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The M Dash

Live with purpose.

How to Rally When You Just...Can’t

10 women share their tricks for getting (and staying) motivated.

By Madeleine Kim

September 4, 2020

We named our fall collection Ready to Rally, because we think it’s time to take the season by storm. For some, that will mean getting into productivity mode at work after what might be the strangest summer of our lives. For others, this fall will revolve around election season—whether they’re running for office themselves or inspiring their friends and family to engage in the political process. Either way, getting out there and taking action is often easier said than done. At a time when the world is in chaos and the future is foggier than ever, it can be hard to get motivated—even when the stakes are incredibly high. Luckily, there are plenty of techniques that can get your brain into gear and help you feel ready to rally. Here’s how 10 women are gearing up for greatness this fall.

Founder, Be Yourself Boldly

Shanna A. Hocking  

“Focus on making forward movement. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the things happening around you and feel like you haven’t done enough. Purpose doesn’t just come from finishing the work—it comes from starting and moving forward. Every step you make is progress. Remember to celebrate this. Focus on what you can control, commit to new learning, and take time to rest, too.

Also, focus on your superpowers. You have unique gifts that make you who you are. Think about the compliments you frequently receive. Go back through the accolades others have sent you for things you have done well. What are the themes in the recognition? You may unintentionally downplay these things, because they come so naturally to you. In reality, these are your superpowers!

Finally, reconnect to your why. Why did you start on the path you are on? What has brought you joy at work in the past? If you’ve found you aren’t aligned anymore with what has been most important to you, use your why to inform who you want to become. Consider for the future: What does life look like for you?”

Founder, WikiLawn

Jennifer Walden

“I think no matter how much we love our jobs, we all have days where we wake up and just don’t want to do anything. This is compounded by the fact that many of us are working from home, so it’s tempting to just take a sick day and watch Netflix. Sometimes you do need that break, but other times, what you really need is for something to grab you.

I get back on track by doing sprints using the Pomodoro technique. I’ll take a task from my list and assign it to a 30-minute block of time. If I’m really struggling, I’ll cut it down to 15. The idea is that no matter how unmotivated you are, you can always put in 15-30 minutes of work. When those are done, you put in another set, then another until the task is done. Usually, something will ‘catch,’ and you’ll feel that desire to solve problems, or, ideally, the passion you’ve lost for a project.”

President, The Humphreys Group

Diane Bourdo, CFP

“I’ve found that I just have to talk about it. I’ve ramped up my texting with my sisters, and early on, we started a regular morning check-in text (we are in three different cities). Sometimes they boost me, and other times, I boost them. We can be totally honest with each other—and the fact that we don’t have to put on a happy face is wonderful.

Maintaining the connection with my team while we all work from home has also been a priority—and it’s been tough. Our process to stay connected has changed and evolved, and some things have been more effective than others. I’ve found that as we fine-tune our WFH rituals, I feel more ‘real’ and, therefore, more motivated and energetic. Right now, during our check-ins, we share what we’ll be working on that day, our current state of mind, and our intended mindset for the day. It doesn’t have to be poetic or deep or heavy—but it gives us a chance to be authentic and honest about what we’re going through. I like to say ‘structure is freedom,’ and having a list of check-in questions helps us contribute consistently but in a way we’re comfortable with.

I find that if I just name my feelings—whether I’m feeling unmotivated, somewhat depressed, or hopeful—I tend not to judge myself. And not having that additional emotional burden of self-judgement can be very freeing. For me, awareness is curative.

Last but not least: proper shoes. They don’t have to be high heels, but they cannot be slippers. Even on days when I don’t leave the house, I wear proper shoes, and putting them on serves as a mental trigger to get going in work mode.”

Project Manager, Beauty Content Creator, and Aspiring Entrepreneur

Christian Ohonba

“As a professional woman who has worked her way up in the world, it’s not easy—especially being a Black woman who is first generation in so many facets, from graduating college and having a professional role to aspiring to create my own lane in the world. That said, I’ve come up with some tips for pulling yourself up.

Acknowledge your feelings and figure out the root of them. Faux positivity is rampant in our society, especially for women. Unless you acknowledge what you’re feeling, it will keep showing up. It could be that you’re burned out, or you could be working on something that doesn’t align with your end goal. Whatever it is, you can’t move forward unless you acknowledge it.

Know that there is gold in your valley. There is beauty in falling down, because you can pick yourself back up more selectively. In those slumps, we learn things that we can take back to the peaks.

Self-care isn’t just sheet masks and ice cream. Being honest with yourself, learning to show up authentically, and being disciplined have all helped me dig myself out of not only career slumps, but life slumps. It’s not an ‘if’ slumps will happen, but a ‘when.’ The more aligned you are with yourself, the better you can triumph.”

Co-Founder of Story Imprinting

Holly Amaya

“In my work, I deal with a lot of very type-A executives, and I’d say 90 percent of the women I work with are feeling some sort of motivational lag that ebbs and flows. I think it’s a natural consequence of the fact that every day feels like Groundhog Day, with little outside or extracurricular interruption to delineate the personal and professional sections of our lives. And what happens is that we are on all the time, both personally and professionally. 

Some of the best advice my partner and I give to our executive clients is to stop expecting that you’ll have hours-long chunks of time to tackle problems as you would pre-WFH. We’re big fans of working in short 20- to 30-minute bursts and then walking away. I use this strategy when I’m designing new training or writing content for our online platforms or for a client. I find that if I sit too long, I will inevitably get interrupted by a child who needs a snack or something. The microburst strategy has been a game changer.”

Candidate in the General Election for Vermont State Senate

Kesha Ram

“A hundred years after White women earned the right to vote, it would still take decades of bloody struggle for immigrant, indigenous, and Black women to have access to the ballot box. This year, as we mark this centennial for White women, I will become the first woman of color to serve in the Vermont State Senate. It can be overwhelming to think about how many challenges and inequalities exist in our world today, but that bit of progress is something I can hold on to. Always celebrate small victories, and then reach back and pull someone else with you as you bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice.”

Founder, Tech Savvy Women

JJ DiGeronimo

“After interviewing hundreds of successful professionals, I have become acutely aware of my ‘yeses’: what I say yes to and what goes on my calendar. Of course, you can’t always control all of your commitments within your job, but you can decide what you do before and after work. You can ask for projects that interest you. You can make plans that excite you, like going to the local park or catching up with an old friend. Your day is designed by you, so if you have areas that are less exciting and more draining, be mindful about adding things that make you feel good.”

Candidate for Delaware State Senator

Kyle Evans Gay

“I’m a mom of two kids under 4 years old, and I’m running to serve my community in Delaware’s state Senate. People ask me why I’m running for office. It’s because I look at my kids, and I know that we can do better by their generation if we show up and do the work. This election season, I hope every American will take stock of what they cherish and elect leaders who share their values and priorities. We all have a voice, and I would encourage everyone to be heard this fall—by voting, volunteering, or simply speaking out for what you believe.”

Director of Communications & Operations, Open App, LLC

Sarah Sloane

“I’ve been on both sides of this—feeling unmotivated and coaching others through these periods. Here’s what I keep in mind: This happens to everyone, including high-performing and highly motivated people—it’s totally normal, and totally okay! Don’t judge yourself too hard when you’re going through it. I like to think of it as my body and mind telling me that I need to take a break—which could mean taking a few hours to re-set by doing something creative, or taking a personal day (or more) to recharge my batteries, totally away from work (that means no phone, no email—just detaching). I often find that my mind works on things in the background, so when I come back to work, it’s easier to get back into my normal, productive swing of things.”

Attorney Advocate

Alexis Moore, Esq.

“Slumps or downturns tend to have a negative connotation, and they shouldn’t! I see them as a great opportunity to hit the reset button. Embrace your slumps as opportunities to reset and go forward stronger and better.

I get back on point when I stop, even for a few hours, and just do something that I enjoy. For me, that means writing about the topics I am passionate about: my attorney advocacy in the field of women’s issues—sexual harassment, domestic violence, stalking, and cyberstalking. That’s when the lightbulb goes on, and I become myself again.”

Written By

Madeleine Kim

Madeleine Kim is the Senior Brand Manager at M.M.LaFleur, where she started out as a stylist. She loves developing styling-focused content and creating newsletters that bring the M.M. community together.

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