Dealing with Motivation Ruts and Burnout

How are you handling uncertainty in life?

Are you excited and optimistic, or drained and depleted?

Do you know why you do what you do?

What drives you to stick with hard things to get desired results?  

2020 was an especially challenging year. And this year continues to require some extra effort to start and finish things that matter.  Even if you’ve built a business for yourself (like I did), you can still have creative exhaustion and feel trapped by your work.

Maintaining discipline is more critical than having motivation. Preserve your energy and leave some fuel in the tank. Steady, daily progress through discipline allows you to cultivate long-term motivation. When you have autonomy, discretion, rewards that you value, social support, fair policies, and meaningful work, you feel more engaged and less burnt out.

In episode 30 of The Incrementalist podcast, you will learn:

1. Small, key things to do when you’re in a motivation rut and feeling depleted

2. Why maintaining discipline is more important than having motivation

3. The three key dimensions of the burnout-engagement continuum, as defined by Dr. Christina Maslach and Dr. Michael Lieter: 

  • exhaustion-energy
  •  cynicism-involvement 
  • inefficacy-efficacy

4. The six workplace factors that trigger burnout:

  • workplace overload
  • lack of control over your work
  • insufficient reward
  • lack of community
  • absence of fairness
  • conflicting values

5.  External factors and rewards don’t always match with internal drivers and intrinsic motivation

6. How a unique framework – the Motivation Code (MCODE) – helps you to understand what motivates you and why

7. The Motivation Code includes 27 motivational themes that are grouped into six motivational families: 


  • Achieve Potential
  • Make an Impact
  • Experience the Ideal


  • Meet the Challenge
  • Overcome
  • Bring to Completion
  • Advance

Team Player

  • Collaborate
  • Make the Grade
  • Serve
  • Influence Behavior


  • Comprehend and Express
  • Master
  • Demonstrate New Learning
  • Explore


  • Organize
  • Make it Right
  • Improve
  • Make it Work
  • Develop
  • Establish

Key Contributor

  • Evoke Recognition
  • Bring Control
  • Be Unique
  • Be Central
  • Gain Ownership
  • Excel

8. What motivates you does not always include work that you love, but involves work that allows you to accomplish what really matters to you. 

9. Use clean fuel to motivate your work and create possibilities, meaning and significance to feel alive and engaged, instead of depleted and drained. 

Resources cited:

  • Christina Maslach & Michael P. Leiter, The Truth About Burnout: How Organizations Cause Personal Stress and What to Do About It
  • Todd Henry with Rodd Penner, Todd W. Hall and Joshua Miller, The Motivation Code: Discover the Hidden Forces that Drive Your Best Work
  • Dyan Williams, Attorney Burnout: The High Cost of Overwork

Music by:

To listen to episode 30,  Dealing with Motivation Ruts and Burnout, click here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps.


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