Finding my motivation at work (read: home) amidst the pandemic
If you’re here, then most likely we are on the same boat.
You wake up, bathe, eat your breakfast, start your work, end your work, repeat. Work has started to become a routine. Everyday is the same. You communicate with your colleagues only when you need to inform them of something, or during meetings. Other than that, it’s just you, and your routine work.
Like many other routines in your life, sometimes you just don’t, or choose not to, perform your best. Let me give you an example. You love jogging. Most of the time you try to jog for 10km. Some other days, you jog for 5km because you’re tired or due to some other commitments. While some days, you don’t feel like jogging at all. Your work life has integrated itself in your life so much that, sometimes you feel like you’re allowed not to do your best.
Before every company in Singapore was asked to start their work-from-home arrangements, I would say 90% of the time I looked forward to come to the office. I enjoy working on my current project and as a people person, I like being around my colleagues. Things were not so bad at the beginning. I mean, it’s a privilege to be able to work at the comfort of your home right?
So my lack of motivation basically looked like the below:
- Wake up, do work, done.
- Attend meetings, contribute what’s needed, done.
- Code and deliver my work, done.
- Raise a pull request, merge, done.
- Show the stories to the stakeholders, done.
No fire, no excitement. Work for me was literally sitting in front of the computer doing the above repetitively. As long as there’s no complaint from my team about my performance, work was business as usual. Another contributing factor to my lack of motivation was, believe it or not, due to what’s happening around the world. Then on news, you see the number of COVID-19 community cases fluctuating, people around the globe facing great challenges battling the pandemic, we see people being displaced from their homes, racism and targeted hate occurring everywhere, etc.
On the other side of the coin, I was feeling increasingly worried at my work attitude. Surprising. At first, I tried to brush it off, thinking that I was already performing good enough. But deep down, it was exhausting because I was not happy with that mindset myself.
Finally, I decided to share my struggles with my Manager. I asked for his time and we scheduled a day. I was prepared to be met with criticism. Nonetheless, I chose to come to him with an open mind as I needed help and I genuinely wanted to do better. On top of that, I figured getting negative feedbacks from him would allow me to focus on the areas I’m lacking in and make improvements on myself. The conversation went on for a good 1.5 hours. At the end of the talk, I felt enlightened and I was relieved that what I was struggling with was not being reprimanded. Thank you G!
One of the main takeaways from our conversation was that, he told me to find something that gives me joy. Something that makes me excited, something that makes me want to do better. Honestly, life has been rushing passed us so fast that we forgot to take a step back and think about ourselves and what we love.
When the weekend came, I reflected on our conversation and started listing down all my strengths and weaknesses. I then decided which weaknesses that matter to me so I could focus on being better at them, be it in my work or my personal life. After which, I planned a few practices to incorporate during work days in order to mitigate my motivation struggle. Til date, I am happy to share that they have impacted me positively.
To share with you, they are:
- Brain warmup - Read one article a day: As a way to stimulate my brain and feed it with bite-size knowledge. Topics could be about anything, from current issues to facts. One of the interesting content I read about recently was on Cultural Appropriation vs Cultural Appreciation. This matter has been significant as of late around the globe. Sometimes I enjoy talking about such world-ly social issues with my friends so being equipped with knowledge would make the conversation more fulfilling and value-adding.
- More code refactoring and stricter PR reviews: I realised that, I enjoy creating quality and efficient codes. I cant say I’m good at it but I always strive to make sure my codes are concise and readable. I enjoy refactoring seemingly complex functions too so sometimes, I tend to explore the codebase and refactor code redundancies/efficiencies. Oh and, a geeky side of me is that I enjoy solving complex algorithmic questions (doesn’t mean its efficient lol). Hackerrank has alot of those.
- Participate more in meetings: Being a people person, I enjoy working and collaborating closely with my colleagues. It gives me joy to learn from them and to have that sense of unity that we have a common goal which is to launch the project smoothly. Tho working from home has limited that physical interaction, I believe it’s still possible to get that via being more proactive and participative in meetings. Additionally, it’s fulfilling to exchange ideas, witness how different minds think and help cover corner cases of the system.
- Defining your priorities: The other day, as part of point 1, I chanced upon an article entitled “How to stop making excuses” by Scott Young. One thing that stood out to me was on the importance of knowing your priorities. I mean, Ive always known that but I needed that reminder. Sometimes I find myself being interested in something but did not act upon it. Coupled with excuses, I ended up not doing anything about it. After reading the article, I felt the need to take a step back to analyse my priorities and ask myself, “Are these really my priorities or is it something else?”. These something-elses could be, you see people around you doing it, that you too feel pressured to be part of the bandwagon. Upon learning what matters to me, I feel more focussed. And on those priorities that Ive been making excuses for, I did a breakdown of the hindrances to understand myself better and what can be done to tackle them.
- Last but not least, a revamp of my office work desk! This bit is due to my dream of owning a standing desk. And also to tackle my back and neck pain. Thats what old age does to you. I set it up over the last weekend and I literally couldn’t wait to start working on something on that table.
I realised that the surrounding and the vibe you put yourself in matter in creating a conducive work environment. As my workspace is in my bedroom, it’s essential to create a space that I would thrive in. I also bought a plant for myself as a way to cool my eyes after staring at the computer the whole day. Oh, and a fresh scented candle to keep my mind alert.
All the points above, Ive actually written them down on post-its and sticked them on my table as reminders. You can spot them in the picture above on the bottom right corner of my table. Humans are so forgetful sometimes.
That being said, from time to time, I still question myself about my motivation, my career, my dreams, life goals, etc. What I have done for myself to tackle my issues is not a silver bullet. It requires effort and sincerity on my part to do better. If you are struggling with similar problems like me, I hope this post has inspired you one way or another. Hope you will find something that works for you too! God bless and stay safe :)