Regardless of our specific role, all of us have the same basic purpose in our jobs: to get our work done well. Making that happen is a lot easier said than done, especially if you’re lacking solid motivation skills to light a fire under you. 

What are the different types of motivation?

Motivation is an interpersonal skill that helps you inspire yourself or others to complete a task or achieve a goal. We all have things to do, so motivation is important both personally and professionally. 

When you think about motivation skills, you can think about them in two ways: the skills you use to motivate yourself (often called self-motivation) and the skills you use to motivate the people around you.

Self-motivation in particular has been well-studied and is further broken down into two categories:

  • Intrinsic motivation: Motivation you get from internal sources, like the sense of satisfaction when achieving a goal.
  • Extrinsic motivation: Motivation you get from external sources, like rewards, praise, or approval. 

One isn’t inherently better than the other, and both have a place in our work lives. However, high intrinsic motivation is a particularly desirable soft skill – and you’ll often see employers search for this quality with requirements and terms like “driven” and “self-directed.” 

What are the benefits of solid motivation skills? 

Use motivation theory to inspire your team’s best work

One of the biggest (and most obvious) benefits of a high level of motivation is increased productivity. When you’re motivated, you procrastinate less, are able to focus more intently without distractions, and ultimately get more of your work accomplished.

But it’s not the only perk of top-notch motivation skills. Being able to inspire yourself and others to buckle down also leads to:

  • Increased engagement: Getting our work done feels good, which increases our satisfaction and engagement (meaning the level of commitment and enthusiasm we feel toward our work). And it’s a positive cycle – motivation improves engagement, and engagement further improves motivation. 
  • Stronger connections: Simply feeling like part of a group or team increases our motivation, particularly when we accomplish complex tasks and projects. And getting that work done collaboratively further strengthens trust and bonds with our team members. 

5 tips to increase motivation (for yourself and your team)

For as important and beneficial as motivation is, it can feel sort of amorphous – as if it’s a random phenomenon and not a predictable or buildable skill.

There are several strategies you can use to boost motivation for yourself and people around you. However, when doing so, keep in mind that there’s no silver bullet that guarantees relentless focus and ambition. There will inevitably be times when you just can’t muster a go-getter attitude, and that’s perfectly normal.

1. Set clear goals

How to write SMART goals

One of the best ways to inspire action is to set a target in the form of a clear goal, as we inherently feel more driven when we know exactly what we’re working toward. Try using the SMART goal framework to ensure your objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. 

And while a lofty goal can be motivating, don’t overlook the power of smaller ones. Reaching for more manageable milestones along the way provides ample opportunity to acknowledge your progress (which further fuels motivation). 

2. Understand your primetime 

Motivation is a skill you can build, but it’s also something you don’t have complete control over. Like it or not, your brain and body play a role here too. 

If you’ve ever struggled with a mid-morning daze or an afternoon slump, you know this all too well. Your body’s ultradian rhythms (biological cycles that repeat numerous times each day) enable times of peak focus and cause dips when you feel sluggish.

Paying attention to your own biological primetime can help you plan work accordingly – like scheduling deep work for your most energized time periods and saving the mundane stuff for post-lunch. 

3. Connect your work to a bigger purpose

Research shows that one of the most motivating experiences for employees is making progress on a task that they know is meaningful. But sometimes that connection between individual or team work and the broader goal isn’t immediately clear.

For your own benefit, dig in or ask questions to understand how your own contributions help push the whole ship in the right direction. And if you’re leading a team, make sure that you clearly illustrate the impact and importance of their work. You’d be surprised by how much motivation that alone can inspire. 

4. Take time to recognize and celebrate wins

Celebrate those little wins to keep your team motivated

Make no mistake: motivation does not mean tirelessly pursuing goals without ever taking a beat to applaud your own progress or achievements.

In fact, taking the time to celebrate how far you’ve come is one of the best ways to fuel both individual and team motivation. Achievements – whether they’re small wins or major ones – trigger a release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that not only makes you feel good, but also sparks more motivation – there’s that positive feedback loop again.

5. Get back to basics

It’s tough for people to feel motivated if they don’t have the autonomy, support, and resources they need to get their work done. Additionally, things like adequate compensation and a positive work culture help cultivate an environment where people can feel their most focused and inspired. 

5 ways to boost your motivation skills