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What You Can Learn From Feeling Depressed at Work

March 8, 2017, 11:00 AM UTC
A businessman sits in the pouring rain
A businessman sits in the pouring rain
Greg Samborski/Getty Images

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How can you find inspiration if you’re feeling unmotivated?” is written by Mark Newman, chief customer officer of HireVue.

It happens to all of us at one point or another: The demands of professional and personal life can take a toll and hamper motivation and productivity. There are many tasks that are hard to get started because they drain energy and are not enjoyable, but they have to get done.

Here’s what I do to find inspiration and get going when my motivation is lackluster:

Change your environment

Sometimes a little change of scenery is just what I need to get the creative juices flowing and buckle down. Try a different spot in the office or get out of the office altogether. We can work from virtually anywhere now—take advantage and go.

Get some physical activity

A brisk walk or run forces you to take a break and get some air. Sometimes stress is the cause of demotivation, because you don’t know what to do first when the list is long. A little bit of exercise can stave off unproductive stress, particularly if you do it outside.

Taking time away from work allows your brain to unconsciously recombine and reorder thoughts and ideas in a more logical way. Providing time to “incubate” when there is a lot on your mind increases productivity in the long run—and is a great excuse to take a break.

Figure out what gives you energy

Is the lack of motivation happening more often than not? It might be time to reconsider your responsibilities and figure out what gives you energy and what doesn’t. Can you do more of the things that give you energy by shuffling responsibilities either at home or work? Can you outsource some of the most draining work?


Last year, I took stock of my responsibilities. What really gave me energy was assisting customers in the field, helping them rethink how they hire and develop talent in their organizations. I moved to a new role as chief customer officer, so that I could spend most of my time on the activities and work that give me energy.

Determine what’s blocking your motivation

Paul W. Andrews and J. Andersen Thomson Jr. argue in a study that depression is a mental state that forces you to analyze and deal with a problem. “Analysis is often a useful approach for solving complex problems, but it requires slow, sustained processing, so disruption would interfere with problem solving.” Depression can halt all interruptions and could be a surefire symptom of problems that need to analyzed.

Often, the cause of a motivation dip is simple. There are jobs that we know we have to do, but fall in the “energy draining” bucket, like preparing for board meetings. Preparing board materials is a crucial activity, but I don’t know many executives that enjoy this particular necessity. You can get help with it, but it’s not realistic to completely outsource tasks like this to someone else. I don’t have a Type A personality, so for work like this, I figure out the right block of time to maximize my productivity and minimize distractions.

Typically, this combination of simple fixes gets me back on track and inspired to tackle any challenge.