5 Ways to Motivate Yourself (Through Winter)

Cold weather and COVID are making it harder to stay motivated. Our experts suggest ways to get back into a good working groove.

Shakespeare had it wrong—2021 might be the winter of our discontent.

It’s cold and, in much of the country, snowy. The days are short. The economy may be slowing down again, and our politics are divided. The virus is everywhere, and the vaccine remains in short supply. “The monotony is causing workers to feel in a rut,” says Mark Royal, a senior director for Korn Ferry Advisory.

But, to borrow from another famous author, Terry McMillian, there are ways to get your groove back. 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 so much going wrong, it’s easy to lose sight of what is going right. Joshua Daniel, a Korn Ferry Advance career coach, says 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,” says Daniel.

Create your own incentives.

Let’s face it, not everything about work is intrinsically motivating. That’s why celebrating wins has never been more critical. Royal suggests creating your own personal reward system. “Review what you need to get done and break tasks that have you stuck into smaller components, then assign rewards for completion,” he says. Give small rewards for small tasks and larger rewards for larger tasks, thereby creating a scaling system that aligns the importance of a task with something of equal significance that you enjoy.

Find your values.

Values drive motivation, says Val Olson, a Korn Ferry Advance career coach. “If we understand what our values are, we can use them as a guide to determine priorities,” she says. Olson advises thinking about positive and negative experiences and what values were present or blocked that led to those feelings. Perhaps creativity is something that was valued in a task, for instance, while critical thinking was absent from another assignment that made it a slog to get through. “It’s the alignment of our actions to our values that bring us motivation and productivity,” Olson says.

Follow the buddy system.

Remember 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 the usual schedule. The same principle applies here: find a colleague you can buddy up with for some mutual reinforcement. Virtually sharing a cup of coffee on Monday mornings to compare notes and give each other motivation and encouragement on how to tackle 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. But, says Daniel, that kind of near-term focus amid the current environment can be draining. Rather, he suggests allocating time specifically toward future planning. Is there a vacation you want to save for once it is safer to travel? Are you aiming for a specific position that you can start mapping out a plan for? “Thinking proactively about the big picture helps break the cycle of only looking at the immediate future,” says Daniel. Or, put another way, this too shall pass—and you want to be prepared for what comes next.