Covid-Ultramarathon: How to Stay Motivated

By Eva Szekeres, MA, PCC. Do you sometimes have the impression that since the pandemic has started, it’s as if we were living in the 1993 movie, Groundhog Day? (Where the main character finds himself reliving the same day over and over again.)

Staying motivated day after day when you are always at home, in the same environment, seeing the same people (or none at all), spending most of your hours in front of your screen for work, for social connections, and even for your exercise, becomes rather monotonous. Not meeting your friends, getting stimulating input from your co-workers or having new experiences in general, can be daunting to say the least.

Even the most introverted among us, who enjoyed the idea of working from home, or the ones who had an initial enthusiasm for completing long neglected tasks and reorganizing the bureau drawers, had to realize that we are in this for the long run. After learning a lot about how to be resilient at work, what we need now is to build endurance by regulating our own emotions and creating a plan about how to get ourselves motivated day after day.

Working from home, spending hours in front of the screen with no clear end in sight is extremely challenging both physically and mentally. It is hard to focus and be enthusiastic. What can we do to rise to the challenge so we can stay the course and also be there for our teams and colleagues? 

Start From Within

Our motivation can depend on many factors and can also change with time. But it is helpful to know that we have two main types of motivation: one is extrinsic. This occurs when we are driven by external rewards like praise, money, promotion, power or avoiding pain or punishment — when you do something because that is the requirement of your job, and you get paid for doing it, or because your boss will keep you accountable. 

The other type of motivation is intrinsic, which originates from inside. This occurs when we do things for their own sake because they give us fulfillment, autonomy or enjoyment — when we read a fascinating book, start taking online yoga classes, help others, or go for a hike on a lovely autumn weekend with our loved ones. We don’t need major persuasion to do these activities as they are a reward in themselves. We need to tap into these sources now.

What can we do, when just going about our day feels like rolling a boulder up a hill forever?

Executive Coaching


Get Clear On Your Big Picture: What Really Matters To You?

Put your situation into perspective, and assess your circumstances objectively. Are you healthy? Do you have a job? Can you reach your loved ones? What is your main challenge? Focus on the positives. Start a list of what positive things originated from your new state of working from home, train your brain for look for the upside. 

Practice reframing. What is better in your situation which was not possible before the pandemic?

In crises we often chose to focus on tactical work, as a coping mechanism, while getting clear on and being refocused on your “Why” helps us to regain our intrinsic motivation. Daniel Goleman, the author of several books on Emotional Intelligence recently wrote: “Doing what is meaningful — acting on what matters to a person — is the antidote to burnout.” 

Though the current situation might feel like the one of Sisyphus’, it also gives us an opportunity to get clear about what really matters for us personally.After contemplating your Big Picture and putting things into perspective let’s get closer to your internal state and Zoom in (pardon the pun).

Check In With Yourself Honestly: How Do You Feel?

Enhancing your emotional intelligence starts with self awareness, and being able to name your emotions before you get to regulate them.

Step back and assess your state of mind: 

  • Whats going on? 
  • How do you feel?
  • What gives you joy?

Make a daily audit by writing down how you feel during your different activities:

  • When do you feel the most energized? 
  • Which part of the day feels the most challenging? 
  • Which activities give you/drain your energy?
  • What patterns do you notice?
  • What did you learn? 
  • What can you change to better adapt?

If you run through your daily schedule and put a star next to the activities that energized you during the day and put a minus next to which drained you, it will shed some light on your patterns, so you can come up with a strategy to overcome your challenges.

As soon as you distance yourself from your moods, and make them the object of your attention, you have a better chance to be more aware of what is going on and to increase your ability to manage your mood instead of falling victim to it. 

Craft Some Strategies That Work For YOU

  1. 1.Create your daily routine — test out small habits

Experiment with small changes. Tune into what are you motivated to do in that moment. Re-energize yourself by doing that for 30 minutes. Emphasize self care: incorporate hobbies, exercise, play, and talks with your friends into your daily routine.

Add some predictability into your day by adding these newly crafted habits to your everyday routine. Focusing on these helps you regain a bit of control too, which can ease your emotions. As it is reassuring to know what happens next, even if on a relatively small scale.

2.   Plan your day — structure and goals are your pillars

Select goals that are attainable, but still present a challenge. Start from your big picture and break them down to smaller tasks.

  • Avoid perfectionism.
  • Create collaboration to problem-solve with others.
  • Celebrate small wins.
  • Check in with yourself regularly. Change and adapt if something drains you.

3. Focus On Others — And Be Kind To Yourself

Neuroscientists have demonstrated that when we engage in altruistic behavior, we activate the brain circuits that are key to fostering well-being.  Switch your focus from yourself to others. Focus on the people you love and help them in any way you can. Practice kindness, compassion, generosity — it also helps you to feel better.

Do what you can, but give yourself some slack. It is hard — be kind to yourself. 

How do YOU stay motivated? 

What strategy works best for YOU?

To learn more about strategies and techniques to foster motivation, schedule a consultation with Eva.


Source: Daniel Goleman’s introduction to Viktor E. Frankl’s masterpiece, Yes to Life: In spite of everything.