing approach to getting things done.
Treat yourself the way you treat others: show some care and compassion.
Your mental health matters as much as your physical health. Give yourself permission to do things you enjoy without guilt or self-recrimination.
Everyone has different needs. Some people might need quiet time on their own to replenish. If that’s true for you, give yourself a block of time to watch your favourite television show, play with your pet, read a book, go for a walk, or do something creative. If you miss social connections, make a point of calling a friend or family member on a regular schedule, and have a coffee together over a video call.
Build self care into your schedule. Give yourself permission so that you can enjoy engaging in self care, rather than doing it with a feeling of guilt.
There are many supports available in your community to help. Social media is full of “caremongering” groups of wonderful people who are offering time, resources and all sorts of supports for community members. Sites such as MeetUp.com offer multiple local free opportunities to connect with like minded people.
Job search is much more effective and enjoyable if you can tap into supports and resources such as those offered by JVS Toronto. Having an Employment Counsellor who can help you up your job search game with a cutting edge resume, an impressive LinkedIn profile and access to jobs could make all the difference. Simply feeling accountable to someone else for the getting those things done might get your motivational juices flowing. Reach out to us at 416-787-1151, or read up on our employment supports here.
Motivation rarely comes easily in difficult times. Try to be forgiving of yourself for not meeting the goals you might have set yourself initially, and take small steps to get going again. This pandemic and the changes it has made to our lives has thrown everyone off their game – people might not like to admit it, but most of us are not “using our time” the way we thought we should. That can change, with just a few careful steps in the right direction.