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Small Steps to Stay Motivated Through the Pandemic

April 2021

Karen Ensle Ed.D., RD, FADA, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Experts say it isn’t always easy to see, but we each have a reservoir of motivation that we can tap. And that may increase your value to your firm (or job hunt) during the coming critical months. Some tips big and small include:

Keep a gratitude journal. With our hectic lifestyles it’s easy to lose sight of what is going right. The ritual of writing down a line or a paragraph about something you appreciate or are thankful for can be extremely uplifting. It could be something as simple as being grateful for warm soup on a snowy day, for instance. “Gratitude journals are a great way to retrain your brain to refocus on positive outcomes versus obsessing over negative outcomes that are often out of our control.”

Create your own incentives. Let’s face it, not everything about work, at school or at home is intrinsically motivating. That’s why celebrating wins has never been more critical. Creating your own personal reward system and reviewing  what you need to get done you need to break tasks into smaller components, then assign rewards for completion for yourself and others. Give small rewards for small tasks and larger rewards for larger tasks, creating a scaling system that aligns the importance of a task with something of equal significance that you or others may enjoy.

Find your values. Values drive motivation and our values can act as a guide to determine our priorities. We need to think about positive and negative experiences and what values were present or blocked that led to those feelings. Creativity is something that might have been valued in a task, for instance, while critical thinking might have been absent from another important task and you finally got it accomplished. Alignment of our actions to our values bring us motivation and help us to be productive.

Follow the buddy system. Remember those school class trips when classmates were paired together as buddies? The idea was to make sure everyone had a partner to rely on during a day that didn’t follow a regular schedule. The same principle applies here: find a colleague, a spouse, family member or good friend you can buddy up with for some mutual reinforcement. Virtually sharing a cup of coffee to compare notes and give each other motivation and encouragement on  tackling  the week’s work, for instance, can help in creating needed bursts of inspiration.

Think big picture. More than ever, people are focused on the here and now. They are thinking about getting through the day or the week instead of about the summer or next year or three years from now. Looking at short term goals only is draining. Rather, allocate time specifically for future planning. Is there a vacation you want to save for once it is safer to travel? Are you aiming for a specific work position that you can start mapping out a plan for?  Thinking proactively about the big picture helps break th at short-term cycle of only looking at the immediate future. Remember, take small steps to plan for your future as this too shall pass—and you will be prepared for what comes next.