How to stay focussed and motivated

For teachers who’ve made a New Year’s resolution to change their job, keeping motivation levels up can be tricky.  People hit a psychological low in January anyway with the third Monday being officially dubbed the ‘worst day of the year’. The effects of a cold, wet and dark January take their toll and the afterglow of Christmas has finally worn away.

Teachers can struggle with job seeking even more than their peers in other sectors, because of the longer recruitment timescales in education. In other industries, it’s possible to hand in your notice and be in a new job within six weeks. For a teacher already in post, it’s more likely to take around six months, and can easily take up to two years to get the post they really want.

“Teaching requires a different mindset to other occupations”, confirms John Lees, author of “How to get a job you really love”.  “It needs the resilience to deal with the highs and lows of the classroom and keep a job seeking project on the back burner, too.”

As well as being dogged about completing all the actions necessary to get a new job - scouring job ads, signing up for email alerts, writing impeccable CVs and applications - you might need to refresh your overall motivation. This part is often where a teacher scores strongest because it’s not about the surface level things that you do but all about why you do them, explains Lees.

“If you really want to be leaping out of bed in the morning and slaying the dragons of rejection and apathy, then you need connect to why teaching is important to you, to others and to the world.” agrees Stuart Mackenzie, managing director of performance and personal impact consultancy, Maynard Leigh.

“Given that learning is the engine of every social improvement, it can’t be that hard to get inspired by what you might contribute,” reasons Mackenzie. For this reason, the simple exercise of reminding yourself regularly of what really matters to you can be an effective motivational tool at this time, he advises.

These experts have compiled a list of tactics and tricks to top up motivation levels and help you stay focused on job seeking.


Take a reality check
If you reckon that you’re pretty much OK with your job three and a half days out of five, all is well. Just knowing that is the acceptable benchmark is enough to perk some people up and rules out the need for a new job.

Create deadlines
Many people are most productive right before a big deadline. They also have a hard time focusing until that deadline is looming. Exploit this by setting up a series of mini-deadlines along the job seeking process.

Make short and long term goals
Don’t set a one-off goal but recognise the many steps that are necessary to get there. The fact that you are succeeding in immediate goals such as clarifying your ambitions will protect you from the downer of failing to get that interview a couple of months down the line.

Celebrate achievements
If you are invited for an interview, that’s a result in itself and a valuable learning opportunity. Recognise your effort and achievement and be very pleased with yourself.

Use visual reminders
To constantly remind yourself of why you want to do something stimulates the energy to achieve. A reminder stuck to the front of the TV might help you channel your energies more productively; what’s more important, catching up on a latest episode or perfecting your application?

Make a commitment
A written declaration of commitment to ‘be the best you can be, everyday’ may, if fixed to the bathroom mirror, galvanise you for the day.

Find a mentor
Whether it’s a friend or a trusted colleague is less important than that they are a force for the positive. Someone who says ‘It’s not a good time to move now – look at the economy’ is not going to help you get the next job.

Remember to buddy up
A phone call from a friend suggesting some mutual support (“I’ll check your application if you’ll check mine”) can focus the will to get the application written.

List your successes
Reminding yourself of your successes in the previous year will bolster confidence and this is an essential ingredient of motivation. Remind yourself of the difference you made, whether to a child or the whole school and use this to imaging yourself being even more successful in the future.

Even if you don’t feel like it, according to speech therapists, the mere gesture of smiling produces an electrical stimulus that affects the pituitary gland. This gland, in turn, releases endorphins, chemical substances in the brain that make us feel good.

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Need more advice? Visit the Ultimate guide to jobseeking