Jeremy Goldstein, an executive compensation lawyer, knows more than a little about staying motivated. In his three-decade career, he has been a part of some of the most prominent mergers and acquisitions in US history, authored several books and articles and has given frequent speeches on business issues and law.
All of this in addition to chairing an American Bar Association committee, volunteering for numerous charities and spending time with his family. Suffice it to say, Jeremy Goldstein gets a lot done in a single day. We asked him how he does it, day after day and year after year. These are a few of his tips.
How to stay motivated at work
We’ve all had those moments when it seems impossible to muster the energy to start, let alone complete, a project. This ennui can be the single most limiting barrier to workplace productivity. Stay motivated; get more done. It’s that simple…or is it? According to Goldstein, staying motivated is an individual, highly-personal quest. What motivates one person may have no effect on another. The key is finding what works for you and sticking with it.
1. Find something you enjoy. Yes, the majority of us work to be able pay our bills and have a little left over at the end of the month, but ideally your work should be something that you enjoy. If you dread going to work each day, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to stay motivated.
2. Understand your why. Paying the bills isn’t really much of a motivation. You need to define exactly why you want to work hard every day. Goldstein maintains, “Your why should make you cry.” That means if your reason for going to work every day isn’t deeply felt, then it’s unlikely that you’re going to stay motivated in the long run. Some good examples of a “why” are being able to help other people succeed, being able to build a better life for your children than what you experienced, making life easier for your aging parents or (if you are a gifted scientist) finding a cure for a major disease.
3. Define your vision. Understanding your “why” is just the first step. You also need to set benchmarks and define how you intend to achieve those goals. For instance, is your vision seeing your child graduate from Harvard, accepting the Pulitzer Prize (or Nobel Prize) or perhaps tearing up your mortgage papers after you’ve paid off of your home loan. The more specific you can be and the more details you can add to your vision, the more it will motivate you. Some people even take this one step further and create a vision board with pictures of what that end will look like. That way they can see it every morning in their office or on the back of the bathroom door.
4. Stay positive. Positive thoughts are much more motivating than negative ones. Although fear of being fired or being broke may get you out of bed and off to work every day, those negative thoughts won’t bring you much joy or help you be enthusiastic about your job. It’s easy to fall into thinking negative thoughts. Some of your co-workers may complain about their jobs on a regular basis. However, you have the ability to take control of your thoughts. Reciting positive affirmations every morning, such as “I’m making a difference in people’s lives” or “I’m going to find a cure for cancer” or “I’m the best sales person my company has ever seen”, can actually re-train your brain into a happier place.
5. Break your goals into manageable pieces. Too often we are scared to take on a large task because it just seems too big. Securing a major account, winning a national award or finding a cure are just a few examples of lofty goals. Instead, break that sales goal into things like contacting 20 people every day or closing one house sale every month. Those small goals are easier to envision and are stepping stones to completing that larger goal.
6. Get organized. Does your desk look like it was the epicenter of a tornado? If so, it’s time to get rid of that clutter or, better yet, convert all that paper to digital files. Being unorganized causes you to spend valuable time finding the papers you need, it can actually cause you to be depressed and keep you from being as productive as you can be.
7. Tackle procrastination. Do you put off tasks until the last minute and then rush to complete them. If you do, you’re not alone. However, procrastination, too, can keep you from achieving your goals. First accept that this is a trait you need to work on eliminating. It’s lazy to say that you were just born that way. One of the best ways to conquer procrastination is simply to begin. It’s much easier to work on a project that’s part-way completed than to begin one.
8. Stop multi-tasking. Multi-tasking used to be considered to sign of a good employee, but that reasoning has changed. Trying to do more than one thing at the same time simply reduces the attention that you have to give to any one task. It’s much better to complete a task before you begin another.
9. Rid yourself of distractions. We realize that this is easier said than done. Social media, smart phones, 24/7 media broadcasts and working from home can all be extremely distracting. You will stay more productive and more motivated if you set aside designated break times when you can check your emails and messages or where you can start dinner or start a load of laundry if you work from home. In between breaks, turn off all of your digital notifications so you can focus on your work.
10. Keep it fun. If your work isn’t fun to some degree, even your long term goal isn’t going to keep you motivated day in and day out. This may include being able to dress casually for work, decorating your office in a festive manner, being allowed to work outside or having team lunches where you brainstorm and share successes.
11. Streamline your office or work area for success. Eliminating clutter is just one part of setting up your office area for success. Do you have all the tools you need within an easy reach, so you don’t have to get up and get distracted over and over again? Is your desk facing away from distractions, such as an outdoor view or the front desk? Just a few minor adjustments to your work zone can help you concentrate and stay motivated more easily.
12. Reward yourself. Lastly, allow yourself a reward when you reach one of your small goals. Maybe that’s an ice cream cone. Maybe it’s an hour to take a walk, or maybe it’s that new pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on. Getting a small reward not only helps to make work more fun, but is a great motivator.
About Jeremy Goldstein
Jeremy Goldstein is a New York City-based attorney dedicated to advising compensation committees, CEOs, management teams and corporations in executive compensation and corporate governance matters, particularly as such issues arise in the context of transformative corporate events and sensitive situations. Prior to founding his own boutique law firm, Jeremy was a partner at a major law firm and participated in some of the most high-profile deals of the last decade. He is also the chair of the Mergers & Acquisition Subcommittee of the Executive Compensation Committee of the American Bar Association Business Section and writes and speaks frequently on corporate governance and executive compensation issues. He holds a J.D. from New York University School of Law, an M.A. from the University of Chicago and a B.A. cum laude from Cornell University.
Check out Jeremy’s Facebook page to learn more!