How to Stay Motivated in a Job You Hate


Words by Paula Coogan
March 7th, 2018

Frustrated, agitated, burnt out, over-worked, undervalued, sick, small, weak, unmotivated and weary. These are just some of the words I’ve heard clients use to describe how it feels to be stuck in a job they absolutely hate.

As bad as all of those emotions are to feel, the worst part of this comes when these feelings start to impact your sense of self and grind down your energy. When you start believing that who you are is how you feel; that you are small, weak, not valuable. We do this all the time and it chips away at our confidence and motivation, keeping us stuck in a bad situation for much longer than we need to be and filtering through into other areas of our life. If this is resonating with you, let me just say, you’re not alone.

When that tightness and rumbling in your stomach is there first thing when you wake up, when tears are slipping down your cheek as you’re driving to work, when your throat and jaw feels tight from holding back all you want to say- what do you do? How do you reclaim your mojo when you feel like an extra in The Walking Dead?

It’s not easy but it can be done, and the strategy for reclaiming your mojo is a spin of Sheryl Sandberg’s phrase, “Don’t leave before you leave”. The reason why this should become your new mantra is because there is work to be done and you can make it exciting! Lean on your friends and family members for support because getting out of a toxic work situation is not an easy task and if it’s been grinding you down for a while, you’re most likely not at full strength right now. Toxic jobs knock your strength and confidence to bits and really make you doubt yourself.


So, the very first step is to make a decision- a decision that within a certain time period, say 2-6 months, you will be free from this job. You need that. You may not have a clue what you’ll be doing next, you may not have any certainty but now you can start putting a plan in place and start the countdown on your calendar! What if we actually took the time to figure out what we really wanted to do with our lives and then did it? Imagine that… Life is way too short to stay stuck in a job where you are undervalued, underutilized, or just unfulfilled. Whatever the reason, you are deciding now to make a change, and that is awesome so go easy on yourself! Remember all the times you totally smashed it. The next chapter will be so much better. You are on the way up now, moving forward on your own path.

Planning for the day you can walk away from your job and do something else should be something you spend a lot of time thinking about. Without a plan, you might just end up working another job just like the one you quit. But in the meantime, you need to keep it together for your own sake if nothing else. We’ll explore finding ways to make your job tolerable until you’re ready to make a change on your own terms.

So, what can you do? How do you stay motivated when you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom and just want to check out? Here are my top 6 tips to help you reclaim your motivation when you’re stuck in a job you hate!

1. Make a decision to leave within a certain time frame

Once you make a decision, you are reclaiming your power. It’s on your terms now and there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Give yourself enough time, say 2-6 months, so that you can really use the remaining time you have there to your advantage.

2. Journal

Get a journal or notebook you like and write in it whenever you can. Write about your ideas for your career and your dreams for your life. Just imagine that you’ve pressed pause on your career, that you have the remote control and your taking some time to stop and think. Think about everything, no topic is off limits for journaling and ask yourself some really important exploratory questions like:

– If I got to pick my next job, what kind of job would it be?

– If you knew that you could choose any career you wanted to and knew you’d be successful at it, what career would you choose?

– Who do you want to be? What sort of person? What’s important to her? What does she stand for?

– What ideas pop into your head? What sort of daydreams do you have? What are your fantasies? Maybe you see yourself speaking on a stage or opening the shutter to your own shop? Maybe you’ve had a business idea for years and it’s constantly been in the background. Start paying attention to and writing about these things. Look at them and ask, “What is this idea trying to tell me?”.

– Is your current career path still supporting who you are and want to be, or is it time to change course completely?

– Your longterm goals. What do you want from your life and your career overall – to experience, to accomplish, to learn, to teach or to bring about? What do you want your legacy to be?

– When 31st December arrives, how would you like your life to be different than it is now?

– What are the biggest stress factors in your life right now? Write about them and look at them. What steps can you take right now to make things easier for yourself?

3. Start a new morning ritual!

Instead of hitting snooze ten times and dragging yourself out of bed, create a new morning ritual and do something that’s motivating and energizing for you. Give yourself an extra 30 minutes in the morning to do this. This is an odd tip, but it will do wonders for boosting your energy and mojo. Here are some things that you could incorporate into your new morning routine:

Exercise: Make it your mission for the next few months to get more active; it will clear the cobwebs from your mind and muscles! Go for a walk, find a workout guru on YouTube, go to a yoga class, swim laps or put on Spotify and dance in your PJs – do whatever works for you!

Breakfast: No more coffee on the run, start your day with a delicious breakfast instead! Sit down and eat, take your time! Use that time for yourself in the mornings to remind you that you’re worth time and care.

Silence/Journaling/Reading: Use a meditation app or spend some time sitting in silence, just breathing. Again, time for you to ground and centre yourself before you start your day. Or if you prefer, you could spend some time journaling, setting intentions for the day, deciding on your top 2-3 priorities or reading a chapter from your favourite book!

4. Seek out what you enjoy in work (and outside of it!)

These are your last few weeks/months in this job so make it count! Seek out a project that you’ve always wanted to work on and make it your focus. Maybe you always wanted to attend industry conferences or do some training? Well, it’s now or never! Yes, you’ll still need to get your own job done but having an extra project on the side that you’re actually interested in can really boost your mojo and help you finish strong and on a high!

Outside of work, if you’re lucky enough to know what really makes you happy, you need to go do it! Even if it’s for an hour each week, you have to as it will help you reconnect to knowing what it feels like to do something you love- then you’ll be able to use that to navigate what work you feel drawn to next!

5. Start setting boundaries

To give yourself some space to focus on tasks and projects that are interesting to you, you’ll need to set some boundaries. You cannot do it all. Many people who are stuck in jobs they hate still give far too many hours to the company! You might be working a bit slower and procrastinating on tasks and then find yourself having to work late nights, long hours or working through your lunch break. Say it with me now: No More Working Overtime.
Top Tip: Set 2-3 BAMs per day (Bare Ass Minimums). These are tasks that you absolutely need to accomplish and always start with the one you dread the most. So the new plan is to go to work, BAM, BAM, BAM, take your lunch break, do the work that you want to do, and get yourself home!

6. Get clarity and support

If you have a clear understanding of where you want your career to be in one, three, or even five years, then your current job will become much more tolerable. Having a vision of where you are going gives you grit, determination, excitement and strength. However, getting this clarity and staying on course by yourself can be difficult. It can be so hard to get out of our own head, that often we can’t see new possibilities or a new perspective. So, rally the troops! Find a career coach or an accountability buddy who can help you navigate this change, get a new perspective and hold you accountable for making the changes. It’s too easy to slip back into “walking dead” mode, so having someone to check in with regularly about what you’re doing to both step forward and maintain your strength and integrity in the process is vital.



Paula Coogan is the founder of The Quarter Life Coach – a vibrant career and life coaching company aimed at empowering women in their 20s and 30s to practice courage, figure out their true desires both personally and professionally and then, to make it happen.

Her work is delivered through several live group programs and Masterminds including Career Breakthrough Mastermind and The Wisdom Circle. She also works one-on-one with clients who are ready for big transitions in their relationships, careers and businesses.