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7 Reasons You Have No Motivation To Work (And How to Overcome Them)

By Maddie Lloyd
Feb. 16, 2023
Articles In Life At Work Guide

Summary. Reasons for a lack of motivation at work can include an overloaded schedule, exhaustion, lack of time-management skills, or boundary issues between your professional and personal lives.

We’ve all had those days at work where just can’t seem to get into it.

When we have no motivation to work, a few hours at the office can seem like a lifetime of misery, and we can start to get down ourselves for not living up to our fullest potential.

While it’s normal to have our off days, we don’t have to be stuck in a rut forever. Here are seven reasons why you’re feeling burnt out, and what you can do to get motivated to work again.

Key Takeaways:

  • If you have no motivation at work you might be having a hard time staying focused, feeling particularly exhausted, or perhaps you’re just plain bored.

  • Ways to become more motivated at work could be to make a list of things you need to do or to listen to your favorite music to get you in the right mood.

  • If your motivation is low, it could have an effect on your coworkers and cause them to not want to work.

7 Reasons You Have No Motivation to Work and How to Overcome Them.

7 Reasons You Have No Motivation To Work

  1. You’re too busy. In our modern work culture, being busy is often seen as a status symbol — it shows that you’re in high demand and trusted with a lot of tasks. While this validation might be good for your self-esteem, spending your entire waking life in “work mode” can lead to you feeling burnt out, and thus, unmotivated.

    Many people think that working to their highest potential means trying harder to outwork others and taking on more responsibilities than necessary. While doing so can reward you with short-term results, it can also be extremely draining.

    Solution: Take more breaks throughout the day and prioritize your work.

    Go for a walk or run, have lunch somewhere other than your desk, and heck, take a nap if you need to. Sometimes the best way to stay focused or find answers to our work-related problems is to just take a step away for a moment.

    Make sure to take your breaks at the right time. For instance, if your energy is at its peak in the morning, focus on your toughest challenges for the day during that window to make the best use of your productivity. Once you’ve accomplished your biggest or most daunting projects, take a break for a few minutes to recharge your brain.

  2. You have a hard time getting started. Trying to get to work on a project when you just don’t even know where to start is a total motivation-drainer. We’ve all heard that getting started on a big task or challenging project is the hardest part, and once you actually get into the swing of it, the whole thing can seem a lot less intimidating.

    Solution: Take steps to increase your productivity.

    The key to staying motivated when you can’t figure out how to approach a project is to eliminate the barriers that keep you from getting started in the first place.

    For example, if you have a hard time pulling the trigger on writing an article, sometimes it helps to just write the first sentence — it doesn’t even have to be good! You can always go back and change it, but getting started will help you get into the groove of working.

    Try to create a routine that helps you ease into the workday and build momentum. If drinking coffee makes you feel more productive, make sure to brew a cup — or three — to help you transition into work mode.

    If coffee isn’t your thing, try meditating or listening to your favorite song. This is a great way to get your brain in the mood to work and organically move into a productive state of mind.

  3. You have a hard time separating work from your personal life. Before smartphones took control of our lives, leaving your work at the office was the standard, and taking work home with you required additional effort and planning. Nowadays, we have access to our work email sitting in our pockets, so we’re still psychologically and physically connected.

    It can be difficult to remove work from our brains when we’re not physically at the office, especially if we’re in the midst of a big project or have a lot on our plate.

    Solution: Simply leave your work at the office.

    After work hours, limit the time you spend checking your email or doing anything work-related. If that requires locking your smartphone away in a drawer so you’re not tempted to respond to emails, go ahead. Whatever it is, it can wait until tomorrow.

  4. You’re emotionally exhausted, detached, or both. If you mentally check out while you’re at work and can’t remember a single dang thing you did once you get home, it’s probably safe to say that you feel emotionally disconnected from your job.

    Feeling like your work matters and feeling a connection to your coworkers can have a huge effect on how motivated we are at work. Don’t underestimate the impact your emotional needs have on your motivation level — teams that trust and respect each other tend to be happier and more productive workers.

    Solution: Reconnecting with your work and your coworkers.

    Remind yourself of why your work is important to you and what you expect to gain as far as career goals.

    If you need to connect with your colleagues, make an effort to talk to them — get to meetings early to engage in small talk, or just strike up light conversations throughout the day.

  5. You’re not making good use of your personal time. After a full day of being productive (or being semi-productive, at least), it can seem tempting to completely shut down your brain and take to Netflix for the remainder of your day. Spending your off-hours being a total couch potato can be relaxing, but it can also rob you of your motivation to get back to work the next day.

    Solution: Make more plans.

    Instead of dedicating your free time to being as unproductive as possible, try to engage in rewarding activities that you can look forward to at the end of a long day.

    Maybe this means that you make plans to set aside time to work on your One Direction fanfiction after work, or maybe you schedule an intense game of Settlers of Catan with your friends once a week. Engaging in an activity that takes a little more effort than laying down and staring at a screen gives you more energy.

  6. You’re mentally and physically exhausted. It’s hard to work to our fullest potential when we’re just totally drained of energy. After working for so many days in a row, especially if you’ve been spending a lot of time on a particularly challenging project, sometimes we just need a break.

    Solution: Take a long weekend or a mental health day.

    Mental health is just as important as physical health, and not taking the steps to address it can lead to poor performance, and that’s not good for anyone.

    Taking a day off everyone once in a while is great for reducing stress and getting your mojo back. But on your days off, don’t check your email or call the office. They’ll be there when you get back.

  7. You need a new job. If you’ve tried all of these tips already and just can’t seem to make yourself give a hoot about your work, it might be time to start looking for a new job.

    Solution: Communication and maybe quitting.

    If you feel that you’re not making progress in your job, then you might want to talk with your manager about trying out a new position or department.

    If you feel like your work just totally doesn’t matter and your job is robbing you of all your energy and happiness, it might be time to hit the road and find a new career path.

Motivation And Self-Determination Theory

Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is a relatively new theory in psychology that suggests a person’s ability to be self-determined is based on fulfilling their needs for agency, competency, and connection with others.

This theory investigates how self-determination affects motivation. There is the belief that when a person feels self-determine, that this they have more control in making choices and dealing with life experiences, then they are more likely to be motivated. This is particularly true as it relates to intrinsic motivation.

Self-Determination Theory is built off three main components:

  • Autonomy. People have to feel like they control the choices in their lives, particularly their goals and behaviors.

  • Competency. People have to feel they have the skills to achieve their objectives.

  • Relatedness or a connection with others. People have to experience a sense of belonging with others.

According to SDT, when a person achieves these three components, all other positive factors related to self-determine actions and motivation will follow.

Why Motivation Is Important at Work

Being motivated at work makes getting your work done easier and more enjoyable. You’ll have the energy to complete your tasks, meet deadlines, and achieve short and long-term goals.

  • Motivation can be intrinsic, meaning you naturally enjoy performing your tasks and get pleasure from a job well done. It can also be extrinsic, meaning you’re rewarded with money, praise, or another external motivator.

  • Most employees are motivated by a blend of the two. That’s why your motivation can tank from a number of causes, from your boss not recognizing your excellent work (extrinsic) to your job being boring and unsatisfying (intrinsic).

  • Your motivation also matters because it’s contagious. When a whole team stops caring about their work, it shows. And a few unmotivated people can bring down a team very quickly.

  • Don’t think that a lack of motivation automatically means you hate your job or your coworkers; everyone’s allowed an off-day from time to time. But when you can create and maintain consistent motivation at work, you’ll see better morale for yourself and your coworkers, and an overall more positive work environment will emerge.

This creates a positive feedback loop, where everyone’s motivated by each other’s successes, and the whole team is happier and more productive as a result.

Tips to Boost Your Motivation at Work

We’ve covered several different scenarios and given advice for each, but some tips hold true in many situations. Try incorporating some of these additional tips into your day to increase your motivation:

  1. Stay healthy. A good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast can do a world of good for your motivation. Try getting to bed an hour earlier, give yourself more time to make a nutritious lunch, and try to work some exercise into your day.

    Even a morning or mid-afternoon walk can be just the thing to get your motivation back.

  2. Reward yourself. Try using a time management tool like the Pomodoro technique, where short and long breaks are structured throughout the day.

    If you build rewards into your schedule, you’ll have an easier time motivating yourself to hit certain checkpoints. We recommend avoiding work-related tasks and all screens to optimize the efficacy of your breaks.

  3. Find podcasts, apps, books, or other media on motivation. Helping people stay focused is big business. There are countless apps and resources for staying on track. Do some research, try a few methods out, and see what works for you.

  4. Utilize SMART goals. We have a whole article on how to use SMART goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

    In very brief summation, setting SMART goals can help you stay on task by eliminating unimportant and distracting tasks while focusing on the most important and urgent things on your plate.

  5. Get feedback. Negative feedback might stifle our motivation (or make us work harder to prove ourselves). But positive feedback is much more effective for boosting motivation.

    When you feel appreciated and proud of your work, it’s easier to stay on task. Keep a “kudos” folder every time you receive written praise. Looking back on this can help provide a boost of energy in moments of lethargy.

  6. Make a list. Making a list focuses you to identify the most important things to work on first. It’s often hard to start working when you have too many options, so writing them down can help make the path more clear.

    It can can also help to make the first items on the list easily achievable. This will give you a sense of accomplishment towards the day’s goals early on and help to boost motivation.

  7. Find music that keeps you focused. There are certain types of music that are known to help with concentration. You’re looking more for background noise than actual beats to bop your head to. Either try to find songs that are so common you don’t need to think about them or just simple sounds. Something like lofi hip hop beats can also help drown out distractions.

Motivation At Work FAQ

  1. How do you define motivation?

    Motivation is the reason and willingness to act or behave in a certain manner. We all experience motivation both consciously and subconsciously. Conscious motivation is usually needed in tasks that are uncomfortable, such as what may be found at work. However, do not discount how your subconscious will also affect your decision-making.

  2. What is a good motivation for work?

    Good motivation for work includes:

    • Pursuing achievements, such as promotions or awards

    • Helping out others.

    • Obtaining financial security

    • Increased control

    • Joining a group

    • Gaining recognition.

  3. What defines “good” motivation is based on in part by your own values as well as the values of the company. That is why it is very helpful to align your values with your work to achieve a greater sense of motivation.

  4. How do I motivate myself at work?

    To motivate yourself at work:

    • Stay healthy

    • Reward yourself

    • Use SMART goals

    • Build a sense of agency, competency, and belonging.

    • Get feedback

    • Use media that helps you focus.

  5. Everyone has different techniques for motivation, however these are some popular ones at work. It is important that you find a strategy that meets your professional needs.

  6. What is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation?

    The difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is that intrinsic motivation is determined by internal factors, while extrinsic motivation is determined by external factors. In other words, intrinsic motivation comes from reasons within yourself, reasons that you find personally rewarding. An example of intrinsic motivation would be that you want to finish a project because it is about a topic you are passionate about.

    Extrinsic motivation comes from an outside influence, usually in the form of an external reward or punishment. For example, you may want to finish a project because it will result in a pay raise.

Final Thoughts

If you’re feeling bored and blasé about your work more often than you feel excited about it, it’s time to get yourself out of that slump. Sometimes it just takes some simple reflection to figure out why we have no motivation to work anymore, and then we can get back in the swing of things.

Remember to set boundaries for keeping work out of your personal life, do things that excite you, and take a break every now and then. And remember that if you’re constantly feeling depressed and uninspired by your job, it might be time to reconsider your career path.

Whatever the cause may be, getting your motivation back just takes a few simple steps. We’ve also got you covered if you find yourself questioning what you should do with your life.


  1. Center on Education Policy – What Is Motivation And Why Does It Matter?

  2. American Psychological Association – The Science Of Motivation

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Articles In Life At Work Guide


Maddie Lloyd

Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

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