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How do you stay motivated?

We've all experienced those days when in one afternoon, we seem to accomplish more than we did all week.

And we've also experienced the opposite, where day after day, despite long hours, it feels like nothing is really getting done and we've "wasted" a week getting a day's worth of work done.

This leads to two interesting questions, from the perspective of an employee and a manager:

  1. How can employees stay motivated in a remote environment?
  2. How can managers ensure that team members are motivated?

My answer: Unbend the hose

Unbending the hose

If you’ve ever used a hose before, you’ll recognize this scenario.

Water is slowly trickling out of the hose because of a kink in the bent hose.

But after straightening out the hose, the pressure is at full capacity and water gushes out.

Unbending the hose is an analogy we can use to think about motivation when working remotely.

Motivation can fire us up and get us to stick with something new for a few days, or even a few weeks, but eventually, trying to "manufacture motivation" (read: dangling carrots in front of employees or threatening them with a stick) to get someone to stick with something is like water trying to force its way through a bent hose.

Instead we can unbend the hose, or create an environment that makes it as easy as possible to stay motivated.

Instead of trying to crank up motivation (increase water pressure) we can instead unbend the hose (remove the kink). This doesn't mean added motivation can't help, but, the focus should instead be on unbending the hose.

What this specifically means at work, especially in a remote environment, is:

  • give employees the autonomy to work on what matters 🥅
  • create an environment where employees can work on the projects they want with the people they like and can communicate with you if this isn't the case 🤝
  • create ways to celebrate as a team 🎉

Applying this tactically

Here is a list of ways to apply the metaphor of "unbending the hose" with regards to the above strategies:

As an employee use autonomy strategically and carve out time for your "Most Important Task"

Not feeling productive at the end of the day? Pick one task and one task only that you will get done tomorrow. It's probably one you've been putting off for a while. Now, block off 1 hour first thing in the morning to work on that before you do anything else. It's easy to get lost in the shallow work but focusing on the meaty tasks and moving the ball forward makes a big difference. Having autonomy means that you can decide what to work on and autonomy is so crucial in sustaining motivation. But by tackling the high impact tasks each day, having this autonomy becomes even more rewarding and impactful, not just for yourself, but for the company as a whole.

As a manager proactively reach out to your team and create a culture of candor

If you notice someone's performance slacking or dropping off, proactively reach out. Don't assume the cause, instead, have an open conversation to see what is going on and how you can help. Is it a structural problem within the team and a poor or inefficient process that is wasting people's time? Or is it a personal problem such as burn out and having some time off could help? This might be tougher without an office because you can't see signs you might have visually seen before in-person but by being open-minded and attentive, and creating a culture of trust and candor with employees, then you can have the open and candid conversations that are needed to identify the root cause issue.

As a team celebrate the big wins and the small wins

In an office, it's easy to... well it's almost inevitable that you will hear about the small and big victories that are happening in the company. These are the types of serendipitous water cooler conversations that are missing in a remote environment. This could be a major new product initiative or a small bug that your teammate fixed that was the bane of their existence for the last week! Either way, it is contagious to hear about these wins, and it adds motivating fuel to the entire workforce. The best part is this energy is contagious and it is 100% organic.

Using Standups teams can easily and quickly celebrate the big and small wins with a fun short video. This helps recreate some of that serendipity that's missing.

Several companies do this by creating a room called:

The Weekly Wall of Wins 🎉

In this room, each week, employees post any win from the week, small or big, and they can also give kudos to other teammates!

We make this as frictionless as possible for teams by combining the humanness of video with the ease of messaging. With the click of a button, from Standups, or from Slack, it's seamless to share a video update with your team.

This makes it easy for the entire team to celebrate together, get visibility in to what everyone is working on, and spread around the feel good energy that can fire up the entire team 💪

wall of wins 1

wall of wins 2

Giving kudos on a new feature, sharing how distracting the smell of good BBQ can be, showing off the beautiful weather outside, book club suggestions and more!

What do you think? Do you have any other tips for staying motivated when working remotely? What do you think about the Weekly Wall of Wins? Let me know what you think on Twitter @arjmahadevan!